Discarding Sectarianism

Extremism and terrorism are the biggest threats to the state of Pakistan. These internal threats have grown over the years and now a stage has reached where this menace is challenging the national integrity and social harmony of Pakistan. Apart from the terrorist activities of the TTP, the growing trends of sectarian divide have emerged as the most pronounced and real challenge for the state and society of Pakistan. Unfortunately, every new day brings yet another and a unique security challenge to the state as well as the people of Pakistan.

In the Holy Qur’aan, (3:103), Allah Almighty clearly ordained the Muslims to, “Hold tight to the Rope of Allah (His covenant that is our allegiance to "La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah", all together and be not disunited among yourselves.” Elaboration of this directive is found in the Hadith of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who said, “Shall not I inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: Enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”After having received clear directive from Allah Almighty and his last Prophet (PBUH), there should not be any ambiguity, as to how Muslims should spend their lives. There is no basis of division or any difference in the basic teaching and belief in Islam.

According to a survey of sectarian violence in Pakistan, from 1989 to 2013, in total 2847 incidents, 4652 people have been killed and 9030 people got injured. In 2013 alone, 106 incidents of sectarian violence took place in various parts of Pakistan, which resulted into killing of 467 people and injuring of 753 people. During first quarter of year-2013, Hazara community of Quetta remained on the hit list of opponent extremist groups, certainly based on sectarianism. Besides, there have been sporadic incidents of sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and other parts of Pakistan. In the past, there have been bomb blasts and suicide attacks on mosques, imam barghas and processions / religious gatherings.

The recent incident of sectarian violence that took place in Raja Bazar, Rawalpindi was unique in a manner that it provoked people not only to harm each other but also to damage public property resulting in millions of rupees losses. Since judicial investigation of the incident is underway, therefore it is premature to say whether it was a planned violent activity or otherwise. However, this was addition in the already list of incidents of sectarian violence happening for many years. This incident was coupled with violence which is a new trend and certainly a very dangerous activity in the twin cities.

The unfortunate incident that took place in Rawalpindi on 10th of Muharram was a signal that there is a potential for such happenings within the society of Pakistan. The real issue, however, is the menace of sectarian violence and its rapid growth rate is fast swallowing the traditional peace and harmony that once existed in the Pakistani society with Shia and Sunny schools of thought living with great concord and respect for each other, and in many cases, even conducting intermarriages. Why that social connection was allowed to erode and subsequently degraded to the current level? Whereas, a class of so-called Muslim clerics (having made various schools of thoughts on the wishes of few to serve their personal motives) is busy in propagating and projecting their own form of Islam. Why the successive governments have allowed these elements to grow to this intolerable level? At the level of Government we can learn from our brother Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, who do not allow any such type of activities on their soil. Even people committing a minor anti-state crime, involved in sectarian divide or drug smuggling, are given exemplary punishments, death penalties in most of the cases. While taking a lead from these countries, should Pakistan tolerate these activities on its soil?

There is a need to carryout re-evaluation of ourselves before blaming external forces for causing the sectarian divide. This is a reality that many political parties have linkages with these religious organizations which in turn act as the vote bank for them. In Pakistan, these sectarian outfits belonging from any school of thoughts are involved in undesired activities. If someone is not directly sponsoring extremism, it indirectly supports militant groups of their own school of thought. At least every sectarian outfit is busy in creating a divide among the people for their own interests. These outfits are rapidly widening the cracks in Pakistani society through motivation or by use of force.

For Muslims, since Allah is one, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is one, Holy Quran is one, then should we stand divided in various religious groupings? These sectarian outfits do not serve any good for Pakistan and Muslims? It is about time that government should put a ban on such activities, causing religious divide and hate speeches against each other. Rather marching through streets and roads, creating security hazards for ourselves, why cannot we perform our religious rituals in mosques centrally?

Even at this belated stage of our history, where we have already lost too much, let us take correct decisions for: a secure, peaceful, socially knitted, economically prosperous and politically stable Pakistan where there is no internal rivalry and no external conspiracy permitted. This can be done through sincere, selfless, devoted and dedicated leadership, which can stand-up at its own feet; without the help of mislead extremist religious forces and without foreign sponsorship. Anything short of this will allow the current state of affairs to continue unabated, risking the very survival of the state.

In one of his Hadith, Prophet (PBUH) said, "Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices; do not hate one another; do not turn away from one another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of Allah, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him, he neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here-and he pointed to his chest three times. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable: his blood, his property, and his honour." (Sahih Muslim)

The Father of Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has given us a clear motto of: 'Unity, Faith and Discipline'. As a nation, we have to understand that, “United we stand, divided we fall.” It will be easy for our rivals to destroy us if we are split. Since sectarian divide is the worst and most dangerous of all other forms of extremism, therefore, let us discord this menace at all cost for a united and strong Pakistan.

The writer is the Head of International Relations Department at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. [email protected]

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