Sectarianism in Pakistan

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Sectarianism in Pakistan
INTRODUCTION
The decade of the 1990s witnessed a frightening upsurge in the Shia-Sunni sectarian violence in Pakistan, both in terms of scope and intensity. Recently, sectarian strife has engulfed even those areas, which were previously unaffected, largely because of the emergence of organized terrorist groups along sectarian lines. Besides target killings, these groups hit even ordinary members of each other’s sects. The problem, therefore, is no more of an occasional nature, or limited to isolated localities. Rather, it has now become a national concern with serious implications for the state and society. The paper argues that though the Shia-Sunni conflict is not new to Pakistan or even to the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, the ongoing phase is distinct in several ways: · Firstly, the level and intensity of violence is high because of easy access to weapons and training facilities in Afghanistan. · Secondly, certain Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia sponsor the activities of sectarian groups. This adds a regional dimension to the domestic sectarian conflict. · Thirdly, the social base of the sectarian conflict has significantly expanded because of factors including:

a) Use of print media, school textbooks, religious literature, posters and banners; b) Accessibility to means of electronic communication; c) Better transport services which increase mobility of sectarian activists.

To argue thus this paper is divided into following three sections:

1) Sectarian Violence and its origins; 2) Causes of Sectarian Violence in Pakistan; and 3) Failure of State.

SECTARIAN VIOLENCE AND ITS ORIGINS
This section discusses the history of sectarian violence. Sectarian violence and religious extremism is an unpredictable menace. History is replete with incidents of such sorts in various countries. The bigots and the evil minded selfish natured people are behind this abhorrent act relating to the security concerns of many nations. Unfortunate is the fact that usually the third world Muslim countries have been and are being constantly threatened by these evil acts.

Sectarian Violence in Muslim History: Since the very beginning, the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict has been one of the major characteristics of Muslim history.

Different factions in the respective Muslim societies have also closely interlinked it to the struggle for the acquisition of political power. Syed Amir Ali remarks:

"Alas! That the religion of humanity and universal brotherhood should not have escaped the internecine strife and discord; that the faith which was to bring peace and rest to the distracted world should itself be torn to pieces by angry passions and the lust of power."1

At the centre of sectarian strife has been the Shia-Sunni conflict. Immediately after the passing away of the Prophet of Islam, a division emerged on the question of succession. "A small group believed that such a function must remain in the family of the Prophet and backed ‘Ali’, whom they believed to have been designated for this role by appointment and testament. They became known as his ‘partisans’ (shia) while the majority agreed on Abu Bakr on the assumption that the Prophet left no instruction on this matter; they gained the name ‘The People of Prophetic Tradition and consensus of opinion’ (ahl al-sunnah wa’l-jama‘ah)."

Besides the political dimension, there also existed a difference of opinion about the merits and functions of the successor to the Prophet. "Sunni Islam considered the Khalifah to be a guardian of the Sharia‘h in the community, while Shi‘ism saw in the ‘successor’ a spiritual function connected with the esoteric interpretation of the revelation and the inheritance to the Prophet’s esoteric teachings." In contrast to the Sunnis, the institution of Imamate is fundamental to the Shia Islam. "The Imam,

1

Syed Amir Ali, The Spirit of Islam (Karachi: Pakistan Publishing House, 1976), p100.

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