Dr. Hasan Askari
A large number of people of Pakistan are very emotional about Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and they often declare that they’ll work for its internal harmony and unity. However, Pakistan’s internal divisions get exposed from time to time. At the day-to-day life level, Islam has often become a divisive force because sectarian considerations appear to dominate the disposition of a large number of people rather than the universal principle of Islam. Religion-based violence has increased. The conflict is not merely between the Wahhabi/Deobandi and Ahle-Hadees on the one hand and the Shias on the others, periodic conflict also relates to the differences between the Wahhabi/Deobandi and Bralvi traditions; some of it concerns the control of mosques.
The month of August has exposed Pakistan’s internal weaknesses more than ever, although the people of Pakistan celebrated the Independence Day in the same month when they demonstrated a lot of love for the country.
Three EIds were observed in Pakistan because the religious leaders of different Islamic “Masluk” could not agree on one date. Even in one city like Peshawar two Eids were observed. The provincial Chief Minister and the provincial government observed the Eid on Sunday (August 19) and the provincial governor and others associated with the federal government decided to follow the national Ruet-e-Hilal Committee and celebrated EId on Monday (August 20). Two Eids were observed in many other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. North Waziristan and some tribal agencies had their Eid on Saturday (August 18). The rest of the country had the EID on Monday. If we go into the details of these differences, the driving force appears to be the ego of some religious leaders and denominational differences. They were not willing to work together but function on the basis of the sense of being right in their individual capacity.
Since the beginning of the year, violence and killings have become endemic in Karachi where various ethnic groups, criminal gangs and land mafia and extortionists compete for asserting their domains. In Balochistan, three types of violent activities are going on. This includes violence by dissident and separatist groups, sectarian killings of the Hazaras (Shia) and rivalries among the Afghan/Taliban. Kidnapping has become a lucrative business for the above groups. These groups make money to cover their expenses collecting ransom on kidnapped people. Several hundred people from other provinces have been killed in Balochistan and only a few political leaders in Balochistan publicly condemn these killings.
In August this year, the following violent incidents took place: (1) Attack on Kamra Aeronautic Complex, August 16. (2) 19 Shias were pulled out of the buses and shot dead in the Mansehra area, August 16. This was followed by violence in Gilgit-Baltistn area as the buses were travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit. (3) Passenger buses going from Gilgit to Astor were attacked by masked men. This was described as a sectarian attack, August 16. (4) Three Hazara Shias were killed in Quetta, August 16. (5) Al-Quds rally by Imamia Student Organization in Karachi was targeted with a roadside bomb. Two people were killed, August 17. On the same day the Al-Quds rally in Skardu was pelted with stones, several people were injured. (6) Several activists of Debandi/Wahhabi groups were killed in Karachi, August 18.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) took the responsibility of the attack on Kamra as well as the killing of the bus passengers in the Mansehra areas. For the Hazara killings, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Taliban are blamed. It is interesting to note that the official Pakistani sources claim that most attackers on Kamra have been traced to Punjab, although they were trained in North Waziristan. The trend of the Punjab based militant groups working with the TTP has become quite pronounced for the last couple of years.
These are dangerous trends and threaten the fabric of Pakistani state and society. It is the primary responsibility of the federal and provincial governments to provide security to people and protect its important installations. However, internal violence and terrorism has increased so much that the governments alone cannot cope with it. The societal groups should become active in discouraging religious and social extremism and terrorism.
When we talk to religious groups on these issues, they are prepared to criticize violence as a principle and they say that Islam does not approve of killing of innocent people. But, these religious groups are not willing to criticize any specific group by name engaged in violence. Nor they are prepared to issue appeals for not killing the people of a specific Islamic “Masluk”.
Only three political parties take a firm stand against terrorism of all kind. These are the PPP, the MQM and the ANP. Other political parties have an ambiguous position on these unfortunate developments. Almost all Islamic parties and most Right-wing parties say that the Muslim and Taliban cannot engage in such violence. All this is done by foreign enemies of Pakistan.
The media and the people with influence in the society should emphasize social justice and non-violent attitude and socio-political accommodation so that the on-going fragmentation of Pakistani society is stopped.