As was feared a new wave of sectarian violence has erupted all over Pakistan on 10 of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Although, the government controlled media is keeping a tight lid about the whole situation, according to private television news networks and the independent newspapers around 70 people are feared dead while over 150 are estimated to be injured in the sectarian violence in the city of Rawalpindi. The death toll and the number of injured is to rise drastically due to this sectarian strife.
There were sporadic incidents of firing and news of improvised explosive devices (IED’s)__ crude home-made bombs__exploding in Peshawar and Multan. The worst hit was the city of Rawalpindi, where 70 people are feared dead and over 150 injured, when two groups started indiscriminate firing on a symbolic funeral procession in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.
The government on its part is trying desperately to paint the incident as some sort of feud between two factions while it is clear as day that this act of sectarian violence was carried out by the banned Sunni militant groups, Laskar Jannghvi, a close ally Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Sectarian violence is a part and parcel of Pakistan today and is a gift from the era of Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship during the 80’s. This sectarian strife started during his dictatorial regime as before his rule the Sunnis and the Shias co-existed peacefully. Further, it was fuelled by the import of Wahabi brand of Islam from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Back then these nascent outfits were lauded by the Americans as in the name of jihad they carried out religious warfare against the Russian occupation forces in Afghanistan which was in the interest of the United States.
When the American forces left it created a power vacuum which was filled by these mujahideens, now referred to as the infamous Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban are basically of Pukhtun origin and are Sunni Muslims as opposed to the Persian speaking militants of the Northern Alliance, who are overwhelmingly of Shia stock and back the American sponsored Hamid Karazai government in Afghanistan.
Though no militant fundamentalist out-fit has accepted responsibility for this barbaric act of sectarian spurred violence, carried out against unarmed civilians in Rawalpindi, it is all but certain that the above named banned militant groups or one of them with close ties to each other are responsible for this senseless sectarian based aggression against the Shia Muslims.
A state of emergency has been declared in Rawalpindi and an indefinite curfew has been imposed on the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad__ the capital city of Pakistan. It is also to be noted that the General Head Quarters (GHQ) of the Pakistani armed forces are also situated in Rawalpindi.
This spree of sectarian violence has now become an annual affair in Pakistan especially during the 9 and 10 of the month of Muharram. These days are of significance to the Shias as the nephew of the Prophet Muhammad(PUBH) was martyred on the 10 of Muharram. A day of mourning for all the Muslims, especially the Shia Muslims, but unfortunately it has become a day when the history is repeated and as was Imam Hussain martyred on this day so are countless Shias murdered in cold blood in Pakistan, in what has now become an annual ritual.
Unless some drastic and extreme steps are taken by the government of Pakistan this systematic genocide of Shias by the Sunni fundamental groups will continue unabated. The sad part of this gory episode is that the government and its security agencies appear to be helpless against this sectarian violent onslaught by the Sunni majority against the Shia minority in Pakistan.
By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada