Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Poison Inc.

Editorial -- Express Tribune (coming out soon in the market)

There is a poison in our midst and it slowly but surely eating away at the inside of Pakistani society. And it has been sired by a monster that is very much of our own making and not the result of a sinister American/Zionist conspiracy and some would have us believe. The poison of sectarianism has become embedded within many of us and for this General Zia and his Islamization should be thanked in particular along with the civil-military establishment in general which over the years has nurtured and patronized some of its most potent (read vicious) actors. The result is all before us: people professing to be Sunnis killing Shias and calling them ‘kaafirs’, and Shias retaliating in kind. And now we have even different Sunni schools of thought going – quite literally -- after each other’s throat. What happened in Dera Ismail Khan and Faisalabad districts over the weekend during the Eid Milad celebrations is the outcome of years of indoctrination and preaching of a mindset among many people which places a premium on intolerance and on the use of physical violence to further one’s beliefs.

The sectarian violence in both districts followed protests against processions being taken out to commemorate the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday. In one case, students of a madressah reportedly located adjacent a mosque in a village outside Dera Ismail Khan allegedly fired on the milad procession and this caused at least one death and bullet injuries to several people. This then became the trigger for participants of the procession to attack the seminary and a local mosque. As for Faisalabad, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan has announced a shutter-down strike to protest the firing on an Eid Milad procession, thereby lending credence to the assumption that the sectarian violence was not between Sunnis and Shias but between Barelvis and Deobandi. In this particular instance a mosque believed to be linked to the banned sectarian organization Sipah-e-Sahaba was involved in the violence because according to reports of the incident some of the procession attackers had sought refuge in it.
This isn’t the first time that violence as senseless as this has happened in Pakistan and it certainly won’t be the last. Unless, the government and the over-arching state-apparatus realize that they need to come down hard on those who are promoting hate and intolerance in Pakistan society. The government should prosecute and punish prayer leaders who give sermons asking for a jihad against Shias or even other sub-sects within their own sect. It should bring madressahs into the fold of regulation and accountability (just like mainstream schools in the country) and should stop patronizing sectarian parties and their leaders.

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