File Photo: Banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is now operating as “Sunni Action Committee” and “Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jammat”. In above picture activists of SSP demonstrating in front of Karachi Press Club.
A terrible threat
Monday, June 15, 2009
The letter sent to an Imambargah in Lahore, and reproduced by this newspaper, says nothing that is very new. It threatens an attack on the place of worship unless Shias stop ‘anti-Islamic’ activities. It insists the Shias are in fact ‘non-Muslims’. What is shocking is that we as a people, and as a state, have done so little to stop such attacks, to act against those who promote hatred for a community that according to some estimates forms around 20 per cent of the country’s Muslim population.
The attempt to label the Shias as ‘non-Muslims’ has been on for decades. The process has gained pace since the 1990s, when the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) initiated a systematic process of murdering Shias by bombing mosques or gunning down leaders. Retaliation by Shia groups triggered sectarian violence that killed hundreds and devastated numerous families. The ban placed on extremist groups has not ended this process. The Taliban, with their distorted beliefs linked to orthodox Sunni schools of thought, have carried forward the process. In the Kurram Agency – the lone tribal areas where Shias formed a sizeable chunk of the population – there has been something akin to genocide. According to some accounts the killings continue.
This is a part of a larger process. The effort to cast the Shias in the role of a religious minority stems from the fact that the state connived with orthodox forces in the 1970s. Pakistan after all is made up of many diverse groups. It can flourish only if each of these communities can do so. And for non-Muslims, the situation is of course still more perilous. Our government must wake up to reality. Only by acting now can we save our state from further violence and halt the process of irrational violence that has led to more and more schisms.