Sipah-e-Sahaba is an extremist Deobandi organisation which is closely associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda
Since the decade of 80s’ Pakistan has become the battle ground of proxy wars. Afghan Jihad ignited extremism in our somewhat tolerant society once. In my childhood there prevailed sobriety in the first ten days of Muharram and the majority of Sunnies devotedly participated in the majlis (gathering for mourning) ,coming out with soaring eyes because of wailing on remembering the gruesome tragic events faced by Hazart Imam Hussain during his brief battle with the army of Yazid. The majalis had an aura of Dastan, rhetoric, and the expert story teller had the knack to make the audience visualize the gory details of the tragic events. I remember one lazy yawning police constable at the entrance guarding hundreds of mourners.
My granny would anxiously wait for the evening to listen to Zakirs (versatile story tellers) at Radio Pakistan Multan which would regularly air the Zakirs from 1st of Muharum to the 10th of Muharum. In the evening all were found grim and solemn and remember we are Sunnies. The educated and somewhat ‘thinkers’ of the community would desperately wait for the10th of Muharum to listen to the speech of Alama Rashid Turabi on Sham-e Ghireban (the evening when Hazart Hussain was martyred and the legion of Yazid burnt the camps where women were residing) The speech had all the flavour of rhetoric; taught in the academies of Greek when Aristotle would teach with his peripatetic style in Lyceum. So, the ten days brought along the spiritual heartiness, rhetorical performances and last but not the least a spirit of tolerance in the society. Yes we had all but before the Afghan Jihad of 80s’.
The Afghan war needed ferocity at the cast of tolerance and consequently the extremism and intolerance was nourished. The down trodden had ‘a sense of identity’ by joining the clique of extremists. Sipa – e – Sahaba was founded in Jhang where the elite are Shiitis. We always forget that economics is the impetus of every ideology. Common sense says so, of course, we are here not concerned with the philosophic discourse. In the Umayyad period the neo-Muslims mawali, as they were called….increasingly felt alienated and excluded from the aristocratic society of the pure Arabs. The Puritanism and orthodoxy of the Shiites, equally alienated from the society for political and religious reasons, made a great appeal to them. Says J.M. Roberts in his stupendous achievement; ‘History of the World.’ And it substantiates my view point of ideology.
Sipa-e-Sahaba provided the stage of identity to the non-descript. But with the fact that from the beginning they enjoyed the patronage of the ruling elite, interested to maintain the status-quo by fanning conflict in the society. Moreover, the Islamic revolution of Iran alarmed the people from other sects, particularly; the Deobandi sect was alarmed by the overwhelming militancy of Shiits that spurred the revolution of Iran. The other factor, which is usually ignored by the research scholars, Afghan war inculcated tribalism in the society. With one sect gaining power stimulated others to follow to show their muscles. Moreover, the sense of seclusion bonded the insecured ‘clique’ of the society. And allegiance with clique “develops fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can easily be set on the boil.” V.S. Naipaul concludes in Among the Believers.