HOW TO MANAGE SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN?
BY
MUHAMMAD RAZA
DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI
MS COURSE ON PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES

Sectarian violence in Pakistan refers to attacks against people and places in Pakistan motivated by antagonism toward the target's sect, usually a religious group. Targets in Pakistan may include the Sunni majority, Shia, and the small Ahmadi, Hindu and Christian religious groups. According to the human rights group Human Rights Watch, in 2011 and 2012, Pakistan minority groups Shia, Ahmadi, and Christians "faced unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country". Attacks on Sunni Sufi shrines by "militants" have also been reported.
Among those blamed for the sectarian violence in the country are mainly Sunni militant groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (affiliates of Al-Qaeda), and members of Shia militant groups such as Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan. However, predominant Sunni militant groups are often blamed for attacks on the minority Shias and also on Sunni/Brailvis or Sufis, rarely resulting in reprisal attacks by them.


MINORITIES’ RELIGIONS
According to Library of Congress, Pew Research Center, Oxford University, the CIA Factbook and other experts, adherents of Shi'a Islam in Pakistan make up 15–25% of the population of Pakistan  while the remaining 70–85%  are Sunni.
Shias are the second largest sect in the country, and Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community after Iran by number of adherents. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 15 million, and may be as high as 26 million, according to Vali Nasr. Another source claims that Shia figures in Pakistan may be as high as 50 million. Globally, Shia Islam constitutes 10–20% of the total Muslims, while the remaining 80%–90% practice Sunni Islam.
An estimated 2.3% of the population is Ahmadis, who are officially considered non-Muslims by virtue of a 1974 constitutional amendment.
Non-Muslim religions include Hinduism and Christianity, each with 2,800,000 (1.6%) adherents as of 2005. The Bahá'í Faith claims 30,000, followed by Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis, each claiming 20,000 adherents, and a very small community of Jains

 

TRACING ROOTS OF SECTARIANISM
In the early years of sectarian conflict, extremist Sunnis clashed with Ahmadis, until they were declared non-Muslims in 1974 by the national assembly of Pakistan through an amendment in constitution. Under continuing rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, sectarianism in Pakistan, especially in Karachi and South Punjab, became quite violent as the process of Islamization began in the Pakistani judicial system.
Social laws, which had been tolerant of the open-sale of alcohol, intermingling of the sexes, etc. were severely curtailed by Zia's laws, although hardliners in both the Shia and Sunni camps were largely in favor of his restrictions. The process eventually came upon issues in which Sunni and Shia viewpoints differed. In such instances Zia favored the Sunni interpretation of Islam over the Shia one, causing a rift between the two communities.

POSSIBLE OUTSIDE FUNDING
Some surmise that exacerbating tensions is Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and GCC states, funding radical extremist Sunnis and the Iranian state funding of Shia extremists and in Pakistan, resulting in tit for tat attacks on each other.
It is widely accepted that sectarian violence in Pakistan is a recent phenomenon and that for most of the country's history, people of different sects have co-existed peacefully. The development of sectarianism is widely attributed to be a result of financial funding of fundamentalist networks, numbering in millions of dollars, by Arab states and other outside powers inside Pakistan.
A fact recognized by all in Pakistan is that the people of the country are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and mayhem. Today, the world understands that the intensification of the sectarian feeling among the clerics is actually a result of a war relocated from Pakistan’s neighborhood in the Gulf.
How sectarian issues can be lessen or manage in Pakistan? Here are some possible solutions

TO NULL AND VOID ALL LAWS FROM THE CONSTITUTION WHICH IS LINKED FOR THE PROMOTION OF SECTARIAN CONFLICTS.
The constitution of Pakistan should be reviewed and all laws which are causing the promotion of sectarianism crises should be reviewed and minorities groups should be given encouragement in the constitution of Pakistan. Quoting the example of India, Muslim president A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Sikh President Manmohan Singh all minorities groups are encouraged to have contribution for the positive development of the country.

BAN ALL MILITANTS GROUPS
In Pakistan, many militants’ outfits are operating and they have even offices in metropolitan areas, they have their operating base in Pakistan and they use the soil of Pakistan for their terrorist activities. For creating harmony in the country, it needs to ban all militant outfits in the country, whosoever it may be should be handle according to constitution of Pakistan and no one should be given impunity from constitution. Treatment of all militants’ outfits should be same and no compromise should be made regarding it, and they should be handled strictly.

STOP POSSIBLE OUTSIDE FUNDING
Some surmise that Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the GCC states, are exacerbating tensions by funding radical extremist Sunnis, and that the Iranian state is funding Shia extremists in Pakistan; this purportedly results in mutual retaliatory attacks. However, the Iranian financial support for Shias in Pakistan must have been much less, especially with Iran's Western sanctions. Wikileaks has reported that US$100 million are gifted to extremist Wahabi priests in Southern Punjab from outside countries such as Saudi Arabia. Southern Punjab contains active extremist Sunni groups such as LEJ and their benefactors, such as Tehrike Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Sectarian violence in Pakistan is a recent phenomenon (starting in the late 1970s and significantly growing in the mid 1980s) and that for most of the country's history; people of different sects have co-existed peacefully. The development of sectarianism is widely attributed to be a result of Arab states and other outside powers inside Pakistan having provided millions of dollars of funding to fundamentalist networks.


MONITORING CHAIN OF MADRISAS
It is fact that madrasas are being used as a source of recruit for militants groups. Fresh blood and young generation is easily attracted by the name of Jihad.
A fact recognized by all in Pakistan is that the people of the country are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and mayhem. Today, the world understands that the intensification of the sectarian feeling among the clerics is actually a result of a war relocated from Pakistan’s neighborhood in the Gulf.


CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT
Human Rights Watch has sharply criticized the Pakistani government for not doing enough to crack down on the killings and protect the country's vulnerable Shiite community. It said more than 400 Shiites were killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan in 2012, including over 120 in Baluchistan. "2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan's Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. "As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies," Hasan said. "Pakistan's tolerance for religious extremists is not just destroying lives and alienating entire communities, it is destroying Pakistani society across the board." Pakistan's intelligence agencies helped nurture Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s, to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Iran, which is mostly Shiite. Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to operate fairly freely.