By Saleem A Sethi, Weekly Pulse Magazine, September 02, 2013
Every time when something bad happens, we repeat the question; why has it happened? This is because, first, we are human beings and will keep on asking the same questions when some untoward event will take place or some ‘abnormal’ thing will happen. And, second, the occurrence normally overshadows the previous happenings in terms of violence, death and destruction; mayhem in other words. Though Pakistanis should have accepted mayhem as a norm by now, their human instincts, developed over years of evolution, seem not to have dodged and left them yet.
This is not to suggest that the August 23 clashes in Bhakkar or the death of eleven persons was something ‘big’ according to Pakistani standards. Or that the death of twelve persons in Karachi in the ensuing reaction was something unexpected. Nor is the phenomenon of sectarianism something new to this country. Fact is that terrorism and sectarianism are two sides of the same coin that is in currency for the past about two and a half decades in this land of the pure. It might be because people couldn’t believe that formal armed clashes can take place between two religious sects or, to be precise, officially banned sectarian outfits in broad daylight. Or that they couldn’t believe that something obvious was allowed to take place in Karachi, days after, despite the fact that even a child could tell what to expect in its aftermath. Alarming may be the fact for the people that scores among the ‘leadership’ of banned organizations took to the streets in metropolis Karachi and alleged the concerned government of patronizing the killers; the terrorists, so to speak.
Isn’t it strange that pious killers of one side accuse the dirty killers of the other side of playing foul? And isn’t it funny that each sectarist call people of his tribe as martyred momineen (the highest attainable level of being a true Muslim) and that of the other as kufaar (infidels) killers? And though there are practically hundreds of different sects, the Ahle Sunnah Wal Jammah (ASWJ) official website recognizes only 73. In its introduction part, under the heading ‘Division in the Ummah’ it states under serial no 2:
The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: “ Seventy-two (of the 73 sects of the Muslim nation) will be in the fire, and only one will be in Paradise; it is the Jama’ah (i.e. Ahle Sunnah Wa Jamaah).” (Abi Dawud, Ad-Darimi, Ahmad. And under serial no 4, there is something like this:
It should be clear from these Ahadith that the one sect, out of the 73, which is to gain salvation, is the Ahle Sunnah Wa Jamaah, the only segment of the Muslim community which adheres to that which the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and his Companions (radi Allahu anhum) adhered to.
This type of rigidity and absurdity is not peculiar to ASWJ; almost all the sects, whether Shia or Sunni, have this same mindset. Now, with this level of certainty, does it come as any surprise when people of one sect kill others with impunity, considering it as their religious duty? But no matter what do these people believe in, why has the state let them grow like mushrooms? Why are there Sipahe Sahaba, Sipahe Mohammad, Jaishe Mohammad, Majlise Wahdatul Muslimeen, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sunni Tehreek, ASWJ, TTP, Punjabi Taliban and all that? Why does the state appear so helpless?
The irony is not only that these groups are feely disseminating their hate literature, but that many among them have been banned by the state. Yet, nobody can touch them whether they operate under a different name or just mock the state by not even bothering to hide their actual identity.
One just recalls the first big sectarian ‘incident’ when Ehsan Elahi Zaheer was attacked in Lahore’s Masjid-i-Shuhada on March 23, 1987 (Aah, mentioning those black days, once again!). Not only that he had educated from Saudi Arabia but that he died in a Saudi hospital seven days after the attack that left 17 others dead also. It is said that Saudi Arabia patronized him, and people and groups like him, to contain the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Gen Ziaul Haq, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman and Foreign Minister, Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan were among the hundreds of thousands of those who attended his funeral in Saudi Arabia. This shows the ‘connection’ between the ruling junta of those days, the sectarianism that was groomed by it and the link between foreign and domestic fators. It also betrays the truth that our rulers allowed their country, for one reason or the other, to be used by different countries for their proxy wars. Like others, Iran financed its own allies.
That war hasn’t come to an end yet rather it has proliferated and has now become self-sustaining. It has now its nurseries in the shape of different madarssas which are immune from all the state’s laws. And we have our compulsions. Compulsions, that not only we have to look the other way but that we have to welcome those foreign powers to continue what they are pleased with. We need oil. We need political crutches. We need gas. So, if it takes some blood of our people in return, we shouldn’t mind. We don’t mind, in fact.
No matter what we do or say, unless Pakistan says farewell to the policy of allowing foreign proxy wars to be fought on its soil, crack down heavily on all the terrorists and sectarian groups and reform its education system, nothing will do. Madrassas’ education has to be brought under state’s strictest control even if takes a political government or two. But how and who will do that when the state cannot get them all registered under the law?
This is not a million dollar question. All it needs is a political leadership of high caliber and integrity; the one which has not only the vision and will but also a passion to bring this country on the right path no matter if it requires sacrificing its government, even life, if need be. Do we have someone to stand up?