Countering sectarian violence
Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat


At the beginning of the holy month of Muharram, sectarian violence is rearing its ugly head again. During the last two decades, the country has witnessed numerous terrorist incidents that were the handiwork of elements which were out to spread hatred among different sections, strata and schools of thought in the society. Hundreds of lives, if not in thousands, were lost due to terrorist incidents that had absolutely no relation to the true teachings of Islam but were still carried out in the name and guise of the religion. Among the dead have been senior state functionaries, doctors, foreign diplomats and religious leaders to name a few. Now even the common people are not spared.

Luckily, most people and sections of the society have opposed religious zealots and violent preaching. Throughout the country, both Shias and Sunnis have been living in harmony and peace for the past many centuries though we have recently seen that disturbances are occasionally cropping up when some people, influenced by extremist thoughts and beliefs and through their preaching and action, take steps that are detrimental to peace and harmony in the society. Because of such elements, which also have had the support of foreign groups and agencies, we have seen an upsurge in the Shia-Sunni sectarian violence in the country, both in terms of scope and intensity.

To counter such elements spreading hatred, certain measures and actions are required. For example, there is a need to create awareness among the young people that a society comprises several ethnic and religious groups or schools of thought and many times there is little homogeneity. But this does not mean differences should be highlighted and venom spewed out against people who have a different view on religion, politics and belong to different ethnic groups or race.

At the same time, it is important that religious scholars and Khateebs do not use pulpit to spread narrow-mindedness and hatred towards other groups.

Unfortunately, ours is a society that has failed to tackle criminals of all shades, including mass murderers and terrorists who roam abound. Parliament should take up legislation for handing strict punishments to such obnoxious elements.

Pakistan cannot afford sectarian strife at a time when the country is facing numerous challenges both on the external and internal fronts. Luckily, the terrorist incidents do not result in societal clashes as most of the Pakistanis condemn attacks on each other and have stood by each other at times of violence. This spirit needs to be highlighted, promoted and spoken about.