Pakistan threatened by religious, sectarian violence


The Pakistani state is threatened by those who commit violence and murder in the name of religion, a leading cleric said on Thursday at a roundtable conference titled “Reversing the tide of sectarian violence in Pakistan” organized by the Jinnah Institute.
While condemning the murder of unarmed civilians of any sect or religion, Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, distributed copies of a compilation of fatwas (decrees) by Pakistan’s leading religious schools. He urged the organs of the state to clamp down on the extremist outfits, particularly fundraising activities of banned militant outfits.
Speaking on the occasion, security analyst Imtiaz Gul said that the killing of Shia Muslims was threatening the very foundations of Pakistan. He said that political actors and the state were more interested in political mileage rather than curbing the killings. He claimed that there was a “radical mindset” within the judiciary and bureaucracy that provides protection and patronage to extremist outfits. He cited examples in which land allocated to green belts in Islamabad, was being handed over to seminaries and mosques despite the fact that legally no construction was permitted on that land. “Until we are able to finish the culture of protecting and patronizing the groups involved in spreading sectarian hatred, we will not be able to end the growing levels of faith-based violence in Pakistan,” he said.
Another speaker, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, pointed out the weakness of the state in preventing the killings of Shias. “The State’s capacity to manage policing and public prosecution departments in an effective way was a key issue in Shia killings,” she said, urging for the empowerment of law enforcement agencies so they could take on powerful armed groups responsible for sectarian violence. She further said that the civil society in Pakistan should engage with Islamic jurisprudence and discourse and find inherent messages of peace and pluralism in order to change public mindset on the issue of sectarianism, violence, terrorism and militancy.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Fawad Chaudhry reiterated the government’s commitment to fight extremism and militancy in the country. He also highlighted the risks faced by public officials in the line of duty. He admitted that an atmosphere of fear exists in the society due to recent violence. He also claimed that the current parliament had enacted unprecedented legislation on human rights.
Human Rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the lack of unity in civil society was also an important factor behind sectarian violence. She said that the blasphemy case against juvenile Christian girl Rimsha Masih was a “test case” for the Pakistani state and civil society. She urged all members of the civil society to come out and support Rimsha in order to show that the average Pakistanis are united in their resolve to stand up for minorities and vulnerable groups.