September 10th, 2020

By Ahmad Saeed


LAHORE

Over the past few days’ sectarian tensions in the country are on a stark rise causing grave concerns amongst religious and socio-political circles. Several stakeholders have expressed immense concern over the situation stating that if the issue is not addressed Pakistan may be pushed into the fire of sectarianism once again.

Analysts and human rights activists believe that a solution to the issue is only possible if the “hidden hand” behind the mass filing of cases against the Shia sect, is found and ultimately stopped.

Following the Ashura procession, a systematic hate campaign has been initiated against members of the Shia community with more than forty blasphemy cases registered so far. Many of these FIRs have resulted in arrests with several dozen Shia Scholars already behind bars.

In addition to legal means, Shias are also being targeted through informal channels. For instance, anti-Shia wall-chalking has been appearing across the country. The administration has failed to take any tangible action so far further aggravating the situation. Scholars say that the government must step up and take responsibility otherwise the country might sleep-walk into a sectarian crisis.

Before the current spell of tensions, in the 1980s and 1990s sectarian tensions in the country boiled over into violent clashes, eventually leading to the formation of armed groups on both sides. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal, more than 3,000 Shiites have been killed in various terrorist attacks so far.

While speaking to VoicePK.net, Allama Arif Wahidi, Secretary-General of the Shia Ulema Council (SUC), alleged that everyone knows who is stoking this fire.

“Everyone knows Who is behind these Shia Kafir (Shia’s are infidels) slogans. Nothing is hidden”, says Wahidi.

He added that Shia clerics had raised the issue at every forum but no action had been taken so far.

“We have tried contacting all the responsible institutions and authorities but no action is being taken. There is anger amongst the Shia youth. If the authorities do not step up, I am afraid the situation might get out of hand”, continues a worried Wahidi.

The Milli Yekjahti Council, a body representing Ulema from all sects, has called for a conference of representatives of the two major sects, call for peace, tolerance, and calm.

“I feel as if the government supports this polarization because it serves their interest to keep religious organizations divided. But I am sure that sane voices on both the Shia and Sunni, sides are calling for peace and harmony”, explains Baloch.

Liaqat Baloch, a member of the Milli Yahjehti Council and secretary-general of the Jamaat-e-Islami said even though the council did not receive any support from the government, they still have managed to improve the situation.

Amir Rana, a security analyst, explains that the current situation is being aggravated by the relentless circulation of religious material on social media. He further states that so far there is no evidence of foreign powers exploiting the situation but if the current trend persists then someone might try to take advantage of the situation.

“Shias recite these things every year on Ashura but the difference is that the majority of people were not aware of it. Extensive media coverage and rapid circulation of content on social media have highlighted these differences”, says Amir.

According to Harris Khaliq, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Shia-Sunni tensions are being ignited as re-kindled as part of a well thought out plan.

“There is a threat that Pakistan will become a battleground for the proxy war between Saudi Arab and Iran”, says Khaliq.

He goes on to say that the current situation in the Middle East and the ongoing Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran could also exacerbate the crisis. Hence the government should immediately step up efforts to control the situation.

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