September 21st, 2020

By Shaukat Korai


The leaders of the Shia community have appealed to the government to take note of a rising wave of sectarian hatred against the minority sect following recent rallies in Karachi, warning that the country could quickly fall into a spiral of bloody sectarian strife seen in previous decades.

The rallies against the Shia community took place after a controversial speech by a Shia cleric during Ashura in Karachi. Shia community members fear that government inaction could lead to a renewed outbreak of sectarian violence across the country.

“The miscreants usually say something to spark controversy and fan sectarianism between the two big sects in the country,” a member of the Shia community tells  Another member of the Shia community says that they fear the rise of sectarianism because of such happenings in the past. There have been terrorist attacks on community members of the sect in Quetta and elsewhere in the country, he adds. “The situation is tense and if the government does not take action against hate speech, sectarian violence can erupt in Karachi,” he warns.

According to another member of the Shia community, the controversial speech should not have been made in the first place in view of people’s sentiments but the ensuing protest rallies against the Shia sect is stoking an environment of hate and fear in the city. There is an urgent need to control this hate-spewing as it will not benefit anyone,” he suggests.

According to Majlis-e-Wahdatul Musalmeen Secretary-General Syed Baqer Zaidi, the controversial speech was made inside a sect gathering on Ashura which was permitted under the law. Zaidi claimed that banned outfits were given permission to take out rallies against the Shia community after 10th Muharram in a bid to stoke sectarian violence in the city. “The situation is tense and there is a real danger of an outbreak of sectarian violence,” Zaidi says, adding that four community members have been killed in the recent spate of attacks on the community.

On the other hand, Muhammad Hanif Tayeb, president of Nizam Mustafa Party, says that he had warned the Sindh governor of a possible sectarian flare-up during the Muharram month when he met the latter as part of a delegation. Tayeb says as previously, he saw no proper security arrangements in Muharram, adding that the situation in the city turned worse as he had foreseen. In the past, every year the chief ministers used to call meetings of the Ulema in order to promote sectarian harmony and peace in the city, Tayab says. “However, this year no such meeting was called by the present chief minister,” he points out.

Tayeb says fearing any untoward incident in Muharram, they had submitted an application with the governor, adding that the Ulema had informed the governor about a similar incendiary incident in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.  The governor had assured the delegation that the government would do the utmost in maintaining peace and harmony in the city. “The government did not heed our advice and people came onto the streets in protest,” Tayeb says.

 ‘Proxy war’ and ‘global conspiracy’ in play

According to Tayeb, such incidents are usually the result of a proxy war between Muslim countries, referring to Iran and Saudia Arabia. “The governments in the past, as well as the present government, has not paid any attention to the funding coming to religious outfits from abroad,” Tayeb explains as to how funding from the Muslim countries is used to stoke sectarian violence in the country.

Agreeing with Tayeb that a proxy war is being waged in the shape of sectarian strife in the country, Zaidi claims the pretext of the controversial speech was used as part of a wider global conspiracy, adding that it was done to forestall any substantive reaction by Pakistan to the recent recognition of Israel by Gulf countries.

The Shia community believes that the situation can quickly turn worse and has appealed to the government to swiftly act against elements stoking sectarian hatred against the minority sect that has faced terrorist attacks for decades.