Tag Archives: sectarianism

Guardian: Sectarianism has poisoned Pakistan

By Basim Usmani

Cross Post from The Guardian

The violence seen in Lahore last week was aided by a bigoted constitution. How has stock in our nationhood plummeted so?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/05/pakistan-terrorism

The recent attacks on a prominent shrine in Lahore demonstrate how the unrest in Pakistan is caused by a minority of few who cannot tolerate the plurality of beliefs in Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban are lying through their teeth when they claim that they do not attack public places. It’s becoming more and more apparent that these militants aren’t resisting American hegemony; this a war to determine Pakistan’s future and, by proxy, the future of Islam.

Whether the Tehrik-e-Taliban actually arranged the bombers’ suicide belts is irrelevant; they have created a domino effect that’s likely to spread from commercial capitals such as Lahore to cities with historic shrines and Pakistani historical sites, such as Multan, or Taxila.

Unlike Baghdad, where violence between Islamic sects is a product of the war America is waging, the onus of last Thursday’s blasts falls squarely on us, the citizens of Pakistan. We have been complacent about sectarianism for too long.

A good friend who works for a transportation company told me in 2007 that in villages along the highways to Waziristan where the Taliban had seized control were the bodies of butchered Shia Muslims. That year, Lahore’s public was too busy mobilising about the judiciary and President Musharraf to pay the violence any mind.

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Citizens, culture, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Punjab, Taliban

Pakistan’s South Punjab: politics of marginalisation

Raza Rumi

The discourse on South Punjab conceals the grassroots social movements and the clamouring for a linguistic identity in the region

The conundrum of South Punjab remains a major challenge for analysts, policy makers and above all the people of this marginalized region. Socio-economic data testifies to the impoverishment and the deprivation that exists in the region. Add to this the iniquitous land distribution and utter lack of economic opportunities for the local population. Despite the rhetoric of the establishment, the region has been neglected through decades of “modern” development in northern and central Punjab. The bulk of public resources were invested in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centers of the North. Industrialisation, growth of private education facilities and the rise of the middle class are phenomena that have eluded the dusty environs of South Punjab.

The result is clear: the electoral patterns show support for redistributive agendas and which are deemed as pro-peasantry. In recent years, southern Punjab has also witnessed two conflictual yet interrelated trends. First, the rise of Islamism through a network of sectarian madrassas which train militants and mercenaries alike; and scattered yet influential social movements around the issues of linguistic identity and livelihoods. How does one make sense of these contradictions?
It is well known that the Wahhabi-Salafi ideologies backed by potent financing networks have played a major role in turning this impoverished region into a nursery for militant Islamism that targets the plural Sufi culture embedded in the cultural mores of the local inhabitants; and act as a bastion for the Taliban network across the country. There is insurmountable evidence to this effect and those who are not willing to confront this brutal reality are living in a state of denial. Since the Zia years, the state is no longer a neutral arbiter and it promotes a particular brand of Islamic ideology. It is also clear that a sophisticated regime of economic incentives addresses lack of public entitlements and a non-responsive state apparatus.

However, we have also witnessed that the peasants in Okara and Khanewal have valiantly resisted appropriation of land by security agencies and have set a momentum of challenging the state’s land policy. Similarly, issues related to water distribution and resettlement due to mega projects sponsored by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), have also come into public light due to the political mobilization that has been taking place in D G Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and elsewhere. It is a separate matter that such stories do not receive adequate attention in the media which is owned by rich, powerful barons whose interests are integrally linked to an extractive state. As pointed by a leading activist, Mushtaq Gadi, the discourse on South Punjab willfully ignores the authentic voices from the grassroots that revolve around livelihood struggles and the quest for a regional identity.

Another dimension of the regional turmoil pertains to the growing movement for linguistic identity. The Saraiki language and its submerged identity is now a rallying point for most living in the southern most districts of the region. This movement for cultural expression has gained momentum with increased calls for a separate province and the fact that the disputed status of Bahawalpur State has been raised by politicians from the region is a case in point. The state of affairs, reported rather cautiously in the mainstream media, points to the fact that political elites are now forced willy-nilly to subscribe to the idea of a separate province. Else, they are likely to be rejected at the next general elections.

In fact, the decades’ long denial of rights and entitlements and a politico-cultural identity act as great catalysts for breeding militancy. If one were to add the economic deprivation and endemic poverty to the list then the situation is quite alarming. No wonder we are seeing history unfold in front of our eyes. The nexus between poverty and militancy is problematic but certainly undeniable. FATA and other parts of Pakistan have shown us how a poor majority finds ‘opportunity’ in the game of terrorist networks and their well oiled financing machines. South Punjab is no exception.

Pakistani state will have to think beyond its mantras of national security and ‘foreign hand’ and accept that its policies have led to the explosive situation in South Punjab. At the same time, this region is not Swat or a FATA agency that can be bombarded with troops and drones. Also, it is important to note that at the people’s level, Talibanisation has yet to take root. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that there is popular support for the Taliban agenda. A relevant book entitled, Probing the Jihadi Mindset , Sohail Abbas (2007) that looks at the profiles of over 500 jihadis shows that participation of South Punjabis in the ‘Jihad project’ is minimal.

What next? First, major investments in public works and programmes that enhance employment and livelihoods in the region must be the focus of the state. Second, a comprehensive madrassa reform should take place concurrently that should quite logically start with the registration, documentation and curricula standardization. Third, networks that finance militancy should also be traced and tackled. The issue of a separate province or an autonomous region within the monolith Punjab province will need to be confronted sooner than later. Brushing it under the carpet will not help.

If the political elites have settled issues such as renaming NWFP, provincial autonomy and NFC then why can’t this issue be resolved within the democratic framework?
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
Raza Rumi is a development professional and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at http://www.razarumi.com

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Justice, movements, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Punjab, Punjabi, Rights, Society, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba’s attack on Eid Milad-un-Nabi rallies


Rescuers stand near a child injured by a firing, at a local hospital in Dera Ismail, Pakistan on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. According to police official unidentified gunmen opened fire on a procession celebrate anniversary of the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.(AP photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)

Abdul Nishapuri writes on the let’sbuildup Pakistan blog

The 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal is celebrated by Muslims in Pakistan as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (peace by upon him and his progeny). In particular, Sunni Barelvi Muslims organize large public meetings and rallies on that day in the memory of the Prophet.

It is however a known fact that certain Muslim sects (e.g. Wahhabi and Deobandi) term such ceremonies of the Eid Mila-un-Nabi as shirk (polytheism) and biddat (innovation in religion). Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Religion, Taliban, Terrorism, violence, War On Terror

Killing Shias is not jihad – stop this carnage

Posted by Raza Rumi

This is an old article – When the state kills – authored by Pakistan’s eminent intellectual Khaled Ahmed. It remains relevant for what is happening today – the carnage in Karachi and targetted killing of the Shia minority is a cause for concern for  Pakistanis who want the country to become a plural, tolerant and progressive society for all its citizens irrespective of their faith, caste or creed.

PTH strongly condemns the Karachi incidents and will continue to raise voice against extremism and sectarianism.

Leader of the anti-Shia religious party Sipah Sahaba, Maulana Azam Tariq, has been released after being honourably acquitted of all charges of terrorism. He was picked up after he went and met Maulana Akram Awan in Chakwal earlier in the year after the latter had threatened to overthrow General Musharraf and impose Shariat on Islamabad. Maulana Tariq had thereafter announced that his party will also forcibly impose principles of Sharia in selected cities of the country. While he was in jail facing trial, his party had warned the government of dire consequences. In the interim, there was a spate of shia killings in Karachi, mainly targeting doctors and other prominent personalities. Workers of Sipah Sahaba had started offering arrests to pressure the government into releasing their leader. Continue reading

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Benazir Bhutto’s book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

Benazir Bhutto’s book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West (London: Simon and Schuster, 2008) published posthumously is very different from her Daughter of the East, in which, besides saying some sensible things, she freely boasted, and exaggerated her paternal ancestors’ landed property and high station in Sindhi feudal society.

This time round, we meet a woman who is devoted to her idea of reconciliation between Islam, democracy and the West. Many years ago, I presented her my first book (which was also my doctoral dissertation), The Concept of an Islamic State: An Analysis of the Ideological Controversy in Pakistan (Frances Pinter, London, 1987), through her close adviser at that time, Fakhar Zaman, the Punjabi writer and intellectual.

There is no doubt she read it thoroughly and carefully, though it is not referred to in her book under discussion. I had argued that it is possible to derive an argument for the most unenlightened, as well as the most progressive, state model by selectively quoting the sacred sources and early Islamic history, but that in the modern period at some point Islam and the state will have to be separated in practice if democracy is to prevail and consolidate.

Her thesis, on the other hand, is that her selection of the sacred sources and pristine Islamic history is the correct representation of the Islamic ethos, while all the fundamentalist and extremist versions that are around are distortions of true Islam. She believes that in practice too Islam and the state can be interdependent, without democracy suffering injury.

In any event, Benazir Bhutto’s book is an admirable exercise in arguing that Islam and democracy are reconcilable. With the help of a team of researchers and advisers, especially Husain Haqqani, Ms Bhutto proceeds to demonstrate that the core spirit of Islam and the Quran is democratic.

She quotes verses from the Quran, Hadiths (sayings and doings) of the Prophet and examples from the way the pious caliphs were chosen to lead the pristine Muslim community, to demonstrate that Islam prescribes freedom of choice and thinking and tolerance for difference of opinion. Continue reading

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Filed under Benazir Bhutto, Democracy, Islam, Islamism, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Politics, Religion, Society, state, Terrorism, Writers