Terrorism or Sectarianism?

13 04 2009

It is clear that the only thing in common between the Pakistani Shia community and Western diplomats based in Islamabad is that they both face a common threat. Like Western diplomats, the Pakistani Shia community is increasingly being targeted by suicide bombers and other terrorist and militant organizations in urban regions of Pakistan.Since the beginning of 2009, three major suicide attacks have targeted Shia religious gatherings in Pakistani cities causing dozens of deaths. Two of these suicide bombings took place in the small towns of Dera Ghazai Khan and Chakwal in the Punjab; both towns have a large Shia community and a history of sectarian tension. The third suicide attack took place in the small town Dera Ismail Khan in the North-West Frontier Province [NFWP] which borders Pakistan’s tribal areas, and where sectarian tensions have recently reached alarming levels. Another took place in Peshawar.

Suicide bombings are not the only threat to the Shia community in Pakistan; the Taliban have also led armed attacks against Shia communities in remote areas. Shia religious organizations claim that eight prominent Shia leaders and public figures have been assassinated in various parts of the country since the beginning of 2009 (also in 2000, 2001 and 2003).

Since the establishment of the Pakistani state in 1947, the Shia community has attained all the characteristics of a religious minority in the Sunni dominated country. They have separate religious institutions and ceremonies that evolved over centuries in the Indian subcontinent, and they also maintain a distinct religious identity, despite the fact that they have never been declared an official religious minority in Pakistan

Many people maintain that while the aim of the Taliban are not Shias, they offer an easy target. Moreover, the financiers and management of the al-Qaeda hardliners are strict followers of the Sunni faith, which has its differences with the Shias. So if al-Qaeda can whip a woman for going out with her father-in-law, they can very well kill Shias for being a Shia.

The problem is not a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. There are numerous instances and lists online of targetted killings, individual and group violence, that seem targetted against this miniority.

There are objections on the Shias about garnering support from Iran. Indeed, in the 1970s, when the then-ruler of Pakistan Ayub Khan announced sweeping religious laws, the Shias were able to gain religious exceptions (basedon their beliefs) with ample support from Khomeni & the Iranian Regime.

However, thers emerges this disturbing pattern amongst the terrorism in Pakistan.

-TFK


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