Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sehwan Sharif Massacre


February 17, 2017

By Saeed Qureshi

Scores of devotees lost their lives in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks at the shrine of the Sufi Saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif Sindh Pakistan. While 88 persons are reported to have died, a huge number running into hundreds has sustained serious and even life threatening injuries.

A Pakistani Taliban militant faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for this most barbaric carnage of the people who had come to celebrate the annual festival at the tomb of the saint and express their devotion. This attack cannot be termed as sectarian but patently it is a terrorist activity by such groups who want to destabilize Pakistan after failing to turn it into a theocratic state.

One can only ponder with extreme anguish as to how there are heartless people who kill their fellow countrymen or otherwise human beings who have no role to play in politics or in governance. If such ghastly massacres are religiously or sectarian-bias-based, then it is time to rid the country and people of this sectarian hooliganism.

Pakistan has been victim of the terrorism perpetrated by the religious outfits and bands of various categories and hues whose aim is to turn Pakistan into a religious state. Such groups are mostly from the Sunni faith although within the Sunni faith there are many sub-sects who differ with each other over the interpretation of Quran and Sunna (tradition and sayings of prophet Muhammad).
The Wahabi faith is against the people who believe in shrines and saints and a host of rituals. The Wahhabis are also divided in several sects but on the whole they have hugely organized themselves and have enormous funds and committed members to lay down their lives for the sake of their creed and beliefs.

Also, there are secessionist groups wanting to break away from the federation of Pakistan. These groups have been fixated on the sordid mission of weakening Pakistan by insurgency and armed militancy. They are supported and abetted by the countries and groups hostile to Pakistan and its survival.

On the other side the minority sects both within the fold of Islam and outside fall victims to the majority Sunni sects and are killed and attacked from time to time. Shias and Christians and similar other minority sects have been suffering at the hands of militant Sunnis who kill and attack them invariably, as if that was a crusade and tantamount to great service to the pristine Islam. Pakistan is a new state and the faithful of various sects have been living in this land here even before for centuries. So, in a way Pakistan’s creation became a handy ploy for the majority sects to annihilate and kill their rival sects in the name of Islam.

There have been countless incidents of religious and sectarian vandalism in Pakistan in which a huge number of the people have been killed or maimed. What kind of Islamic or religious state these heinous perpetrators want to make and build on the blood and tears of the people of Pakistan and ruination of the families?

One question is of paramount significance. India the neighboring country has majority of Hindus. There are Sunnis and Shias and other minority sects like Ahmadis, Parsies, Bahai, and Agha Khani etc. We have not come across any incident in that unislamic country such as Shias and Sunnis falling out with each other in a way that they do within the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Pakistan is a democratic country that came into being for the people professing Islam but not for a particular brand of Islam. It looks as if the creation of Pakistan turned out to be fatal for religious freedom and instead has let loose a sectarian war and confrontation taking a heavy toll of its citizens only because of the diversion in faith.

Pakistan is not destined to be a Sunni faith-based country but for all Muslims and non-Muslims with absolute religious freedom and equal rights to all the citizens. Saudi Arabia can afford to have an Islamic state based upon Wahabi belief. Yet they are maintaining it because there is monarchy which is intolerant of any dissention against the Wahabi brand of Islam. Wahhabism is not acceptable to such religious Islamic denominations as Chishtia, Qadria and Naqshabandi as well as main sects such as Shia’ism.

The enmity between Sufiism and Shia’ism is a spillover from the past. The destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 AD was the result of the faith-based enmity between the Sunni caliph Mustaasim Billah and the Shia prime minister Ibne Alqami. In the present times, the wars being fought in Iraq and Iran are basically between the followers of Shia faith and the those professing the Sunni faith.
The following statement is related to the third caliph of Islam, Hazrat Usman. when he was being assassinated by a group of Hooligans. In that he said to them that “you are killing me but the discord that would result from this among the Muslims would not be remedied till eternity”. That prediction is so truthfully evident which we can witness even in the present liberal times.

In the context of Pakistan, the tag of Islamic state should be done away with and only federation of Pakistan or state of Pakistan ought to be put in place. It was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who abandoned his secular and democratic credentials and enforced a rigid Islamic system under pressure from the religious zealots. Despite that he lost his power as well as life at the altar of opportunism and lust for power.

In view of the latest horrendous massacre of the innocent citizens in Sehwan Sharif Pakistan, the state should gird up its loins and mercilessly crush the religious intolerance and rampant terrorism. Those elements and groups that are waging armed rebellions to territorially divided Pakistan must also be dealt with sternly. Such a successful endeavor has been made by the armed forces in Swat some few years ago and it needs to be repeated.