The latest sectarian attack in the country, this time in the Orakzai Agency indicates just how far the curse of hatred based on beliefs has sunk in our society. In the attack on July 18, a passenger van carrying over a dozen members of the same clan was attacked by a remote control device planted on the road, which was detonated as the vehicle passed over it. Those killed included three women and at least three children. A rival Sunni tribe based in the same remote area is thought to have been involved in the killings, while the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan arm based at Darra Adam Khel has claimed responsibility for planning it. This is one of dozens of attacks orchestrated by militants on Shias in recent years and shows their ugly sectarian face.
These details are in some ways irrelevant. The fact is that we have seen many attacks of similar nature carried out by extremist groups operating in various parts of the country. The real question is how do we bring such violence to an end? How do we end the sequence of meaningless deaths, which take place so often? There are no easy answers. We have walked too far along the road of bigotry to turn back easily. The time when no distinction was made in the country between Muslims belonging to different sects is long gone. Right now, sectarian hatred has spread further and further, reaching parts of the country where it was virtually unknown before. We need to press the rewind button and go back to the better times of our past. Another question is on how to go about achieving this.
A multi-pronged strategy is required. It must start at one level with the implementation of laws that prevent the propagation of hatred. But much more will also need to be done. The ulema of the country need to be involved in the process. They must persuade mosque imams in towns, villages and hamlets everywhere in the county to work towards unification rather that division; to spread the message of tolerance rather than murder. This can only happen in stages but the plan to do so must be orchestrated at the highest level of government with genuine will demonstrated to drive it forward.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.