The bloody divide

The sectarian, urban strongholds of militants are still outside the fold of the state’s operations


Editorial June 10, 2015
Women protesting against the targeted killing of shopkeepers belonging to Hazara community on June 8, 2015. PHOTO: BANARAS KHAN/EXPRESS

There may be as many as 25 million Shias or members of the various Shia sub-sects in Pakistan — close to 20 per cent of the population. Viewed in the purely numerical sense, the Shias are indeed a minority — but 25 million is hardly insignificant. The majority of the Muslim world is Sunni, with sub-sects within Sunni Islam. The divide between Shia and Sunni in Pakistan is, unfortunately, sharpening by the day claiming lives on both sides, but more on the side of the former. The state appears either disinclined or unable to stem the crimson tide. More likely a combination of both.

Tensions between Shia and Sunni communities over the years have led to outbreaks of extreme violence and loss of lives and the destruction of property. As the extremist mindset has become embedded ever deep in the national psyche, the vicious cruelty of attacks on the Shias grow. Attacks on buses on the Karakoram Highway along the lonely stretch between Dassu and Chilas, or in Karachi in the middle of a crowded urban area, are indicators of the powerlessness of the state. Now, another set of killings of Shias in Quetta on June 8, where innocent shopkeepers were gunned down by the ubiquitous ‘unknown assailants.’

As ever, the response to the incident is reactive, with some hand-wringing and promises to track down the culprits. But this was not ‘spectacular’ like the recent killings in Karachi that made world headlines; this was a few people in a poorly-reported backwater and will be gone from the headlines in 24 hours or less. As has been noted in these columns in the past, the fight against extremism and sectarianism will never be won by bombs and bullets alone. The greater and more elemental battle is for hearts and minds, the necessary shift of paradigms, an alteration in the way people think and behave. Besides, the current counterterrorism operations are heavily skewed in favour of the North Waziristan hideouts. The sectarian, urban strongholds of militants are still outside the fold of the state’s operations. Unless and until there is a unified national attempt towards concerted action, the butchery will continue. Expect no early progress.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2015.

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COMMENTS (6)

Salman - SK | 6 years ago | Reply Though basically factual, (other than the 20% = 25 million figure), this is a very weak editorial that has conveniently overlooked the primary reason of the ascendancy of terrorism in the country, which is the lack of will on the establishment's part to fight it. There is no palpable effort to stem the financing and support system for the extremists and no meaningful intelligence activities to counter-terrorism. The responsibility of the murder and mayhem of the innocents can be blamed as much on the terrorists as on the State for being a silent spectator.
Tariq | 6 years ago | Reply It should be deemed as 'Genocide' not 'sectarian violence'. What is the role of the state?...Breed the jihadis and unleash them on its own people?
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