Sectarianism in Pakistan
|Civil war/sectarian violence in Pakistan|
|Part of the War on Terrorism|
|Sunni factions:||Shi'a factions:||Non-Muslims|
|N.B.: The factional situation is complex; Sunni- and Shi'ite-linked militias have also fought amongst each other, and have colluded with government forces.|
Sectarian violence in Pakistan refers to attacks against people and places in Pakistan motivated by antagonism toward the target's sect, usually a religious group. Targets in Pakistan may include the Sunni majority, Shia, and the small Ahmadi, Hindu and Christian religious groups. According to the human rights group Human Rights Watch, in 2011 and 2012, Pakistan minority groups Shia, Ahmadi, and Christians "faced unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country". Attacks on Sunni Sufi shrines by "militants" have also been reported.
Among those blamed for the sectarian violence in the country are mainly Sunni militant groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (affiliates of Al-Qaeda), and members of Shia militant groups such as Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan. However, predominant Sunni militant groups are often blamed for attacks on the minority Shias and also on Sunni/Brailvis or Sufis, rarely resulting in reprisal attacks by them.
- 1 Minority religions
- 2 History
- 3 Sufism
- 4 Ahmadiyya
- 5 Christians
- 6 Hindus
- 7 See also
- 8 References
According to Library of Congress, Pew Research Center, Oxford University, the CIA Factbook and other experts, adherents of Shi'a Islam in Pakistan make up 15–25% of the population of Pakistan while the remaining 70–85% are Sunni.
Shias are the second largest sect in the country, and Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community after Iran by number of adherents. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 15 million, and may be as high as 26 million, according to Vali Nasr. Another source claims that Shia figures in Pakistan may be as high as 50 million. Globally, Shia Islam constitutes 10–20% of the total Muslims, while the remaining 80%–90% practice Sunni Islam.
Non-Muslim religions include Hinduism and Christianity, each with 2,800,000 (1.6%) adherents as of 2005. The Bahá'í Faith claims 30,000, followed by Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis, each claiming 20,000 adherents, and a very small community of Jains.
As early as the mid-1950s, Sunnis clashed with Ahmadis until they were declared non-Muslims in 1974 by the national assembly of Pakistan through an amendment in the constitution. Under continuing rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, sectarianism in Pakistan, especially in Karachi and South Punjab, became violent as the process of Islamization began in the Pakistani judicial system. Zia-ul-Haq was indoctrinated by the Saudi Arabian Salafi creed early on and methodically helped propagate and promote Salafi doctrines. The Pakistani Sunni community is divided into many factions, including Bralvis/Hanafis/Sufis, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, Ahle Hadees Wal Jamat, Diobundi, and Wahab/Salfis.
Social laws, which had been tolerant of the open-sale of alcohol and the intermingling of the sexes, were severely curtailed by Zia's laws, although hardliners in both the Shia and Sunni camps were largely in favour of his restrictions. The process eventually came upon issues in which Sunni and Shia viewpoints differed. In such instances, Zia favoured the Sunni interpretation of Islam over the Shia one, causing a rift between the two communities.
Possible outside funding
Some surmise that Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the GCC states, are exacerbating tensions by funding radical extremist Sunnis, and that the Iranian state is funding Shia extremists in Pakistan; this purportedly results in mutual retaliatory attacks. However, the Iranian financial support for Shias in Pakistan must have been much less, especially with Iran's Western sanctions. Wikileaks has reported that US$100 million are gifted to extremist Wahabi priests in Southern Punjab from outside countries such as Saudi Arabia. Southern Punjab contains active extremist Sunni groups such as LEJ and their benefactors, such as Tehrike Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Sectarian violence in Pakistan is a recent phenomenon (starting in the late 1970s and significantly growing in the mid 1980s) and that for most of the country's history, people of different sects have co-existed peacefully. The development of sectarianism is widely attributed to be a result of Arab states and other outside powers inside Pakistan having provided millions of dollars of funding to fundamentalist networks.
A fact recognized by all in Pakistan is that the people of the country are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and mayhem. Today, the world understands that the intensification of the sectarian feeling among the clerics is actually a result of a war relocated from Pakistan’s neighbourhood in the Gulf.
Since the year 2000, over 2000 Shia Hazara community members including many women and children have been killed or wounded in attacks perpetrated by Al-Qaeda and Taliban in the southwestern town of Quetta. Many hundreds of Shia Muslims have been killed in northern areas of Pakistan, such as Gilgit, Baltistan, Parachinar and Chelas. The violence worsened immediately after 11 September 2001 and the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan. In 2002, 12 Shia Hazara police cadets were gunned down in Quetta. In 2003, the main Shia Friday Mosque was attacked in Quetta, killing 53 worshippers. On 2 March 2004, at least 42 persons were killed and more than 100 wounded when a procession of Shia Muslims was attacked by rival Sunni extremists at Liaquat Bazaar in Quetta. Separately, on 7 October 2004, a car bomb killed 40 members of an extremist Sunni organisation in Multan. In 2006, sectarian violence led to 300 deaths.
On 28 December 2009, as many as 40 Shias were killed in an apparent suicide bombing in Karachi. The bomber attacked a Shia procession that was held to mark Ashura. Since June 2010 in Karachi, Sipah-e-Sahaba is involved in the target killing of seven innocent bystanders and intellectuals; all were from the Twelver Shia Muslim community. Sectarian riots and the targeted killing of doctors in the provincial capital have drawn attention to the present democratic system. Karachi had witnessed similar sectarian tension in the early 1980s when then-President Zia-ul-Haq was in power. The military regime of those years had supported certain groups to strengthen its rule and Karachi underwent the worst situation after the sectarian riots. The Shia-Sunni clashes had started from the same section of the city, Godra Colony in New Karachi, after a small incident, and subsequently the clashes gripped the entire city.
In early September 2010, three separate attacks were reported in different parts of Pakistan. The first one took place on 1 September in Lahore where at least 35 Shia were killed and 160 people were injured during a procession. The second attack was reported to have taken place in Mardan, targetted Ahmadiyyas, and at least one person was killed. The third one occurred on 3 September in the city of Quetta, and killed 55 people during another procession.
On 16 December, a mortar attack killed nine people, including women and children, in Hangu, a town that has been a flash point for sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, near the tribal area. On the same day in another attack, one child was killed and 28 people were wounded in Peshawar, the capital of KP province, as Shia Muslims marked Ashura.
In the February 2012 Kohistan Shia Massacre, 18 Shia Muslim residents of Gilgit-Baltistan travelling by bus from Rawalpindi, Punjab to Gilgit, Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan died. The buses were stopped in Kohistan and the victims killed by individuals dressed in military uniforms based on their religious affiliation. The dead included three children, while 27 other passengers on the bus were spared.
On 16 August 2012, four buses destined for Gilgit and the Eid-ul-Fitr festivals were stopped. Twenty-five Shia passengers were identified by their identity cards, separated from other passengers, and shot dead. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni Muslim militants claimed responsibility for the attack. Three Shia Hazara community members were shot dead in the town of Quetta, which is home to a Sunni Taliban leadership group known as Quetta Shura.
On 10 January 2013, several bombings took place in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta and in the northern Swat Valley, killing a total of 130 people and injuring at least 270.
A Bomb blast on Thursday 10 January 2013 occurred at a snooker club which was close to a police station and a Shia Mosque. "First suicidal attack was conducted and then a car bomb exploded on Alamdar Road,” Said Mir Zubair Mehmood, the Capital City Police Officer. The bomb exploded at 8:50 p.m. local time. As police, rescuers and media personal rushed to the blast site, another bomb fixed to a vehicle parked near the site exploded, causing an even greater number of casualties. Over 100 were killed and 121 wounded in the second twin bomb attack. Lashkae-e-jhangvi (LEJ), an extremist terrorist group banned by the government, has claimed responsibility for all the blasts. LEJ has organized under the name Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat and the leader of the organization is Ahmad Ludhanvi, an extremist Salafi priest.
The family members of the people killed in the bomb blast refused to bury the dead unless the perpetrators were prosecuted, the military provided security for and took over the city of Quetta, and attackers stop killing Shia Muslims. Protesters staged a sit-in beginning the in solidarity with them in other cities, including Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, on both Friday and Saturday. Protests have also occurred outside the Pakistani embassy in London and the Birmingham Consulate, in addition to countries with Shia populations such as Canada and Australia. Islamic custom dictates the dead should be buried as soon possible; to postpone the burial is symbolic of the pain and suffering the families of the killed experience.
Quetta Market bombing
On Saturday 16 February 2013, at least 90 people were reported dead and 180 wounded after a bomb exploded in a grocery market in Quetta. The death toll subsequently rose to 113. The terrorist group Lashkae-e-jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said, "the government was determined to fight such dastardly acts and bring the culprits to justice." The remote-controlled bomb was hidden in a water tanker, and ripped through the town's main bazaar, a language school, and a computer center. At the time of the blast on Saturday afternoon, dozens of people, mainly women, were shopping for the evening meal and children were leaving classes. Quetta police chief Mir Zubia Mehmood said the explosive weighed 1000 kg, which was larger than the explosives used in the January attack.
On 18 February 2013, an unidentified gunmen shot dead Dr. Syed Ali Haider and his 11-year-old son while they were driving in their car in the Gulberg area of Lahore. Haider was shot six times in the head and died instantly while his son was shot once in the head and later died at a hospital. Haider was a leading vitreo-retinal surgeon, who also worked in collaboration with the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital. According to his uncle, he had "no personal enmity" and his killing was sectarian-motivated as he belonged to the Shia community. These killings were widely condemned.
On 3 March 2013, a powerful bomb blast in the city of Karachi in the area of Abbas Town killed 45 people and wounded 150 others. The Bomb exploded outside a Shia Mosque as people were leaving from prayers. The blast destroyed the building, set other buildings on fire, and caused a power outage in the city. Human rights group have accused the Pakistani government of turning a "blind eye" to the bombings.
Parachinar twin market bombing
On Friday 26 July 2013, a twin set of bomb blasts occurred in Parachinar, the main town of Kurram tribal Agency. The bomb blast killed 60 people and injured at least 187. The first bomb blast hit the Parachinar market as people were busy buying food in preparation for the opening of the fast. The second bomb exploded near a road side. A terrorist organisation called Ansarul mujahideenhas claimed responsibility. Abu baser spokesmen told a news channel that the attacks were carried out to seek revenge for Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq. "We have planned more similar attacks against the Shia community in Pakistan." Syed Jamal Shan, who visited the twin bombing site, told the Express Tribune, "The blast took place when people were shopping for ifthar. Blood and pieces of human flesh were scattered all around." Shia clerics and leaders demanded military action against the perpetrators of the twin blasts similar to the one in the Swat valley. The elder of the six Sunni tribes living in lower Kurram Agency expressed their sorrow over the incident to show solidarity with the victims of the bombings. The Sunni elders expressed their pain they share over the tragedy.
During the Shia celebrations for Ashoura in November, violence took place in Rawalpindi leading to a curfew. The curfew was lifted, but violence continued and the curfew was reimposed. Nine people died and 50 others were injured, while a Sunni seminary was burned down. Violence also erupted in Multan and Chishtian, where soldiers were called out to maintain law and order. In Multan, at least 12 people were injured when Sunnis protested against the Rawalpindi incident and then clashed with Shias, who fired warning shots in the air. In Chishtian, a Shia mosque was partially damaged and several shops were destroyed when Sunnis torched them in protests against the Rawalpindi incident. At least six Imambargahs and shi'ite mosques were burnt by the armed group of Ahle-Sunnat wal Jamaat on the night of Ashura. Imambargah Hifazat Ali Shah, Bohar Bazar, Rawalpindi was burnt and Zuljinnah (Horse) was killed.
Following that violence, in Kohat, at least three people were killed and the army was called in to establish control. In this incident, the Sunni armed group Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat held a rally on 18 November to protest the Rawalpindi; the deaths then happened after unidentified assailants fired near a Shia mosque.
Since March 2005, 209 people have been killed and 560 injured in 29 different terrorist attacks targeting shrines devoted to Sufi saints in Pakistan, according to data compiled by the Center for Islamic Research Collaboration and Learning (CIRCLe). As of 2010, the attacks have increased each year. The attacks are generally attributed to banned militant organisations.
Sufism, a mystical Islamic tradition, has a long history and a large popular following in Pakistan. Popular Sufi culture is centred on Thursday night gatherings at shrines and annual festivals which feature Sufi music and dance. Contemporary Islamic fundamentalists criticise its popular character, which in their view, does not accurately reflect the teachings and practice of the Prophet and his companions.
Ahmadis are declared as Non-Muslims and further deprived of religious rights in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan and Ordinance XX. Many thousands of Ahmadis were killed in 1953 Lahore riots, 1974 Anti-Ahmadiyya riots and the May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. The 1974 riots were the largest killings of Ahmadis.
|This section requires expansion. (March 2013)|
A Christian church was bombed in Peshawar in October 2013 with many casualties. A Christian church in Islamabad was attacked after 11 September 2001, and some Americans were among the dead. In 2012, a Christian town near Lahore called Joseph Town was attacked by a Sunni mob and the police had warned the residents that they would be attacked in the next 24 hours, but the police did not take any preventive action.
According to the Indian Times of India, as of late 2012, Hindus have fled to India due to forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping of Hindu girls. On 10 August 2012, around 250 Hindu refugees from Pakistan crossed over to India.
- Sunni Tehreek
- Persecution of Shia Muslims
- Persecution of Ahmadiyya
- Anti-Bihari sentiment
- Pakistani demographics
- Sectarian violence among Muslims
- Shi'a–Sunni relations
- 2013 Rawalpindi riots
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- a think-tank based in Rawalpindi
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