Tag Archives: Extremism

Eyewitness to extremism

Majority in Pakistan recognises the fact, that the people of the Islamic republic are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan in 1979, and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and pandemonium. The Tazias of the Ustad and Shagird in the city of Saints, Multan. Shah Jamal Wala Tazia of Jhang and the Tazias of Chiniot is the true legacy of shia-sunni unity. 

The Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had faced vigorous opposition throughout his premiership years. In 1977 the opposition was united under the revivalist banner of Nezam-e-Mustafa. According to supporters of the movement, establishing an Islamic state based on sharia law would mean a return to the justice and success of the early days of Islam. In an effort to stem the tide of street Islamisation, Bhutto had also called for it and banned nightclubs, horse racing, and the drinking and selling of wine by Muslims. 

On 5 July 1977, General Zia-al-Haq led a coup d’état. Hecommitted himself to establishing an Islamic state and enforcing sharia law, established separate Sharia Judicial courts to judge legal cases using Islamic doctrine. New criminal offences of adultery, fornication, and types of blasphemy, and punishments of whipping, amputation, and stoning to death, were added to Pakistani law. Offices, schools, and factories were required to offer praying space. Conservative Islamic scholars were added to the Council of Islamic Ideology. Separate electorates for Hindus and Christians were established in 1985 even though Christian and Hindu leaders complained that they felt excluded from the country’s political process.

Despite reservations expressed by the Shia Ulema, Zia al Haq promulgated a new ordinance regarding automatic annual deduction of the 2.5% Zakat from bank accounts. In July 1980, the Shia political organisation Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh-i-Jafaria, under the leadership of Mufti Jafar Hussain, organised the largest Shia demonstrations in Pakistan’s history at Lal quarters ground in Islamabad. Most of the participants were from Multan, Shorkot and Bakkhar district. When the demands of Shias were turned down by the military government, the Shia leadership decided to march towards Secretariat Islamabad. As soon as the announcement was made, Islamabad Police was ordered to attack the crowd with teargas, which created a panic in the crowd and they all started marching towards the Secretariat. One of the teargas shells hit one of the demonstrators in the head which went through his skull and the victim died at the spot. The crowdreached Secretariat Islamabad after few hours, where the sit-in was announced by the Shia leadership. The sit-in forced Zia after two days to backtrack and he agreed to exempt Shias from Zakat deduction and change the laws for inheritence. Known as the Islamabad Accord, President Zia al Haq viewed it as a personal humiliation as it sent a strong message across the country that his so-called ‘Islamisation’ was not acceptable to all Pakistanis.

As a matter of fact that was the beginning of the opposition of Shias at State level. It was the Islamabad Accord which signalled the start of sectarian war in Pakistan more than Saudi-Iran proxy war or Afghan Jihad. Military Dictator President Zia al Haq viewed Shias as a threat to be controlled and, therefore, first instigated a split in the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-Jafaria in 1984 with the help of his intelligence agencies. Second, and more importantly, he approved the appearance on the scene of the anti-Shia sectarian organisation Anjuman Sipah Sahaba later renamed Sipah Sahaba Pakistan. The formation of the Imamia Students Organisation soon after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of Arif al Hosseini to top positions who was later murdered in Peshawar on August 5, 1988. The emergence of a new class of Shia religious clerics who had either spent most of their time in Iran or were ideologically allied to Tehran. More importantly, it also invited backlash against Shias when the Saudis bankrolled Pakistani-state sponsored madrassahs during the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, which resulted in the rise of sectarian outfits. The first major sectarian riots in Pakistan broke out in 1983 in Karachi and later spreading to Lahore and Balochistan.

“In May 1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.” The Herald April 1990 

Malik Ishaq, the leader of one of Pakistan’s most notorious anti-Shia extremist groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi declared Shia Muslims “the greatest infidels on earth” and demanded that the Pakistani state “declare Shia non-Muslims on the basis of their beliefs.” Lashkar-e-Jhangvi death squads are believed to have been responsible for the killings of thousands of Shias throughout the country, including a campaign of targeted murders in 2011 which killed Shia doctors, lawyers and politicians residing in Karachi.

A fierce crackdown by security forces in 2015 which resulted in a dramatic drop in sectarian violence. The crackdown culminated in July 2015 when Malik Ishaq was killed in a firefight with police along with 13 fellow militants. The shootout wiped out much of the top leadership of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

On September 11 and 12 this month, mainstream religious right-wing parties, allied with banned outfits, held mass rallies to demand stricter blasphemy laws and for the Islam Protection Bill recently passed by the Punjab Assembly to be replicated across Pakistan. The protesters demanding a ban on Muharram processions that marks the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and his followers on 10, Muharram 61 AH. The commotion followed the detention of a Shia cleric in Karachi under blasphemy laws for leading Ziyarat-e-Ashura, a prayer that salutes the martyrs of the Battle of Karbala, on Channel 24 News on Sept. 13. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a notice to the news channel and suspended its license for 15 days, and its owner was arrested.

The tragic irony of this increasingly violent sectarianism is that Friday’s demonstration saw thousands of protesters rally near the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who himself was a Shia Muslim though he maintained a secular public religious identity and preached the same for the country. Once a respected and well-integrated minority in a country and count the nation’s founder as one of their own, Shia Muslims within Pakistan have become a community under siege in recent years and are facing a situation which is increasingly being described by many as a slow-motion genocide.

The Pakistani state and political parties have been a bystander, and an accomplice, in the Shia cleansing. The Tahaffuz e Bunyad-e-Islam legislation, passed by the politicians in Punjab Assembly. The political ramifications of such a gathering cannot escape anyone, particularly in the wake of the fact that an anti-Shia movement there had once led to the killing of a large number of Shias, including professionals and other prominent persons. The State of Pakistan must not ignore the fact that the sectarianism is a dangerous political tool, even worse than religiosity. Wake up!


The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim. The genocides of 2.7 to 3 million Polish Jews and 1.8 to 2.77 million non-Jewish ethnic Poles. The systematic killing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population carried out in Anatolia during World War I and its aftermath (1914–1922) on the basis of their religion and ethnicity. Five thousand Yazidi civilians were killed during what has been called a forced conversion campaign being carried out by ISIL in Northern Iraq. At least 6,700 Rohingya, were killed in the month after the violence broke out. At least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine state after August 2017. According to UN reports, over 700,000 Rohingya people had fled and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh as refugees as of September 2018.

All the above mentioned crimes were committed using religion, Christians, Muslims, and even Buddhist. For the last few years BJP government is quite actively engaged in such activities against minorities in India and Kashmir.

A couple of weeks ago I used the term “Hindutva” on a lighter mode referring to a political incident. Unfortunately my comment offended my Hindu followers and friends on social media inside and outside Pakistan. I always try my level best not to write anything which hurt the feelings of anyone. Hence I decided to write about the importance of the issue to understand the problem; hence it is important for the audience to understand what Hinduism is:

Hinduism is both a civilisation and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning, nor a founder, nor a central authority, or organisation. One can be a believer in one God, or multiplicity of Gods or even none at all. Hinduism does not expel much less crucify alleged non-believers. Hinduism is not a revealed religion and, therefore, has neither a founder nor definite teachings or common system of doctrines. It has no organisation, no dogma or accepted creeds. There is no authority with recognised jurisdiction. A man, therefore, could neglect any one of the prescribed duties of his group and still be regarded as a good Hindu. It embraces a range of doctrines and practices, from pantheism to agnosticism and religious belief in reincarnation to belief in cast system. Hinduism recognizes that the truth is plural, that there is no one correct answers to the big question of creation. A Catholic is a Catholic because he believes Jesus was the Son of the God, and in the conceptions of virgin birth. A Muslim must believe that there is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet. A Jew cherishes his Torah; simply there is no Hindu equivalent to any of these beliefs. Hinduism maintains that all ways of belief are equally valid. Hinduism incorporates almost all varieties of belief and worship within it, there is no need to choose or reject others. . There is, however, one key difference. Hinduism is a plural tradition, as compared to Christianity and Islam which possess well defined universal creedal formulations.

Therefore, Hindu “fundamentalism” is remarkably thin in terms of religious content as compared to Christianity and Islam. The Hindu thought of God to Hindu is; God is everywhere, a bearing and an absence, within us and outside us. God transcends both time and distance. God has no beginning and no end, but equally has no form and no form. God can thus be imagined, since there in nowhere that God is not, and nowhere that God cannot be. Hindus therefore understand that all worship of God reflects an attempt to reach out to that which cannot be touched or seen; since God is, in that sense, literally unknowable, one may imagine Him/Her/It in any form, since each form may be just as valid as another and none can be guaranteed to be more accurate than the next one. Hinduism is both a civilisation and a congregation of religions. Throughout India’s ancient history, the word Hindu was never meant to denote religion. It was a geographic and cultural term used by the Greeks, Persians and Arabs, derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, to describe the people living by and beyond the river Sindhu or Indus.

The Chief Justice Gajendragadkar wrote for the Supreme Court of India (AIR 1966 SC 1127), that Hinduism is impossible to define. The court adopted Radhakrishnan’s submission that Hinduism is complex and the theist and atheist, the sceptic and agnostic, may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. The Court judged that Hinduism historically has had an inclusive nature and it may “broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more”. All it means is, the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, and by no means anti-minority or anti Muslim potion.

The Supreme Court of India in 1995 ruled that Ordinarily, HINDUTVA is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism… it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption… that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion. Hindutva is not hostility to any organised religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another. It is the shield of security and freedom for all religious minorities in India.

“However the BJP officially adopted HINDUTVA as its ideology in its 1989 resolution. The BJP claims that Hindutva represents cultural nationalism and its conception of Indian nationhood, but not a religious or theocratic concept. Hinduism is the name given to the most ancient and persistent religion on the Indian subcontinent, and Hindutva is the name by which the ideology of the Hindu right, represented by the political party Bharatiya Janata Party, is known. It is also the ideology of the cultural body known as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was founded in 1925 and with which the BJP has strong links. Ever since the rise of the BJP on the Indian political scene from 1990 onward, and its recent successes in national elections in India in 2014 and 2019, the question of the relationship between Hinduism as a religion and Hindutva as a political ideology has come to the fore, because the word “Hindu” is common to both“.  Association for Asian Studies

I hope I have managed to explain the difference between Hindutva and the term Hindutva used for political gains by BJP in India, I would like to apologise to anyone who was and still offended because of the use of the term. And I would like to thank you Veengas for making me realise to re-visit my thoughts on the issue.

May the indigenous land of Sindh will always remain peaceful for Sindhus and the rest.

Nothing is sacred…..

A lot has been penned since the suicide attack outside Lal Shahbaz Qalendar’s Shrine on Thursday last week and much more should be written to denounce the ISIS mindset who is critical of rituals performed at the shrines, and is viewed as heretical by some hardline groups.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said;
This is an attack on Pakistan’s future.

Sehwan Sharif is one of the oldest towns of Sindh. It is highly respected in Sindh because of resting place of the great mystic poet Syed Mohammad Usman Marvandi known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who preached religious tolerance among people of many religious, especially Muslims and Hindus and therefore his mysticism attracted people from many religions. He was called Lal after his usual red attire. His shrine is a true synthetic place, where Hindus and Muslims are as welcome and worship together. One of my acquaintances told me that hereditary guardian of the tomb is still a Hindu. It is narrated that there was a Shiva lingam right there in the shrine until the 1970s. All these Hindu legends and beliefs have come together with the religious belief of the Muslims to create a truly extraordinary place. It is a habitat where different religious identities are embraced.

William Dalrymple spent some time at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, meeting devotees and dervishes to understand the syncretic culture of the Sufis. In his book, Nine Lives, he describes the shrine as;

“A place where for once you saw religion acting to bring people together, not to separate them”.

In recent history the ideology of Extremism and bombing the Shrines started from Najaf. On 29 August 2003 a massive car bomb rocked the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf soon after Friday prayers, which claimed the lives 124 including one of Shiite top cleric Ayatullah Mohammad Baqar Al Hakeem who returned to Iraq after living in exile in Iran for 20 years. The bombing was the most virulent attack in Iraq in 2003. Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS follows a rigidly austere threat of Islam that believes shrines are inverse to Islam and should be demolished. To further their ideology of anti-shrines second major attack was carried on 22 February 2006 on Imam Askari’s Shrine, which shattered the golden dome of one of Iraq’s most revered Shiite shrines.


On 29 March 2016 at least 72 people were wiped out in a suicide blast that took place in Lahore’s crowded Gulshan-I-Iqbal park. The powerful blast ripped through a massive crowded area of the park. Witnesses stated the crowd included a large number of Christian families celebrating Easter. Easter Sunday was supposed to be special. After going to church services, families gathered in the vast Gulshan-e-Iqbal park. Most of the victims were from Lahore’s beleaguered Christian community.

On 22 June 2016 Pakistan’s most respected musicians Amjad Farid Sabri, celebrated for devotional Qawalis from a century-old mystic tradition, was gunned down near his Liaqatabad residence. But both the music, and the shrines at which it is often performed, have long been a target for religious conservatives who despise all forms of music and consider the shrines eccentric and un-Islamic.


Whether it is an attempt on the Imam Ali Shrine in Iraq or Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan or the loss of uncounted precious lives, nothing is sacrosanct to any hardline Islamists. The incorrigible behavior that Pakistan is seeing today is nowhere near the antiquated devotional attitudes and tolerant sentiments of the homeland. This is an attempt on a Pakistan’s pluralistic history, the attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar has once again demonstrated that the militants consider pluralistic Islam a threat to their own version of Islam. 305 people have been killed in 10 different attacks on Shrines since 2005.

We are not constrained by the confines of religious perimeters; this is the answer of the resilient majority of Pakistanis. We are united to overcome the extremists, and this is final.