No end to factional strife

By K.N. Pandita

Two consecutive bomb blasts in Hyderi, North Naimabad in Pakistan’s commercial city of Karachi on November 8, 2012 are yet another reminder of deep roots of sectarian divide. A country created 65 years ago for the Muslims of undivided India, has seen more killings of Muslims by their co-religionists than in any other country of the Muslim world. 

These attacks were made specifically in Dawoodi Bohra locality. These are not the first attacks on this Shia faction. Earlier also, besides Shias of Punjab, the Bohra religious community has also been targeted.

With the nearby Dolmen Mall shut for the day, shopkeepers on the Syedna Burhanuddin Road in Karachi, where the explosives went off, also pulled down their shutters. Twin blasts left eight people dead and several more injured some gravely.

Many of the men present there, believed that the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was behind the attack. It is a group of extreme Sunni Hanafi fanatics with avowed agenda of destroying the Shia community in Pakistan. Jundullah is its offshoot with specific assignment of attacking the Shias along Pakistan-Iran border in Baluchistan province.

It is surprising that Iran, the largest and he only Shia country in the world and a neighbour of Pakistan, has seldom raised eyebrow on the planned killing of Shia people in Pakistan but has never lost opportunity of signing the resolutions of OIC castigating India for so-called atrocities or human rights violations in Kashmir. This dichotomy defies logic.

One of the demands of Lashkar-I-Jhangvi is that Shias of Pakistan should be declared non-Muslims. Earlier during the days of Z.A Bhutto, Ahmadiya were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. Dawoodi Bohra, a faction of Shia community, is generally a harmless and peace loving business community with least political trappings.

Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s ideology is that only Sunni-Hanafi Muslims have a right to live in Pakistan and that the country was created for them only. However, when the Muslim League was engaged in a long struggle of opposing Indian National Congress’ freedom movement it presented itself as a united body of Muslims with no factional divide. When Pakistan came into being, M.A. Jinnah, in his capacity as the first Governor General said in maiden broadcast that Pakistan was the home of people of all faiths. What a volte-face over night. For nearly half a century he went on telling the world that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together and hence a separate homeland for the Muslims was called for. How come overnight it dawned upon him that in his newly created Islamic country, people of all faiths could live together.

In its mission of destroying all faiths and factions other than the Sunni-Hanafi in Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is exposing the duality in Jinnah’s politics. That is what almost all regimes in Pakistan, military or civilian, have been doing.

The world knows that the regime in Islamabad is least interested in or capable of controlling sectarian feud in the country. It is because of ascendency of Punjabi Sunni-Hanafi sect and its domination over all sources of power.

The real source of power in Pakistan is the thousands of madrassahs or Islamic seminaries from where hundreds of thousands of teen-aged Pakistanis, fully indoctrinated in hatred against non-Sunni factions, Americans and Indians are churned out. From madrassahs they go straight to second tier of the mission of their life viz. training in arms for armed jihad.

By the time they become jihadi activists in the field, they have turned hard core fundamentalists believing that their life’s end mission is to kill the enemy or to get killed. Thus jihad in the path of faith is the ladder of ascending to lasting paradise for the pure.

But who provides financial support to the madrassahas, its inmates, its regulators and the end product of jihadis and their extended jihad. There must be a powerful funding source. Obviously the famished and financially squeezed Pakistani regimes cannot afford these big expenditures.

A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks said financial support estimated at $100 million a year was making its way from Gulf Arab states to an extremist recruitment network in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Dawn newspaper reported.

The November 2008 dispatch by Bryan Hunt, the then principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore, was based on discussions with local government and non-governmental sources during trips to Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. Charities from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates financed a network in Pakistan that recruited children as young as eight to wage “holy war”, a local newspaper has reported.

Ostensibly, these funds come from “missionary” and “Islamic charitable” organisations probably with the direct support of those countries’ governments.

It is pertinent to remind that Saudi Arabia, the United States and Pakistan heavily supported the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet occupation troops in the 1980s. Militancy subsequently mushroomed in the region and militants moved to Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, seen as a global hub for militants.

Militant network in Punjab exploits worsening poverty to indoctrinate children and ultimately send them to training camps.

Main reason for Saudi Arabia first to provide billions of dollars to Afghan mujahideen was to prop up Sunni-Wahhabi ideology among the predominantly Sunni population of Afghanistan. The process continued but the recipients shifted from Afghan mujahideen to Punjabi religious extremist networks and the madrassahs where children in the age group of 8-12 are enchained and imprisoned till they are fully indoctrinated and militarized for jihad.

Teen-aged inmates of madrassahs are denied contact with the outside world and taught sectarian extremism, hatred for non-Muslims, and anti-Western/anti-Pakistan government philosophy. Dawn has reported that families with multiple children and severe financial constraints were being exploited and recruited,

Teachers in seminaries assess the inclination of children to engage in violence and acceptance of jihadi culture. The initial success of establishing madrassahs and mosques in these areas led to subsequent annual “donations” to these same clerics, originating in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

With sizeable manpower recruited at an early age and from poor and needy families, and unaccounted funding coming from oil rich countries of the Gulf where monarchical regimes are determined to perpetuate dictatorship, of course thanks to the patronization of their Americans bosses, it is futile to expect that Pakistan will be cleansed of terrorism and given a reasonable civil society. It is a divided house where groups are pulling in opposite directions. The jihadis have reduced the regime in Islamabad to the level of a laughing stock.

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