When Nawaz rocked the Cas­bah

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Nadeem F. Paracha

Agrad­ual but firm pres­sure is be­ing as­serted by the me­dia and the civil so­ci­ety upon the state, the government and the civil-mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agen­cies - to once and for all -mount a de­ci­sive op­er­a­tion against sec­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­volved in a num­ber of acts of ter­ror and blood­let­ting in Pak­istan.

It can be safely as­sumed that never be­fore in Pak­istan has the me­dia and al­most all sec­tions of the so­ci­ety so cat­e­gor­i­cally con­demned the ac­tiv­i­ties of ex­trem­ist out­fits and de­manded an equally cat­e­gor­i­cal ac­tion against them. Also in­ter­est­ing is the way those po­lit­i­cal par­ties that had largely re­mained am­bigu­ous in their stance on sec­tar­ian and ex­trem­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, are also coming un­der the weight of var­i­ous quar­ters to clear­ify their re­spec­tive po­si­tions in this con­text.

Such par­ties do not only in­clude right-wing re­li­gious out­fits such as the Ja­maat-i-Is­lami (JI) or the Jamiat Ulema Is­lam (JUI), but also par­ties such as the Pak­istan Tehreek-i-In­saaf (PTI) and the Pak­istan Mus­lim League-N (PML-N).

The stark­est turn­around in this re­spect was wit­nessed in Im­ran Khan's PTI. Un­til only a year and a half ago, PTI was send­ing ' emis­saries' to ral­lies led by some of the most con­tro­ver­sial sec­tar­ian and re­li­gious out­fits and per­son­al­i­ties in the Di­fai-Pak­istan Coun­cil. And even though the PTI has stuck to its long-stand­ing pol­icy of hold­ing a di­a­logue with ex­trem­ist groups like the Tal­iban, re­cently it has come down hard on Sunni sec­tar­ian out­fits, es­pe­cially the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ). Soon af­ter LeJ's bru­tal at­tack on the Hazara Shia com­mu­nity in Quetta, PTI chair­man, Im­ran Khan, cas­ti­gated the LeJ by name. Till Khan's vo­cal on­slaught against the LeJ, only cen­tre-left par­ties like the Pak­istan Peo­ples Party (PPP) and Awami Na­tional Party (ANP), and the sec­u­lar Mo­ha­jir-cen­tric out­fit, the Mut­tahida Qaumi Move­ment (MQM), were the ones will­ing to play the nam­ing game.

PTI, that is be­ing pre­dicted to be­come PML-N's fiercest op­po­nents in the coming gen­eral elec­tion (es­pe­cially in the Pun­jab), also went on to lam­bast the PML-N for hav­ing links with sec­tar­ian out­fits such as the Ahle Sun­nat Wal Ja­mat (ASWJ). The PML-N dis­missed PTI's ac­cu­sa­tion, de­scrib­ing it as a ploy to dis­suade the Shia as well as mem­bers of the Sunni Barelvi Mus­lim ma­jor­ity and 'lib­er­als' from vot­ing for the PML-N. But it be­came tougher for PML-N to re­spond to PTI's se­vere al­lu­sions when the so­cial me­dia came alive with old pho­to­graphs of PML-N lu­mi­nary, Rana Sanaullah, at­tend­ing and ad­dress­ing a rally of the ASWJ.

The LeJ that has owned many of the most grue­some at­tacks on the men, women and even chil­dren be­long­ing to the Shia com­mu­nity, is a break­away group of the Si­pah Sa­haba Pak­istan (SSP), which was formed in the Pun­jab in 1985 by some former mem­bers of the main­stream JUI.

Af­ter re­ject­ing JUI's elec­toral pol­i­tics and the fact that the party had de­cided to side with sec­u­lar par­ties against the re­ac­tionary Zi­aul Haq dic­ta­tor­ship, th­ese mem­bers were also the prod­uct of the ini­tial rise of sec­tar­i­an­ism fanned by the Zia dic­ta­tor­ship and Pak­istan's involvement in the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan ji­had.

SSP held strong anti-Shia views and was of­ten in­volved in vi­o­lent acts against the Shia com­mu­nity. With the con­se­quent for­ma­tion of the mil­i­tant Shia group, the Si­pah-e-Muham­mad (SeM), in the early 1990s, the SSP was hit back by coun­ter­at­tacks by the SeM un­til the SSP split, and a more mil­i­tant group emerged, call­ing it­self the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Though SSP and LeJ would even­tu­ally be banned in the early 2000s by the Mushar­raf regime, both have sur­vived through var­i­ous 'front or­gan­i­sa­tions.' SeM too was banned and seemed to have with­ered away, but some ex­perts be­lieve it might have been re­ac­ti­vated in Karachi due to LeJ's re­lent­less cam­paign of mur­der and may­hem against the Shia.

Though a grow­ing num­ber of me­dia

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