America condemned for giving sectarian colour to Iraq conflict
* Allama Sajid Naqvi says no Shia-Sunni problem exists in Iraq
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: A top Shia leader on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on Anglo-American war planners for including “sectarian element” in their plans to oust President Saddam Hussein but at the same time somehow defended the Iraqi opposition to join US-led efforts to overthrow the Iraqi regime.
“It’s wrong to say only the Shias are interested in the overthrow of President Saddam’s government. The Iraqi opposition also includes Sunni leaders who want regime change,” Allama Sajid Naqvi, chief of banned Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, told Daily Times via phone from Rawalpindi.
The British forces Tuesday reported “a violent uprising against the Baghdad government had erupted” in Basra and that “Iraqi troops opened fire to put down the revolt.” Shia Muslims dominate the historical city and political observers described this report as “very serious” if it was true.
There was no Shia-Sunni problem in Iraq, Mr Naqvi underscored and said Saddam did treat Arabs and Kurds unfairly in the past and these people were unhappy with the Iraqi president facing presumably an unauthorized Anglo-American war.
He said the Iraqi regime disregarded human rights of its people irrespective of their belief. But he condemned both United Kingdom and the United States for trying to give a sectarian colour to the seven-day-old war.
He said the Sunni Muslims should not think as if Shias in Iraq would support the British and American forces to topple the regime in Baghdad. “Why Shias should be blamed that they have joined the Americans to depose Saddam? Military planes are not taking off from the Iranian soil to bomb Iraq.”
“These planes are taking off from Sunnis-dominated countries’ airbases to carry out sorties inside Iraq,” Mr Naqvi, also vice-president of Sunni-dominated Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, argued.
Asked specifically whether the Shias should join the Anglo-American forces in attempts to capture Baghdad, he said the Iraqi people had the right to do what they thought to be good for them.
But a banned Sunni-dominated sectarian group warned of “serious political repercussion” if a “Shias-dominated government was installed” in Baghdad. “There may be internal differences but the Shia Muslims should strengthen Saddam’s hands against the Americans-led forces,” Aslam Farooqi, Peshawar district chief of defunct Sipah-Sahaba Pakistan, told Daily Times.
Saudi Arabia, he specifically named, would come under serious threat if the present regime in Baghdad was changed with Shia-led government. He did not elaborate what threat Saudi Arabia would face if the regime change took place.
Although Haji Muhammad Adeel, central information secretary of Awami National Party, played down any significant spillover of Shia-Sunni differences inside Iraq into Pakistan, he also cautioned the Anglo-American war planners to desist from “playing with religion” to achieve their goals.
The ANP leader added that both Shia and Sunni sects were against the war in Iraq and they were using the MMA platform to raise the voice for peace.