Aggression on the rise in Karachi
KARACHI: Malignant aggression manifesting itself in the form of sectarianism is on the rise in the 14-million strong port city of Karachi.
This can be gauged from the fact that 16 people lost their lives in sectarian violence in Karachi in the year 2000, 57 in 2001, 31 in 2002, 27 in 2003 and 48 in 2004, according to official statistics.
“Sectarian killing has been a distinctive feature of the violence that has gripped Karachi, the most populous city in Pakistan, for nearly two decades. This form of violence peaked between 1994 and 1995. An extremely distressing feature of this crime wave was the targeting of eminent professionals; especially doctors, a majority of whom belonged to the Shia minority sect in Islam. The scale of violence declined over a couple of years but rose during the period between 1999-2002,” according to “Sectarian Violence in Karachi,” a report prepared by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
“While the rate of sectarian killings may have fluctuated over the past 12 months, some aspects of such violence are rooted in the exploitation of religion for power play and in the inertia of state institutions. That sectarianism continues and militants belonging to some factions have not been deterred by any ban on their functioning reflect on the permanent nature of the problem. Also left largely unresolved are issues such as the role of religion in politics, the proliferation of arms in irresponsible hands, the administration’s tendency to concentrate on catching criminals rather than blocking their nefarious design, and the need for equitable compensation to victims and assurances to their families in safety and rehabilitation,” the HRCP report said.
“The government paid me Rs 200,000 as compensation after my husband and 20-year-old son were killed by fanatics. I have to feed my six children and provide them with education in an environment which is extremely insecure,” said Kazmeen Waqar, 50, widow of Waqar Hussain Naqvi, who was a lawyer of the Sindh High Court. Her husband belonged to the Shia minority sect of Muslims and was gunned down in Karachi along with his driver and son on April 7, 2000 in broad daylight.
Like Mrs Waqar, families, especially children who have borne the brunt of sectarian killings live in constant fear amid promises by successive rulers that the culprits would be brought to book and sectarianism would be curbed.
Is it not strange that more and more people are indulging in suicide bombings against a different sect in Pakistan. The people are being brainwashed by religious seminaries (madressahs) and are being told they would go straight to paradise if they kill people from the Shia Muslim sect. The phenomenon has its roots in the era when military dictator General Ziaul Haq ruled Pakistan (1977-88) and fought a proxy war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. As US aid poured into the country, people were persuaded to take up “jihad” in Afghanistan against what was called an atheistic communist regime.
But the fall out from the “Afghan Jihad” was deadly as it paved the way for an arms and drug culture and the mushrooming of tens of thousands of “madressahs” where hatred against different sects of the Muslim community was preached. “With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, these religious schools came under worldwide criticism for providing military training and for fanning sectarianism. Taliban warriors were mostly madressah students who received education in Pakistan. These centres of learning are also known to be used by a number of religious parties for recruiting youth for jihad in Afghanistan and other countries such as Bosnia, Chechnya, and Indian held Kashmir,” according to the HRCP report.
“The seminaries mushroomed during Zia’s regime and according to some reports, they also received support from countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Iraq and Libya. According to recent estimates, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 madressahs in the country, with an enrolment of about 200,000 students,” the HRCP report said.
In the wake of 9/11 and amid fear that Pakistan could be declared a “terrorist state,” the government of President General Pervez Musharraf has initiated reforms in the madressah system but has failed to create a dent in the well entrenched menace that continues to nibble at the social fabric of Pakistan society. President Musharraf has escaped at least two assassination attempts by fundamentalist forces but so far there has been little success in curbing sectarianism in Pakistan. The fundamentalist forces hold sway in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan and continue to assert themselves in Karachi as elsewhere.
Even the minority Christian community in Pakistan feels threatened. “Only seven cases of blasphemy have been tried between 1927 and 1985 but since 1985 nearly 80 Christians have been detained under the blasphemy law. The law is being abused because of section 295 B and 295 C. They should be repealed,” says Father Dr. Archie de Souza, a priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Karachi.