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Extremism comes to Sindh — the counteraction still hasn't

Published Feb 04, 2015 06:03pm

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Security officials gather at the scene following a bomb attack at an imambargah in Shikarpur. —AFP
Security officials gather at the scene following a bomb attack at an imambargah in Shikarpur. —AFP

When I visited the shrine of Jhulay Lal, a famous Sufi saint, whom both Hindus and Muslims revere equally, I was stunned to see a Hindu temple and a Muslim shrine-like building built on the same premises.

How was it possible that people hailing from two diametrically opposite creeds came and prayed in the same building? And, no communal feud ensued?

But that is Sindh; a timeless land with a history of religious tolerance, nurtured by the poetry and teachings of its Sufi saints and mystics.

Whenever I stepped outside of Sindh, I proudly claimed that I hail from a region where diverse religious and ethnic groups coexist largely in peace (at least if compared to other areas of Pakistan).

That was the state of affairs until the evening of January 30th; when one big, dark cloud passed over this peaceful land and bathed it in showers of blood.

Also read: Can Sufism save Sindh?

The recent heartbreaking incident of a bomb blast at an Imambargah at Shikarpur has triggered a wave of fear and terror across Sindh. The nation was still reeling from the Peshawar attack when this news shook it to the core. After every such incident, the government starts harping about security measures; politicians condemn and statesmen send condolences; but there has not been any concrete effort to attack the demon of terrorism at the grassroots level, where it keeps flourishing.

Erstwhile, it was believed that Sindh, a stronghold of religious harmony, was outside the reach of extremist groups. But now, it seems, the tide is turning.

After spreading its roots to the heart of Punjab, the wave of religious militancy has started to reach out to the mainland of Sindh.

The writing was on the walls, literally.

The unchecked proliferation of madrassahs and the hateful graffiti against other schools of thought had been predicting this turn of events since long. Although, the media and civil society have been trying to direct government’s attention to these elements, there were no measures taken to counteract the extremist forces.

Now, the outcome of these clandestine and often public activities has been unveiled in the most horrific manner. I have heard people talking about taking the ‘Alams’ off their roofs. Terrified mothers ask each other whether they should send their children to schools and mosques.

Explore: Legal and moral abyss

The establishment of military courts or the lifting of the death penalty moratorium will not eradicate extremist mindsets from our society. Extremism is more than a group of people, more than banned outfit or religious organisations; it has far deeper underpinnings, it is festering at every level – in state organisations, important institutes and among the members of civil, as well as military establishments.

Until the government starts an effective campaign to check this mindset and start a cleanup mission, it will keep haunting the future generations to come.

To those orchestrating this bloodshed, I quote this verse from a Sindhi kaafi:

Agar tunhijo hi mazahab aa, ta maan Shaitan jay paasy

If this (bloodshed) is your religion, then I am better off being with the devil.

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Zahida Rehman Jatt is an anthropologist and social science researcher. She is a lecturer at the department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro.


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (19) Closed



Malik Saab Feb 04, 2015 06:34pm

It is pertinent to note that the first leader in Pakistan that brought those constitutional clauses is from Sindh. So rather than blaming anyone else it is better to blame the local leadership for laying the foundation of saplings that now bearing fruit in Sindh.

responsible Feb 04, 2015 06:35pm

This is a gross negligence and incompetency of Provincial Government.

Keti Zilgish Feb 04, 2015 07:25pm

I also visited that Shrine-Mosque site when I was a kid

Hindu Feb 04, 2015 08:49pm

Pakistan was created to be a heaven for Muslim. The Sunni and Shias should come together and live in peace and love, we are humans first before we have any religion or sect. Let Pakistan be a Liberal country where all are happy . God bless Sindh, Pakistan and India.

Haris Feb 04, 2015 09:49pm

Good Article

Sh Feb 04, 2015 09:50pm

Sindh is a land of Sufis and we will not allow anyone to bring religious fanaticism here.

Agar tunhijo hi mazahab aa, ta maan Shaitan jay paasy

Manoj Feb 05, 2015 12:48am

Very well written.. The skewed mindset must be fought.. hanging individuals will not help.. imagine in Mumtaz Qadri's case a retired chief justice is defending him.. it is height of ignorance and narrow mindedness

Keti Zilgish Feb 05, 2015 05:47am

I also visited that Shrine-Mosque site when I was a kid and have since been convinced that there is no difference between Hinduism and Islam and that they have both been used in different ways for nefarious purposes.

Ayaz Hyder Feb 05, 2015 06:16am

It is very depressing to know how extremist religious forces were allowed to flourish and jeopardise the liberal and egalitatarinan spirit of Sindh. It would not be wrong to believe that State has been complicit in this murder of historical values. A concrete, clear and decisive action on the part of state can only end Fanaticism/terrorism. Decisive action is not possible unless this state becomes pro-people , pro-democracy in true sense and changes its ideological frame. Proxies and "strategic assets" policy has to end now.

Awam Feb 05, 2015 10:02am

As long as we keep dividing ourselves by tagging each other as Shia and Sunni, the very division will lead to the conflict and in turn violence. Why can't we see each other as "humans", the sons and daughters of mother earth and let faith be private affair between myself and my God.

Masood A.Syed Feb 05, 2015 01:01pm

Can some body please tell me what has any of our government,National or Provincial in any province have accomplished since the Partition in more than 60 years now ?????

riz1 Feb 05, 2015 01:57pm

@Malik Saab It is pertinent to note that the first leader in Pakistan that brought those constitutional clauses is from Sindh" Hmmmm.. It is interesting that people do not go all the way to the start and blame the starting point of the issue with MAJ, again from Sindh.

Sufi Hussain Feb 06, 2015 02:00am

It was all predictable, and I fear the worst is yet to ensue. We are badly unprepared to tackle the challenge of terrorism. Sindh's peacefulness, an atmosphere religious tolerance is hard to bring back as the interpenetration of different nefarious forces cannot checked by the government or the state only in today's highly mobile and interconnected world.

Aijaz Rasool Feb 06, 2015 10:28am

Speechless after reading....

zaara rehman Feb 06, 2015 11:44am

Nice well done

zaara rehman Feb 06, 2015 11:47am

Sindh is always a peace full place due to its humble culture, We just need peace and unity in sindh

Atta ur Rehman Feb 06, 2015 12:44pm

nice

Saman Rajput Feb 06, 2015 05:57pm

Mam Zahida it a very good article. Well Done

Naseem Ahmed Feb 07, 2015 09:36pm

A good article by young anthropologist, the writer has drawn excellent historical sketch of historical, cultural and social harmony and tolerance of Sindhi society, people of Sindh for different sects and religions throughout the history. but unfortunately, the sanctity of Sindh is under threat now, hence, the situation is very serious and challenging because these sectarian and other religious groups have support and links with state institutions--work under the patronage of security agencies...current madrssah proliferation policy in Sindh is part of grant strategy and has historical and ideological links with General Zia's policy of Islamization. In current situation, i am not sure Sufism can be used as counter narrative against this religious militancy in Sindh and Pakistan because the agenda of these religious militant groups is wider and have national, regional and international links and support. while sufism is only way of life for the people of Sindh...i think it further needs to investigate can sufism save Sindh from this religious militancy?