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Soft-pedalling sectarian groups

Updated Jan 13, 2017 12:03pm


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Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s remarks in the Senate on Tuesday about sectarianism in Pakistan beggar belief. Not only are they out of touch with reality, they are deeply offensive, and — given he is interior minister of a country involved in a battle against violent religious extremism — cause for extreme concern.

Responding to the senators’ objections about his meeting last October with the head of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Ahmed Ludhianvi, who had arrived as part of a Difa-i-Pakistan Council delegation, Chaudhry Nisar said that banned sectarian organisations could not be equated with banned terrorist groups.

The Shia-Sunni conflict, he added, went back 1,300 years. His words outraged members of the Senate, triggering a walkout by the opposition.

Examine: Perpetuating sectarianism

First, some basic facts. The ASWJ is a sectarian organisation that has been banned earlier, initially when it was called Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and later when it re-emerged as Millat-i-Islamia. Then, as now, it was banned because it was actively involved in spreading hate against the Shia community, often resulting in violence and death.

It is also a fact that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which openly claims sectarian killings, is an offshoot of the SSP, its very name inspired by one of the group’s founders.

Also, the interior minister should know that the multifaceted religious extremism we are battling today first manifested itself in the form of sectarian violence when Pakistan in the ’80s, helped by Gen Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ campaign, became a proxy battlefield for the ideological war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The hardening of positions by organisations representing Shias and Sunnis, and the spewing of poisonous, takfiri rhetoric by some of the more rabid among them, led to further fracturing, including between Deobandis and Barelvis.

Inevitably, the infusion of funds — by individuals and foreign governments — into extremist organisations, and, regrettably, at one point the latter’s patronage by Pakistan’s security establishment in the name of ‘jihad’, raised the stakes even higher. The minorities were also swept up in this tidal wave of bigotry, paying the price in terms of their lives and their right to practise their religion freely.

So to suggest that sectarian violence is some lesser form of terrorism, which is what the interior minister’s words imply, is wrong: it is the very bedrock upon which terrorism of the kind we see in Pakistan is based.

However, appeasement of sectarian organisations has a long history here. It is rooted in the expediency of post-Zia governments, which allowed these groups to further weave themselves into the warp and weft of the political landscape even while some of them were banned from time to time to mollify international opinion.

It was not only military governments that kept religious extremists onside, civilian dispensations too did the same, courting their support in the electoral field and in parliament. That approach was always indefensible.

Now, turning our back on it is imperative for this country’s survival.

Published in Dawn January 12th, 2017

Comments (66) Closed

David Salmon Jan 12, 2017 03:41am

You are absolutely correct. Couldn't be better stated.

adi Jan 12, 2017 07:23am

90 % of Pakistan agree with him..wake up..

FAtima Sumbal Jan 12, 2017 07:32am

Excellent write-up!

Iqbal Ali Jan 12, 2017 08:01am

Entire Pakistan agrees with Mr. Choudhary. A view point nobody else outside Pakistan can ever understand.

SR Khan Jan 12, 2017 09:33am

Execellent article, Dawn keep it up.

aga khan Jan 12, 2017 09:49am

Right ON. Congratulations to the editors of Dawn

aga khan Jan 12, 2017 09:47am

@Iqbal Ali ; You may be right - how sad and unfortunate though.

Syed Irfan Ali Jan 12, 2017 09:54am

Salute to Dawn for calling spade a spade. Totally up to the mark write-up.

Naved Jan 12, 2017 09:57am

Chaudhary Nisar needs to learn from this Dawn article. Our ruling elites live in a different word, in which they cannot see beyond their political interest.

NKAli Jan 12, 2017 10:03am

Chaudhry Nisar, Interior Minister, must know that being in power is one thing and understanding one's responsibility to the citizens of the state is another.

blunt Jan 12, 2017 10:31am

He should be tried in a court

Niaz H. Jafri Jan 12, 2017 11:24am

Kudos to Dawn once again for speaking truth even during the difficult times ! Such a disgrace that this guy Chaudhry Nisar is heading the vital and all important portfolio of the interior minister of Pakistan.

suo motu Jan 12, 2017 11:24am

Pakistan Apex court should take suo motu action and reprimand him for his unconstitutional statement.

Secular Pathan Jan 12, 2017 11:34am

Love you Dawn, Real True Patriot Newspaper who is bold and brave

WataNparast Jan 12, 2017 11:44am

Great article. It's a slap on his face and low level understanding.

Peace ch Jan 12, 2017 11:44am

Very true. We need more of this sense of seeing things in the right light. And such deliberate conscious remarks from authorities openly disclose their casual attitude towards a tough battle against terrorism.

art kp Jan 12, 2017 12:04pm

Dawn and Imran khan are my only two hopes for betterment of Pakistan.

Anon Jan 12, 2017 12:21pm

We can see the wisdom in the saying that; a people are ruled by those that they deserve. Things desperately need to revolutionise in Pakistan. Beginning with mindset's and attitudes.

Sunny Jan 12, 2017 12:28pm

Correct and very well written and

nisar345 Jan 12, 2017 12:38pm

Say no to "extremism"

Riaz Jan 12, 2017 12:36pm

Great Article by Dawn.

Is it a reason why we have an interior minister whose IQ level is so low. Does Nawaz Sharif has no better person in his part for this important portfolio.

Giving his a post of interior ministry and expecting him to implement NAP is like asking robber to be security guard of the bank.

RAJA CHILL Jan 12, 2017 12:46pm

@IQBAL ALI You can justify minister's views.From outside pakistan people see the remarks as support to violence though excuses being put wary from case to case.

Tim Syed Jan 12, 2017 01:36pm

@Iqbal Ali Seriously???? you claim yourself to be the voice of "entire Pakistan"? then you are absolutely wrong.

Vishal Jan 12, 2017 01:50pm

there are many like him roaming freely in the state

Ali Jan 12, 2017 02:10pm

No Pakistani's don't agree with Nisar. Pakistani's are fed up of any sort of violence and killings. It has been going on for a decade now in our country. All violence must end!

shaheen Jan 12, 2017 02:15pm

well done dawn!!!

jd Jan 12, 2017 02:23pm

Welldone Dawn. Spot on.

Ben Jan 12, 2017 02:41pm

He would have been fired from his job, if only he belonged to a just, law abiding, and civilized nation. Belonging to Punjab province has it's advantages.

force Jan 12, 2017 02:51pm

Apex court should force government to take action against banned groups.

Haider Jan 12, 2017 02:53pm

Ch. Nisar said the right thing.

Ijaz Jan 12, 2017 03:19pm

Nisar is back to the narrative of good and bad terrorist, or in his case the lesser and greater terrorist.

In any civilised country he would be dismissed.

Pakistani Jan 12, 2017 03:28pm

No matter what we believe..."Nisar's beleif takes shape of state's policy". What ever he believes would eventually translate into Policy of Pakistan.

apologize Jan 12, 2017 03:42pm

This statement shows that he is unfit to hold the post of Interior minister, he should resign immediately if he doesn't apologize for his statement.

why Jan 12, 2017 03:50pm

Why is opposition parties not so vocal and silent on this most important issue? Opposition should demand ministers apology for his statement.

Shahid Jan 12, 2017 03:45pm

They all need proper education of sensibilities, way to express and practice the delicate but correct way of governance in a society of diverse beliefs. It is hard but doable. As a priori, it requires to live within means without gifts/aids from foreign governments, with intended or implied strings attached; strings that can hang or choke one or other part of our diverse society.

Houlbelat Jan 12, 2017 03:52pm

But, real terrorism started from 9/11 and the world's lone superpower has failed to find its real planner/perpetrators even after 16 years.

khanm Jan 12, 2017 03:54pm

indeed well said.. folks.. The question has often been asked; Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label 'Buddhism' which we give to the teachings of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives is inessential.... In the same way Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Muslims . It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men's minds.

true pakistani Jan 12, 2017 04:09pm

Great job Dawn.

TM Jan 12, 2017 04:24pm

If this is the how the people of Pakistan think, that what Mr Nisar said is correct, then the slide into oblivion and anarchy is only a heartbeat away. Sorry losers!!!!

javed Jan 12, 2017 04:36pm

Sectarianism is the worst form of terrorism. And Ch. Nisar is one of the worst Interior Ministers this country has seen. I hope he is not on the team in Nawaz Sharif's next term.

Dr. Hamid Gul Jan 12, 2017 05:06pm

A complete irresponsible statement from our minister. He is not eligible for talking like this for a country already criticized by many. This clearly shows his shallow depth.

kaliraja thangamani Jan 12, 2017 05:36pm

Dawn editorial is always great.Thanks.

Alba Jan 12, 2017 06:39pm

He is a little man in a big job.

Alba Jan 12, 2017 06:58pm

@Haider .... Instead of murdering old men, women and children who are not like you wouldn't it be more humane to just deport them?

Maryam Hussain Jan 12, 2017 07:04pm

Chaudhry Nisar needs to read the National Action Plan

Ijaz Jan 12, 2017 07:22pm


Well the opposition did walk out when he said this!

Ijaz Jan 12, 2017 07:26pm


What has being Punjabi got to do with this? As if sectarianism was not bad enough we don't need communalism as well

N H RANA Jan 12, 2017 07:30pm

I agree with the writer and particularly Paragraph 9- so to suggest, we know that PML-N is following the path lay down by General Zia for the conquest of title of Ameeer ul Momeneen-one should not forget that killing is killing no matter in what form, Ch Nisar you are also a culprit in this religion based extremism

Mulazim h ussain Jan 12, 2017 07:58pm

Indeed a true picture shown to the interior minister and the govt. The editorial board of the dawn deserves appreciation by all patriotic citizens of Pakistan.

arshad Jan 12, 2017 08:17pm

What incompetent minister we have.

From USA, S.A.Hyder, Ph.D. Jan 12, 2017 08:17pm

@Iqbal Ali : You consider your self as "Entire Pakistan"? You are surely out of your minds, Sir !! Please speak for yourself. Why do you want to malign the whole country?

ShahRyar shiRazi Jan 12, 2017 08:29pm

@Vishal RSS, VHP too, right ? They all must be crushed

jRaza Jan 12, 2017 08:38pm

He is the interior minister. That means it is Policy of the Government. So it is policy of the Government including Nawaz Sharif. foreign Governments will think so. Then How can we blame the countries for not ready to Play Cricket in Pakistan?

DR.Shamir Baloch Jan 12, 2017 08:48pm

Kudos to the editorial board of the dawn for their bold stance against sectarianism and religious extremism in their Kudos to the editorial board of the dawn for their bold stance against sectarianism and religious extremism in their editiral article time and again. Sectarianism and religious extremism are one of the biggest blight on humanity.The earlier we cut its roots the better. Thanks again dawn and its editorial team.

shahid Ahmed Jan 12, 2017 08:46pm

whereas ch Nisar is unwilling to equate them with terror groups even in the presence of tangible evidences of violence and hate

Masood Haider Jan 12, 2017 08:56pm

When a central figure in the administration serves as an apologist for the rabid sectarian killers what hope can there be that the wanton slaughter of minorities and others will ever stop?

Urfi Jan 12, 2017 09:33pm

@Iqbal Ali Agreed, and that is why terrorism is so prevalent in our country. If we really want to rid our beloved land of this "nasoor" (terrorism), then most of of Pakistani's would NEED to change and get to a state of mind where they would sincerely DISAGREE with Chaudry Nisar.

Urfi Jan 12, 2017 09:34pm

@adi . That is so sad!

A Jan 12, 2017 09:42pm


Agree mere praising editorials is not enough.... unless people get truly inspired and motivated to fight these elements nothing will change. Elections are the best weapons which should be used effectively

Hassan Parvez Jan 12, 2017 10:17pm

@adi Your figure is upside down, Its 90% which disagree with him, you better wake up.

Hassan Parvez Jan 12, 2017 10:24pm

@Iqbal Ali You must be living in La La land not in Pakistan. Ch. Nisar as interior minister has disgraced Pakistanis by his statement.

Say it Jan 12, 2017 10:33pm

well said, very bold and honest reflection, and quite rare in our country! weldone!

Ali Jan 13, 2017 04:48am

Spot on! I hope that 90% of the fools who agree with Ch. Nisar understand the facts stated in this article.

Smazr Jan 13, 2017 05:38am

Dawn is the sane voice of Pakistan. Well done dear editor.

David Jan 13, 2017 06:25am

Will these ministers ever work for the greater good of Pakistan and society. A beautiful country being destroyed by unqualified ministers. I am saddened.

Fatima Sumbal Jan 13, 2017 01:13pm

@Iqbal Ali , really...? Entire Pakistan? I don't agree with our interior minister, editorial staff at Dawn clearly does not either...and I am sure if you ask around you will find hundreds of thousands Pakistanis, if not more, who beg to differ. Please refrain from making such absurd blanket statements.