ISLAMABAD: Former National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) chief Tariq Parvez believes that the changing sectarian landscape and absence of a political will in the leadership for tackling sectarianism were the key factors driving the current wave of inter-sect tensions.

He was speaking at a webinar hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on “Pakistan’s drift into sectarian strife”, according to a statement issued by the think-tank on Saturday.

Mr Parvez regretted that political will for dealing with the problem was missing.

“It appears political leaders are not cognizant of the gravity of the situation.” It cannot be tackled with administrative and law enforcement measures. “What’s required is a strong political will and consensus,” he noted.

Counter-terrorism expert and security analyst Amir Rana suspected that the government was turning a blind eye to the problem because of what he believed a “weakened political will”.

He warned that “such an approach would not work” and could rather “encourage the extremist sectarian elements.”

Mr Rana recalled that all groups participating in sectarian agitation had signed ‘Paigham-i-Pakistan’, a document prepared to counter violence, extremism and terrorism.

He observed that they used it to gain space for themselves instead of promoting harmony within the country.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General Harris Khalique said the current wave of sectarianism could grow and in the process rupture other faultlines as well.

He urged the government not to treat it as a political issue but an issue of urgent national importance.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2020