THE undisputed dominance of Sufism over the national life characterised by the history of independence of Pakistan is undeniable.
Ever since the conquest of Sindh by Mohammad bin Qasim in 711 AD, Sufi thinking became popular among the people. As Sufi saints used to preach the message of Muslim brotherhood, tolerance, unity and respect for other religions, besides promoting Islamic values, the vast majority of people were drawn towards them. This approach was fully positive and was in line with the historical need of what was to become the Pakistani nation.
The people of Pakistan have a rich tradition. Unfortunately, the present-day Pakistan is facing an extremely challenging situation in which extremism, terrorism, sectarian divide, corruption, exploitation, targeted killing and extortion seem to undermine the Pakistani social order.
Inter-sectarian clashes in Pakistan, which erupted in the early 1980s, reached their peak in the mid-1990s. It continues to stain the security landscape of Pakistan in one form or another.
The data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) depicts that since 1989 the people killed in 2,601 different incidents of sectarian violence in the country total 3,821.
Society stands divided among various sects. The most recent wave of sectarian violence has spread to Quetta (where the Hazara community is the victim), Kurram Agency, especially Parachinar, (clashes between militants of Lashkar-i- Islam [Sunni] and militants belonging to Touri tribes having Shia origins), Karachi and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The relentless wave of sectarian killings represents a formidable challenge to Pakistani society.
In order to fight the growing menace of religious extremism and sectarian divide leading to violent killings and ethnic and sectarian intolerance, it is imperative to seek guidance from the teachings of great Sufi saints.
For this purpose, our media must project the principles of Sufism in order to allow promotion of peace, unity and brotherhood in seminaries, mosques and other places of worship and refrain from spreading provocative literature, material and making fiery speeches so that the feelings of other sects are not hurt.
Improving the image of Pakistan first of all requires putting our house in order and creating a society that is progressive and tolerant in its outlook and behaviour.
KHALID KHOKHAR Islamabad