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'I have always witnessed Shia-Sunni brotherhood'

Published Jan 13, 2013 12:57pm


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Pakistan has seen an unprecedented rise in sectarian violence. -Photo by AFP

QILA BHATTIAN WALA: In the village of Qila Bhattian Wala, nestled in wheat fields, Shia Muslims know nothing of the record levels of violence suffered by their community elsewhere in Pakistan.

Here 3,000 villagers live in harmony with their Sunni neighbours. They worship at the same mosque, guard each others' religious processions, grow up together, intermarry and live in peace without fear or retribution.

“I've witnessed this Shia-Sunni brotherhood from my childhood, you can say from the day I was born,” Mohammad Bashir, an 80-year-old farmer told AFP in the village, 130 miles (208 kilometres) southeast of the capital Islamabad.

“We are all Muslims and creatures of one Allah,” he added.

On Friday afternoons, Shia and Sunni clerics perform the call to prayer from the same, small mosque with marble flooring. One after the other, Shias and Sunnis make their ablutions and enter the mosque to worship.

“Islam is a religion of peace, so we never say a word in our sermons which can create trouble for others,” said Maulana Zille Hasnain, a Shia prayer leader.

But in parts of Pakistan, that is no longer the case.

A devastating twin suicide attack killed 92 people in the Shia Hazara neighbourhood of Alamdar Road in the southwestern city of Quetta on Thursday.

It was the worst single attack on Shias in Pakistan and came after what Human Rights Watch (HRW) said was the deadliest year on record for the country's Shias, with more than 400 people killed in 2012, mostly in drive-by shootings.

Activists accuse the government of failing to protect Shias, who account for 20 percent of the 180 million population, and say the perpetrators operate with impunity because the judiciary fails to prosecute the culprits.

“The callousness and indifference of the authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies,” said HRW Pakistan director Ali Dayan Hasan in a statement.

The worst of the violence has been in Quetta, Karachi, the tribal town of Parachinar and the northern district of Gilgit-Baltistan where in 2012 Shias were pulled off buses and shot dead.

The Shia Hazaras, an ethnic group that suffers chronic discrimination in Iran, as well as Pakistan, have been hit disproportionately with around 100 killed last year.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Pakistan's most extreme Sunni terror group, claimed responsibility for the Quetta attack and is blamed for much of the violence.

LeJ is linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, Sunni fundamentalists who have fought an insurgency against the government since 2007.

“Whether the military's inability to crack down on them is a capacity issue or it is ideological – this is a moot point,” Hasan told AFP.

In July 2011, Pakistan released LeJ leader Malik Ishaq, who spent 14 years in custody over dozens of sectarian murders and who is accused of masterminding a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Ironically, some Shia political leaders have called on the army to intervene where the civilian government, which is this March set to become the first ever in Pakistan to complete a full term in office, has failed.

“We are living in times where a civilian government can't save us. It is time for Pakistan's army to safeguard the country's borders and save its innocent citizens,” said Mirza Yousuf, head of the Pakistan Shia Action Committee.

A senior Pakistani security official described the attacks as “very tragic”.

“It's something we never had... If you want to believe in conspiracy theories, a deliberate attempt is being made to create this division in Pakistan,” he said.

He added that there were only “a very small handful of people who believe Shias are heretics”, but that it was “impossible to guard and protect every inch of this territory”.

Many observers in Pakistan say opinion polls are unreliable. But according to one recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of Pakistanis do not recognise Shias as Muslims.

For families bereaved by the bloodshed, there is bitterness. Shia relatives have been refusing to bury their dead from the Quetta bombings and are protesting, demanding the army take over security.

Sahib Jan, a Hazara woman in Quetta, always worried that her husband Mohammad would be killed. He laughed it off but on October 16, her worst nightmare came true.

He and his younger brother were gunned down in their tyre shop by attackers who also killed two other Hazaras in the area.

His son, Ali, 27, said: “It is genocide of the Hazara people.”


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Comments (32) Closed

asif Jan 13, 2013 10:17pm
don't say that buddy at least we have hope.don't break it
mahmood Jan 14, 2013 07:14pm
Infact the rulers are Shia ...
Yogesh Jan 15, 2013 06:23am
Why not go a step further, and say we are all human?
Saad (@saad_durrani) Jan 13, 2013 07:53pm
The irony is the President of Pakistan claims to be a follower of Shia ideology.
ABN Jan 15, 2013 09:07am
The basis of Pakistan was the idea that two sets of people with different religious faiths cannot co-exist. At that time the division was between Hindus and Muslims. However, today that same idea is being followed but unfortuantely for Pakistan it is Shias and Sunnis this time. Divisive politics and ideology has never done any good for anyone, it has always come back to haunt the mastermind. Its your Karma, you reap what you sow.
Insaan Jan 14, 2013 03:44pm
Thanks to Gen. Zia ul Haq for planting the seed of hatred and shame on the people of Pakistan for falling in this terrible trap. Come on people, its about time that we stop this intolerance and concentrate on real issues, such as, education, clean water, power crisis, health and the list goes on.....
Truly Jan 13, 2013 02:49pm
Pakistan was born out of the premise that if two communities have differences they divide the land between them. That can be done now too. Give the Shias their share & give the Sunnis theirs.
abbastoronto Jan 13, 2013 02:39pm
In every locality the State should build a non-sectarian mosque where all Muslims can come and pray the way they want. It could also second as a community center, a shelter, a guest house, as a mosque is supposed to be. That will encourage sectarian inter-mixing and tolerance and provided needed services.
Pramod Jan 14, 2013 04:54am
It would have been better. if you could say something to promote interfaith. Muslims around the world need to understand other faiths in order to co exist with them. Only Shia are not being killed, Hindu, Christians and people of other faiths are facing same situation.
Vikram Jan 14, 2013 01:47pm
Accept that their is a problem between Shias and Sunnis.
chandra Jan 14, 2013 09:07am
Lets not compare with each other problems or solutions. But the situation requires more introspection. Rightly said that India have own set of problems. Pakistan needs to look into the basics on what going on and how to fix the problem at its root.
umesh bhagwat Jan 13, 2013 09:19pm
The people of Pakistan must realise that they all share a common heritage irrespective of their faiths!
Ali Jan 14, 2013 01:09pm
how can i call it my land when people are being killed and the goernment does no do anything to protect the livs of the citizzens?
Ali Jan 14, 2013 01:16pm
One things first forget economic development, progess, education, improved infrastructure? Why becasue there is no peace people are being killed on a daily basis!!!
Cyrus Howell Jan 13, 2013 04:56pm
Hard economic times make men no longer brothers. There is a time for love and peace and a time to guard your property.
Aamir Jan 13, 2013 04:48pm
Hell on earth? Being Pakistani, I must say, India is far better than us. They have done what they promised, and today Muslims have religious freedom in India. Pakistan?
Harinder Jan 13, 2013 04:33pm
Sunni rulers of Paksitan , I request you to not kill your fellow Muslims ( shias) Pakistan was created so that Muslims could live in brother hood free from the hegemony of India (Hindus ,Sikhs , Buddhist ,chritisans ,Jains.) Believe me it is possible to co-exist even if we worship GOD in different ways.
stranger Jan 14, 2013 01:08pm
This is not a case of religion or community. Its a politically motivated bloodshed.
Arshad Mirza Jan 14, 2013 07:00am
Sorry to disagree. Pakistan was born of the premise that all specially muslims can practice their religon freely without any fear. Muslims have a difference of opinion as all other religons of world. We need to learn to tolerate each other and respect each other's believes, Life and property.
Majority Jan 14, 2013 12:45pm
Shia do not want "their own land"...they just want to live and have the right to breath. They do not need permission for this. In case it has not occurred to you....theirs has been a very very non-violent approach despite the carnage that would awaken the beast in any human soul. That makes one wonder who is the Kafir here.....those who kill and maim or those who lay their lives without willing to harm a fellow"Muslim". Sit up and think.
Just a Reader Jan 14, 2013 05:02am
Get your facts straight brother, do not post such comments just to get a few dozen thumbs up. I have family and friends living in India, and living in middle east I come across Bharatis (muslims, christians and hindus) every day, the stories I have heard are horrible. I am not at all advocating the situation in Pakistan, it is indeed the worse this generation has ever seen, but we do not need to compare our selves with India on every occasion. We are after all a separate country who has its own set of problems.
rajiv Jan 14, 2013 08:35pm
Thats the hard and beautiful truth that pakistanis can not accept.. cause if this is accepted then two nation theory losses its credibility... these are the trees from the seeds planted so many decades back dear..
rajiv Jan 14, 2013 08:32pm
I dont know why the author exposed this beautiful neighborhood... he should have left them live in peace without being in spotlight in a country where talibaan and politicians alike wont want this to happen... there would be no surprise that you hear some serious news from this part of the world... in conditions like the ones prevailing in pakistan today... such gems are not exposed but hidden,,,
piousheart Jan 14, 2013 08:32pm
arshad its others who fear to practise their religion in muslim countries not other way around
Vastav Jan 13, 2013 01:30pm
Pakistani citizens can convert this incident into a golden opportunity to make a U turn and bring peace in Pakistan.Let this incident be the turning point of Pakistan.
Yawar Jan 14, 2013 03:27am
The Sunni "rulers" are not killing Shias. In fact a lot of the "rulers" today happen to be Shias. The culprits are these radical Sunni terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, the TTP, and Lashker-e-Jhangvi. Positive change in Pakistan can only happen if we as a united nation start holding the terrorist groups and their leaders accountable for the death and destruction in Pakistan.
vik Jan 14, 2013 03:22am
Shai want their own land, Balochi want their own land, suffi's want their own land..What will happen to pakistan. Is this not a land of all?
Ad Jan 14, 2013 12:55am
Pakistan is in a state of war. The age of direct warfare is over. This is the age of proxy warfare. May the peaceful innocent citizens of Pakistan win. Ameen
Hasan Jan 13, 2013 01:49pm
Shhsshhhh khamosh, Pak qaum bhut zarori kaam se so rai hy...
ETCH HART Jan 13, 2013 01:53pm
Dream ON, my friend!
Amjad Wyne Jan 13, 2013 10:55pm
Sunni rulers have failed to protect Sunnis too - there is no discrimination going on here. The fact is that it has nothing to do with Sunni or Shia or Hindu. The law and order situation has deteriorated, the president of Pakistan is no where to be found - he has not spoken either so we do not know if he is still alive. His side kick - Bilawal - who jumps up and down on every little thing - is missing too. The country has been thrown to wolves by the current government.
Hasan Jan 14, 2013 09:17am
What Shia Sunni? We are all Muslims! I remember as far back as 1986 - when some people were POSTED by people with ulterior motives - houses of Shias, Imam Bargahs and Shia-intensive Mosques were burnt in Lahore, the Sunni friends and neighbors used to fight as protectors for Shias. Today also, how many thousands of Sunni brethren attend Majlis and Moharram mourning processions. Conversely, Shias pray in Sunni-intensive mosques and attend Seerat ul Nabi (SAWW) conferences and processions, organized and managed by Sunnis. This Sunni-Shia conflict has NO BASE. It is PLANTED - ARTIFICIALLY CREATED AND INSTIGATED. Shias and Sunnis are muslim brothers.