Sectarianism has always been a problematic yet key factor in the societal dynamic of Pakistan. A deeply divided society with numerous sects and sub-sects, it is not only difficult to police and govern but also hard to promote harmony. The following are some of the key aspects of the sectarian problem;
- The shia sunni dynamic has largely been diminished, with occassioanl sparks flying off in particularly remote regions. A particularly problematic region is Gilgit in Northern Pakistan where reports exist of deepening sectarian divide and the creation of ‘no-go-areas’.
- The barelvi deobandi connection is one of the biggest threats to social and sectarian harmony. Each side slings the chants of ‘Infidel’ upon the other which further stokes the tensions.
- The madrassas have long been considered a source of extremism by many a liberal factions. This affects the harmony as it places the religious parties, that rely on the madrassas for electoral support and ‘street power’, against the liberal parties. An example of this was seen when the JUI-F objected to the NAP’s attempts to increase the monitoring of all madrassas.
The sectarian problem is a deep one and requires a deep study to truly document the extent of damage it has done or can do. Here are a few suggestions that can deal with the sectarian tensions;
- Implementation of the NAP in consultation with the religious parties is necessary but this is easier said than done. A more clichéd yet the only obvious solution here is to allow religious parties to allow a greater say in the extent of intervention in the madrassas. Both sides should bring everything to the negotiation table and only flexibility from both sides will reach fruitful decisions.
- Mohalla committees can prove integral to the success of peace-building efforts. A case example would be Gilgit where this method was adopted and sectarian tensions subsided to a great extent.
- Licensing of all Molanas, Khateebs and Zakirs in order to maintain a proper record in case the need for accountability arises. Similar licensing of all Masajid and Imambargaah are also necessary and finances of all such entities must be placed under special scrutiny.