Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shia in Pakistan

'3. When Pakistan was formed in 1947, the Shias were amongst the major land-owners of Pakistan's Punjab, its granary, and many of the Sunnis, who migrated to Pakistan from India's Punjab, were largely poor landless farm workers, who had to earn their livelihood in their country of adoption by working in the farms of the Shias. The perceived exploitation of the Sunnis by the Shia landlords started the process of the polarisation of the two sects of Islam in Pakistan.

4. This sectarian polarisation largely due to economic reasons was given a religious twist by Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's military dictator of the 1980s, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. To counter the growing political assertiveness of the Shias and their political party, the Tehrik-e-Jaffria (TEJ) Pakistan, which generally supported Mrs. Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), he encouraged and assisted Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

5. With his blessings, the SSP challenged the right of a woman to come to political power and projected the Shias and Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto, the mother of Benazir, as the surrogates of Iran. The SSP also started calling for the declaration of the Shias as non-Muslims and for the proclamation of Pakistan as a Sunni State.

6. Even before Zia seized power in 1977, Pakistan used to see sectarian tension and clashes between the Sunnis and the Shias, but this violence took a virulent form in the 1980s. There were many targeted attacks on Shias in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and in the Northern Areas of Jammu & Kashmir (Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Shias are in a majority), which has been under Pakistani occupation since 1947-48.

7. The last years of the Zia regime saw the Shias of Gilgit come out with a demand for a separate Shia State consisting of Gilgit and the Shia majority areas of Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). They wanted the Shia state to be called the Karakoram Province and remain part of a confederation of Pakistan.

8. The Zia regime crushed the Shia movement ruthlessly. In August 1988, the Pakistan Army inducted a large Sunni tribal force from the NWFP and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), led by Osama bin Laden, into Gilgit and it massacred hundreds of Shias and crushed their revolt. The hatred of the Shias for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda dates from this period.'


Iraqi Mojo said...

'Because of massive Saudi assistance to Pakistan in the 1980s, Zia began to shift his favor away from local variants of Sunnism (which were largely tolerant of Shias) towards the far more intolerant Saudi style of Sunnism known as Wahhabism. Much of the violent sectarian conflict can be attributed to the introduction of Wahabbism, which is fundamentally anti-Shia, and gained notoriety in mainstream Sunni Islam after the destruction of the Shia holy shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, Iraq, in 1800. Saudi funded arms soon flooded into the country as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. While the arms were meant to be directed to Afghan fighters, many inevitably ended up in the hands of newly formed Wahhabi paramilitary groups. However, the Wahhabist paramilitary groups attacked not only Shias, but anyone who they felt was not a true Muslim, including Sufis, who have largely influenced the practice of Sunnism in Pakistan.'

Sikander Hayat said...

Shias in Pakistan are not persecuted and this current violence is a new phenomenon.