Solving the sectarian problem Solving the sectarian problem The killings at Hangu, and the ominous presence of security personnel everywhere during Ashura, have once more proved that sectarianism remains deeply entrenched.
Quite aside from the terrible murders and the mayhem created by them, the sense of fear and of discrimination that lives on in the country is deeply damaging. More and more Shias have complained of intolerance, which is causing new rift lines to emerge within an already fractured society. The real question is how the sectarian issue can be resolved over the coming years.
It is obvious that the existing policies have had only limited impact, and militant elements continue to wreak havoc at periodic intervals. The fact of the matter is that a problem which has taken root over two decades or so may take at least as long to eradicate. After all, numerous studies have shown that prejudice of all kinds is an insidious social phenomenon, which can take generations to wipe out.
Sectarianism - Wikipedia
It is, however, essential that the effort to tackle sectarianism begin immediately. This effort must be underpinned with far greater commitment and a longer-term strategy than has so far been the case. Mere cosmetic measures, revolving around policing militancy by locking up dozens in jails for weeks, or deploying security forces in an effort to keep vigilance over every street corner, is neither feasible nor wise.
It must, in the first place, be accepted that the dozens of young militants who today form small bands, and unleash on society the violence that they have been trained in for many years, need to be dealt with. They also need to be considered as victims, not merely criminals.
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Rather than simply locking them into jail cells, there must also be an attempt to rehabilitate them as useful members of society. In this, the state needs to face up to its responsibilities. After all, previous governments played a major role in the training of militants and in the setting up of the seminaries where they received their education in the cruel rules of hatred.
Pakistan News Service
The result of those policies are now evident in the form of bomb blasts, the targeted shootings and the suicide blasts that have in recent years shaken cities and towns across the country. The government of today must then find ways of reversing the trends so deliberately created. Simply mowing the grass is not enough. Roots too need to be dug out. To attain this, those spreading militancy need to be stopped. While anyone guilty of criminal acts must of course face penalties under the law, there is also a need for the re-training and re-education of the many members of these armies.
As with any cult, extremist forces operate essentially by cutting off young victims -- in this case often children or teenagers -- from other social contact, and brainwashing them into abiding by a particular set of beliefs. Examples from around the world suggest that these tactics can be so powerful that average citizens have been willing to kill, maim or commit suicide at the command of leaders. The same holds true for those inculcated into specific schools of thought by extremist forces. The extent to which the power of persuasion can work in changing individuals is readily visible today in society -- with celebrity figures, including pop singers, cricketers and other sportsmen, quite obviously a focus for preachers.
For the task of rehabilitating those won over to extremist causes, and convinced that violence is a legitimate means to achieve their ends, it may be useful to study the methods used to undertake similar exercises in the US, UK, Japan and other countries, where large cults have from time to time taken command of the minds of individuals. Specialists in rehabilitating victims of such cults now exist in many countries.
Having mental health specialists talk to members of extremist forces, for instance when they are in jail, may prove a useful exercise rather than simply holding them for a few weeks and then once more letting them loose on the streets. But it is also worth keeping in mind the fact that given the existing social order, simply providing people a means of survival in economic terms can motivate them to change the pattern of their own lives.
Many of the militants have no training -- except in how to use a gun. Due to their lack of skills, many are unemployable and as such able to pursue only the kind of militancy that formed their lone lesson in life. A scheme for training young members of militant groups and offering them work could very well prove a means to limit the number of persons ready to gun down other citizens on the basis of belief or allow themselves to be used as suicide bombers in a game of destruction that has already shattered hundreds of lives.
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There are also longer-term strategies that need to be followed. In the first place, discrimination against persons on the basis of belief by the state must end. After all, extremism in the country was given a big boost when, three decades ago, the state took it upon itself to determine who was Muslim and who was not.
Since then, more and more bars, social, legal and economic, have gone up which prevent non-Muslim citizens from holding the equal status guaranteed to them by the constitution. An example of this comes in the battle being staged by a young Christian girl denied a place at the King Edwards Medical College in Lahore. The girl, who comes from a low-income background, qualified on merit for a seat but was denied a spot because a Muslim student, tied with her in terms of marks, obtained 20 additional points as a 'Hafiz-e-Quran" -- another means of discrimination that has become institutionalised in the country.
Similar rules, regarding remissions for prisoners who memorise the Holy Quran, reflect the same in-built bias. To push aside the prejudices that have invaded society, several steps are essential. Seminary schools must be replaced by public-sector institutions which can offer a meaningful education. The money being wasted on reforming seminaries must instead be poured into rebuilding a viable public-school network. After all, parents have turned to seminaries in response to the failings of government schools.
Even if curriculums at seminaries are widened, and computers provided, a core learning which weaves hatred into it, inculcates deep biases on the basis of religion or gender and encourages an extremely narrow understanding of religion will inevitably remain in place at these institutions. It is also true, as has been pointed out many times, that it is the economic desperation of people, the frustration of jobless young men, that most often drives them into the waiting arms of extremist groups.
These forces specialise in picking out the vulnerable -- and luring them into an expanding fold. For these reasons, policies that can create jobs, and that can offer socio-economic relief to people, are essential if the sectarian crisis in the country is to be resolved. If such strategies are not put in place, if ways are not found to pull back young zealots from the fringes of society to where they have been pushed by extremist waves, violence will continue to grow.
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There is as such an urgent need to end the culture of the gun, before more lives are lost and more fault-lines carved out across a country that is today locked in a desperate struggle to retain harmony and integrity within its boundaries. Show Printable Version. Email this Page. Posting Rules. Similar Threads. Pakistan's History From till present. Wednesday, January 02, AM. Wednesday, November 11, AM. History of Presidentship in Pakistan. Tuesday, May 31, PM. Seniors and qualifiers plz comment upon my Essay. Monday, September 21, AM. Facts About Pakistan. Friday, November 24, PM.
LinkBack URL. About LinkBacks. First and foremost, effective governance is required.
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Second, the state needs to increase its role in education. Official sources claim the literacy rate to be 60 percent, but independent sources place it at less than 40 percent, the lowest in South Asia. It is unfortunate that the state spends only two percent of its GDP on education. All in all the individual participation is also required.
If our policy makers, politicians, public figures and media personalities do not make a concerted effort to preach and practice tolerance, Pakistan will continue to head down an explosive path. His areas of interest are nontraditional security issues, terrorism, and conflict resolution, diplomacy, and Sufism. Sandano is a regular writer of different newspapers and weekly magazines.
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Sectarianism in Pakistan: The Radicalization of Shi‘i and Sunni Identities