The Shikarpur tragedy
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Unfortunately, like other provinces in the country, Sindh is also fast becoming insecure for its minorities, particularly the Ahmedis
It is interesting to note that Sindh, in the past, sheltered peacefully and harmoniously people belonging to different faiths, who took refuge in its land. At the time of partition, it is said that Sindh remained peaceful; it did not witness any kind of communal violence. Moreover, during the dictatorial days of General Ziaul Haq, many people, in order to escape persecution, ran away to interior Sindh. Ironically, it is now facing a great conflagration because Sufism, which is considered to be a panacea for the growing religious fundamentalism, has also become its victim.
It is unfortunate that the Shikarpur tragedy occurred only a month after the attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, where the attackers killed 132 schoolchildren. Following the Peshawar school attack, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif constituted a special committee for the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism. Besides this, 247 members of the National Assembly and the Senate voted in favour of military courts to be set up to try civilian terror suspects. But nothing has changed so far. One after the other, terror incidents are taking place in the country.
Previously, sectarian attacks were more common in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. While the interior parts of Sindh would barely witness such sectarian attacks, it now seems that sectarianism has penetrated deep inside Sindh. Veengas, who is a journalist based in Karachi, says: “Due to bad governance, the land of the Sufis has come under attack.” She further adds, “In the interior parts of Sindh, all incidents are interconnected whether these are cases of forced conversions or sectarian assaults.” Unnamed sources from Shikarpur say that they are surprised at the mushrooming growth of madrassas (seminaries) in their areas.
In recent weeks, during a session of the Senate, Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman informed the house that Middle Eastern countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and the UAE were funding religious seminaries in three provinces: Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the other hand, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman warned the government against stopping foreign aid being received by the religious seminaries.
One has to wonder about what is going on in Sindh. Firstly, due to the forced conversions of young Hindu girls, Sindh is becoming increasingly maligned. Very pathetically, in interior Sindh, there have even been cases of married Hindu women who have been forcibly converted to Islam and later married. The report, which was issued by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan (MSP), stated that as many as 1,000 girls, aged 12 to 25, 70 percent of them Hindus, are abducted annually, forcefully converted to Islam by their captors, married off to men who usually rape them and, after that, force them into prostitution and human trafficking. This is one of the reasons that compels Hindus to migrate from Sindh to India.
Secondly, in recent years, the persecuted Ahmedi community has come under attack in Sindh. In different incidents, Ahmedis have been target killed. Unfortunately, like other provinces in the country, Sindh is also fast becoming insecure for its minorities, particularly the Ahmedis. Thirdly, sectarianism in the early 1980s and late1990s, due to an unfortunate state project, was established nationwide. Though Sindh is a secular province, sectarianism has started affecting it badly now. In the past, on many occasions, sectarian attacks have taken place in interior parts of Sindh too. In present times, it has expanded, which does not augur well for Sindh and its plural culture.
As usual, over the Shikarpur tragedy, rightwing parties, particularly the JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), kept silent. They did not even condemn the horrendous incident. Instead, they are busy taking out rallies to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir. In doing so, they forget that their own countrymen are living in a nightmarish situation in their own country. Why can they not raise a voice for them? As far as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is concerned, though its leadership has condemned such attacks, they have pratically not taken any steps against these incidents. That is why extremism and sectarian attacks are intensifying in Sindh.