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For Sunnis only - The Hindustan Times

Editorial ()
January 19, 1998

Title: For Sunnis only
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: January 19, 1998

First the Hindus, then the Ahmediyas, then the Bengalis, and now
the Shias are in danger of being ostracised in Pakistan. But for
their good only, if a prominent Sunni leader is to be believed.
For the safety of the Shias, he wants Pakistan to be declared a
Sunni state. In an argument which may sound familiar in India,
Maulana Ziaul Qasmi, chairman of the supreme council of Sipahe
Sahaba Pakistan, a leading Sunni group, has ascribed the spate of
attacks on Shias to the latter being given "too much importance"
by the Government. "They are everywhere", he said. "On
television, radio, in newspapers and in senior positions. This
causes heartburn." Although the Maulana condemned the recent
Lahore massacre, he said that when jobless Sunni youth find "all
doors closed, they have no option but to join extremist groups."
The economic argument is, of course, only a veneer. What is
central to the Maulana's case is that there can be no solution to
the ideological differences between Shias and Sunnis, as he
pointed out, and that a Sunni state will look after the Sunnis
only to the neglect of the rest.

What is evident from his arguments is that a sectarian agenda can
only breed more sectarianism. Pakistan was founded in the belief
that the Muslims of the sub-continent needed a safe haven lest
they be overwhelmed by the Hindus. But having got their way, the
Pakistani Islamists have discovered that the Hindu-Muslim divide
was not the only big social and religious division between
various communities. So the Ahmediyas were declared non-Muslims
and the Mohajirs, who migrated from India, have virtually become
second class citizens in Sind. And now, whether or not the charge
of "appeasement" of Shias is believed, the latter are clearly
under threat. The moral is that if one looks for divisions, one
can find them in any community, no matter how homogeneous on the
surface. Pakistan was created on the basis of the two-nation
theory. In 1971, the Bengali Muslims (who, incidentally, do not
like the Bihari Muslims in their midst) opted for a three-nation
theory. Now, the process of disintegration has received a fresh
impetus in Pakistan. However, there are lessons from this for
India too.

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