On Monday, a seminar titled ‘Ethics of disagreement and narrative of dialogue’ was organized by the Law and Justice commission of Pakistan in collaboration with the International Law Foundation and Remedy Foundation at Lahore High Court Bar’s Javed Iqbal Auditorium. Speakers at a seminar emphasised the need for promoting tolerance in the society to curb the menace of terrorism. Secretary Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Dr. Muhammad Raheem Awan expressed concerns over growing intolerance in society and urged lawyers to play their role to address the issue. He said there is need for promoting dialogue in society, as it was the only way forward to survive as a nation. He said that we have been divided in sects and it is crucial to change our track. “We must deal with others with love and compassion and adopt the attitude of forgiveness in accordance with the teachings of Islam”, he added.
Punjab University’s Professor K. Farooq Niazi related some violent events, which took place after the independence and shed light on the growth of extremism and other menaces in society. He said that hate, intolerance or other negative emotions exist in human beings and they become strong and turn into extremism and terrorism when they get finance and other supporting factors.
He said that hate also exists in our society and its target changes from time to time. Sometime it’s aimed at judiciary and sometime other institutions. Advocate Ramzan Wattoo said that the accused are often acquitted due to faulty investigation. He said that lawyers should be given more pro-active role at pre-trial stage, so that the accused could be convicted in accordance with the law. Advocate Dilawar Khan said that five out of 20 points of the National Action Plan deal with hate speech.
Extremism has many forms and manifestations. In a society afflicted with extreme poverty and extreme opulence, there is always a disaffected and discontent mass of people, disenchanted and disillusioned who can be lured by the criminals to ‘eke out’ living to keep their body and soul together. They can be conditioned by the religious zealots to perpetrate acts of terrorism or fall a prey to the sinister moves of the intelligence agencies of hostile countries. India’s RAW in collaboration with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security are out to destabilize Pakistan. Unfortunately, sectarian conflicts have also resulted in death and destruction, especially after Soviet forces had landed in Afghanistan, and the US and the West supported Afghan jihad. Of course, Pakistan was conduit for supply of American arms to the jihadis. After 9/11, Pakistan was coerced into joining the War on Terror.
Since then terrorism has been on the rise; and there have been sectarian conflicts also. In 2007, bloody sectarian clashes took place in Parachinar near border with Afghanistan, where 105 people were killed. The Pakistan army was given shoot to kill orders to quell the sectarian violence. In 2006, 35 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in District Hangu of North Western Frontier Province in suicide bombings on the Ashura procession and subsequent violence. But the violence of the present magnitude of sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis was never witnessed before 2003. In 2004, fifty people were killed when a bomb exploded in Ashura procession in Quetta. In 2006, a bomb blast at grand gathering of Sunni Tehrik to celebrate Eid-e-Milad killed its leaders. The redeeming feature is that great majority of Muslims have kept themselves away from this conflict.
Religious scholars of divergent views and religions need to play their role to foster tolerance and educate people about the significance of inter-faith and inter-sect harmony for maintaining peace and tranquility. Differences between Shia and Sunni could be traced back to more than 1400 years, but both sects have been living peacefully throughout the world. Though, Pakistan has history of contradictions between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the element of violence was introduced in 1980s, and many people belonging to both sects have been killed since then. Majority of the Muslims, indeed, firmly believe that Islam is a religion of peace. As a matter of fact, there is need to project the true face of Islam since it is an enlightened and moderate religion. Unfortunately, the ruling elite in the Muslim countries did not take steps to reform their societies and ensure socio-economic justice in their societies.
On the contrary, they continued with the politics of power and pelf. In fact, Iran-Iraq war which was started at the behest of the US had widened the gulf between Iran and Arab countries. Since 1980s, extremism, sectarian violence and negative attitudes have caused irreparable loss to Pakistan so far as internal security and economic stability is concerned. One has to ask the question that why tribal enmities and sectarian violence were not seen for about 90 years – from 1858 to 1947 during British Raj? There is need to identify the causes to see where have we gone wrong.