Religious polarisation reigns supreme in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. More than other fallout, it is eroding writ of democracy and State over the last 70 years. However, as much as magnitude of the religious divisions and its injurious impacts has deeply been explicit in the latest time was never before.

Current religious flare-up plunging country into worst turmoil after Asia Bibi acquittal took a heavy toll on already widening rifts among various sects and school of thoughts.

Even within the ranks of Barelvi sects, narratives on the issue of blasphemy are poles apart. Being called Sunni Muslims and following Islamic theology of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i with liking Sunni Sufi orders like the Qadiri, Chishti and the Suhrawardi, they probably account for 60 percent to 65 percent of Pakistan population. The Barelvi schools of thoughts have multiple divergent views on the entire scenario of blasphemy. All sections of Jammiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), Dawat-e-Islami and others have difference of opinion over modus operandi and punishment criteria in blasphemy cases.

Deobandi, believed to be second biggest sect, followed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and headed by Maulana Fazal ur Rehman and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (S) whose head Maulana Sami ul Haq has recently been assassinated had dissented on the sensitive matter.

During protest demonstration Maulana Fazl ur Rehman emerged as staunch supporter of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan to defy SC orders in blasphemy case. While Slain Maulana Sami ul Haq voiced for State prerogative to file blasphemy case and punish accused and condemned an individual or group for taking law into their hands.

Muslims scholars of Raiwind movement pursuing Deobandi school of thought also pleaded the blasphemy case on the similar ground what Sami ul Haq proposed. Other famous Islamic movements of Dawat-e-Islami (DI) and Minhaj ul Quran are also on the same page.

Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and other religious parties following Ahle Hadith school of thought termed SC verdict on Asia Bibi case as unIslamic and against the spirit of justice. Religious polarization also made their inroads even in Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which is strong believer of blasphemy law and champion the case of punishing accused even if law acquits his or her. TLP is divided into two parts. One is headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi and second is headed by Maulana Asif Jalali.

It is unfortunate that religious parties, ideally considered to be guiding people for upholding supremacy of Shariat (Islamic Jurisprudence) and winding down their confusions in the light of Quran and Sunnah, have themselves been wrangling with one another on interpretation of Islam. Their internal cracks and brawls have triggered gruesome division among the general public on large scale.

During saga of Christian woman Asia Bibi release on SC orders, as clergy were divided, people were also divided. All are Muslims but lava of disagreement erupted in homes, streets and roads.

Speaking volume in favour of TLP, one segment of society believed that international powers conspired to weaken Muslims’ emotional attachment with last prophet (PBUH) by setting free Asia Bibi. Some offered an insight that it was premeditated decision to appease International community. Few claimed that there were certain elements in PTI government and army hell-bent to manipulate blasphemy law.

Contrary to this, other section of society characterized TLP and their fan base as hardliners and fanatics. They blamed TLP leadership for roguish behavior who are ready to resort violence, vandalize public property and ferment religious sentiments to serve their ulterior motives. They named bosses of mob as agent of chaos who are using the name of Islam to play havoc peace in the country.

Irrespective of who is wrong and who is correct, the entire mayhem has portrayed Pakistan as intolerant and unstable country. Anarchy served purpose of enemy at the core. Non-state actors lobbying hard to prove Pakistan as a country where lawlessness and extremism are order of day got a strong point to plead their case.

It is because of religious divide that innocent people have gone misled. Their confusion and distraction have helped extremist and terrorist outfits to materialize their nefarious designs. As credulous people are unable to figure out truth and false, they easily land into the hands of anarchists. These miscreants, then, use them to inflict irreparable damage to the very existence of Pakistan.

Religious polarization is also catalyst to mushroom growth of proscribed organizations. These outfits by pursuing their own specific Islamic ideologies and exploiting credulity of masses led Muslims to kill other Muslims. As per fresh data, NACTA has declared around 66 organizations as proscribed including Sippa Sihaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jesh-e-Muhammad, Ahle-e-Sunnat Waljamat, Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, Sipha-i-Muhammad Pakistan, Tehrek-e-Nafiz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammad, Tehreek-e-Islami, Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan, Khuddam-Islam and others.

Since there are always a huge ideological gulf among extremist, moderate and liberal Muslims, past has witnessed a number of debacles. Among them some featured 1953 Islamic riot that led to 3 months marshal law, Lal Masjid bloodshed and TLP sit-in which forced Law Minister to resign in recent days.

According to publication on Council on Foreign Relations authored by Jayshree Bajoria, State patronage of religious parties has resulted in competition among different religious groups for power, which has increasingly turned violent. With the Pakistani state adopting a clear Sunni bias in its laws and policies, rivalry between Shias and Sunnis--and even among different Sunni groups--became further entrenched.

Soon after the creation of Pakistan, the particular religious groups who had opposed it started calling for the country’s Islamization and adoption of Islamic laws into the future constitution. This launched the struggle between liberals and Islamists. Since 1947 till era of TLP, it is high time to learn the lesson from past and present experiences and mend one’s way.

Mostly scholars are of the views that Pakistan needs to re-examine Islamic heritage by reopening the ‘door of ijtihâd’ (free reasonable reflection) in all aspects of social and intellectual life. As religion is an essential part of human existence, they argued that the only avenue through which to launch real reform is through a reform of Islamic thought.


The writer is a senior journalist working

for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and

human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ.