Surge in sectarianism has caused great concern among all sections of Pakistani society including overseas Pakistanis. Any divisions in the name of religion in a country which was founded on religious foundations may hit its very foundation. The incident in Rawalpindi reflects the inefficiency of weak state institutions. Political and religious leaders are playing the part of firefighters yet no one is seriously making any effort to know the cause of this fire. Steps like imposition of curfew, suspension and transfer of police officers have been employed to cool things down for some time but of no use.

This response is a typical eyewash strategy that has been the favourite of ruling classes in a security state. Another worn out strategy is to seek help from far right religious elements to curb sectarianism. Codes of conducts are being formalised and getting signed from all sides and schools of thought. This apologetic attitude of state reveals inability of institutions of state. Political parties are bewildered over the situation as to what course of action might be taken in order to put things back on track. The matter is of ‘rule of law’ for which state determination and commitment is what is required. The state is depending on rightists who in one way or the other are actually responsible for sectarianism.

State policy of denial has landed the country into a stage where places of worship are being desecrated; people are being killed in broad daylight in the name of faith. Once a very inclusive and tolerant society has now been transformed into a highly volatile and intolerant one. The very fabric of Pakistani society is at stake and Neros’ of present day are playing flutes. Pakistani state negotiates and seeks peace through supplications. Matters of law and order and state authority are left to interest seeking far right militants. Party political interests are prevailing over national interests. Political loyalties are often preferred over competence; cracks in state institutions are evident.

Phenomenon of religiosity has fractured the society on ideological lines. What used to be routine religious events in the past now brings everything to a halt. Shrinking writ of the state is openly challenged by banned outfits. Proscribed organisations have been emboldened by the lack of effective response from the concerned state institutions. Any armed conflict between rival factions in a country which is a haven for illegal arm trade may have serious consequences for the very existence of the state.

This situation is a result of long denial on the part of the state. Media has a very strong role to play by educating masses on the background of development of different streams in the name of faith. Education system may also be cleansed from exclusivist thoughts. Pakistan needs to concentrate on practical actions to curb the menace of sectarianism which must come in shape of multipronged strategy to contain and eliminate it.

MALIK ATIF MAHMOOD MAJOKA,

Australia, December 23.