Attacking Sufi shrines in Pakistan
Amil Khan has a post up at Abu Muqawama about last week’s bombing at a Sufi shrine in Karachi and its implications for intra-Sunni conflict between Deobandi Taliban militants and people of the majority Barelvi sect:
“There are all sorts of studies written by people much cleverer than me that will tell you violence in this type of conflict aims to do a lot more than just kill its immediate victims. In Pakistan, right now, it also aims to push people into ideological camps (for or against) so that the perpetrators can claim they defend a constituency and create an ideological cover for their actions. In that sense, the attacks were aimed at forcing people to think about the ‘who is Muslim and who is not’ argument.” he writes.
“I would add just raising this argument where once it wouldn’t be entertained at all is an achievement for extremists because, well.. if you are arguing about whether Muslims are really Muslims, whether people agree or not, you have already radicalised on the sly the discourse concerning non-Muslims, or Shia.”
There’s a troublesome pattern here. In May, militants killed more than 80 people from the minority Ahmadi sect in Lahore.
In September, Interior Minister Rehman Malik accused militants of trying to create a Sunni-Shi’ite rift after bomb attacks on Shi’ite rallies in the cities of Lahore and Quetta.
And now the Karachi attack – the latest attack on Sufis whose mystical faith is condemned by hardline militants seeking a return to what they see as a purer form of Islam.
At a superficial level, the wave of bombings and gun attacks which have hit Pakistan over the last few years can be seen as an attempt to sow chaos - revenge for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and for Pakistan Army operations against militants in its own tribal areas.
But when you look at the details, what you see is something much more sinister for the future of Pakistan – a systematic attempt to undercut all sources of opposition and all movements which are likely to disagree with the particular religious and political views of the militants.
Journalist Amir Mir has more in an article in Outlook magazine asking “Just Who is Not A Kafir?”