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Identity Problem or Power Play


Vikram Sood

SECTARIAN WAR: PAKISTAN'S SUNNI-SHIA VIOLENCE AND ITS LINKS TO THE MIDDLE EAST
By Khaled Ahmed
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2011, pp. 377, Rs. 995.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 5 May 2011

Islam was the first pillar on which Pakistan was built and its leaders' search for a new identity was the other virulent non-Indian non-Hindu pillar. While both were understand-able from Pakistan's perspective, Jinnah's version of a moderate Pakistan began to change soon enough. It is not necessary for an entire nation to become radicalized—right, left or religious—to be a cause for concern. It is sufficient for the few and powerful, driven by a particular dream and in control of the instrumentalities, to be ruthlessly so imbibed by their beliefs and doctrines that they are prepared to lead their countrymen and women down a path chosen by them. This is what happened to Nazi Germany and to Communist Russia, where zealous ideologues, powerful demagogues and ruthless rulers frightened their people into submission. It is sufficient for such leaders to have a few supporters who are willing to do their bidding —either out of fear or conviction—to spread the word and exercise increasing control. When muscular control is used and mind games are played, the average man steps back, hoping that the storm will pass or that he would not be noticed. Usually nothing like that happens. Instead he gets engulfed and begins to believe in the doctrine. Nations usually suffer from what Irshad Manjhi calls the majoritarian complex, where the majority accept the version of the minority till that becomes the majority. Even in early years Pakistan's Sunni leaders had difficulty acknowledging that the Quaid e Azam was a Shia and years later, when his sister Fatima had to be buried, mere Shia rites were not enough. Sunni funeral rites had to be performed also. From then to the killings of Salman Taseer and Shaheed Bhatti have a sense of inevitability about it. Interspersed with this was General Zia's fanatical Islamization of the extreme Sunni kind, backed by Saudi will and money. This had coincided with the Afghan jihad and had followed the Iranian revolution that had frightened the Saudis into looking for strong Wahhabi bastions in Iran's neighbour-hood. Pakistan's leaders were all too eager to help the US and the Saudis for in doing so they helped themselves. The money was good, the weapons were new, the Americans were indul-gent as the Pakistanis scoured the grey market for nuclear technology and the jihadi experience was going to be invaluable. Here was a chance of a lifetime to ...


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