By Manesh Kumar
March 1, 2017
Sufis so far have worked to peacefully
introduce Sindh to the world. They have protected its religious tolerance and
interfaith harmony for centuries, but their own shrines, places where Ayaz and
Mehmood stand in the same row, are under attack from terrorists.
The suicide attack on Lal Shahbaz
Qalandar’s shrine, which left 90 dead on February 16, and more than 250 people
injured, is not the first incident that has left us aghast; the fact is, Sindh
has witnessed many big and small terrorist attacks in recent years.
Sindh was shocked when an unknown
psychiatric patient was bludgeoned to death by a mob on Seeta road in Dadu
because he had allegedly burnt copies of a holy book. (Later a video on YouTube
showed that some nationalist party flags were flying in the crowd). That wave
of extremism did not spare even Sayed Hussain Shah, a religious leader; he was
attacked in Jacobabad, and his nephew was killed. Numerous temples have been
set upon by extremists across the province. The body of Bhooro Bheel, a Hindu
folk singer, was taken from his grave.
Similarly, the ISI offices in Sukkur were attacked on July 24, 2013.
Eight people were killed and several others were injured. Subsequently, JUI
leader Khalid Mehmood Soomro was assassinated by some extremists in November
Their last target was a Shikarpur
Imambargah, in which more than 70 people lost their lives. This was the last
warning for our leaders to get cracking. But not only have they sat idle, they
have just kept using the slogan “Sindh is the soil of Sufis; therefore, nothing
is going to happen to it”. The reality is that things are not what they used to
With Sehwan, we have just seen silence from
our leaders. They should know that has not come out of the blue.
If one wants to know how Sindh became a
hotbed of extremism, one doesn’t have to go far back in time. After the 2010
floods, which caused major devastation to the countryside, the government
failed to rescue people, let alone do relief work and rehabilitation. While
ministers and bureaucrats were busy siphoning off funds allocated for
rehabilitation, some organizations created a huge space for themselves in
society by doing relief work. Whatever they gave people, they asked nothing in
return. As a result, people who had no trust in politicians anyway, quickly
gravitated towards them.
Now these organizations are working from
Kashmore to Tharparkar; Shikarpur, Sukkur and Jacobabad and the whole of upper
Sindh is considered their stronghold. With their relief work, these networks
have taken roots locally.
What our leaders have done to curb
extremism so far is just lip service. Some of them condemn each attack by
issuing press releases, and some protest in front of press clubs to obtain some
airtime. That’s all they do.
A clear policy is required to curb
extremism. But the fact is, no political party, including the Pakistan People’s
Party, which has governed the province for nearly nine years, has a clear
strategy – or even stance – on extremism. Criticism or condemnation is not a
Here is what the government and
political leaders can do:
Keep an Eye On Outlawed Outfits
For many years our media and some
politicians have been crying about the existence of extremists in upper Sindh
but the government has been silent; instead it has been ruling out the
existence of organizations such as the TTP and ISIS. Now the attack on Sehwan
has proved them wrong. Following the Peshawar APS attack our national security
policy made a clear statement about extremism; some organizations have been
banned. In Sindh, some outfits, whose mother wings are banned, are still
working in some areas. They should not be allowed to work.
A report was presented in the Senate that
26 madrasas, some of them in Sindh, have been involved in accepting foreign
funding. These funds should be stopped. Simultaneously; a system of local
funding has equal importance. The government needs to keep a check on this.
Sindh has always had madrasas so there is
no need to launch any operation but they should be regulated. No one, even the
government, knows what is being taught in these seminaries. They ought to be
provided with state-prepared syllabus.
Strengthen Social Welfare Programs
It is the responsibility of any government
to provide people their basic rights. When the government fails them, they
start to look towards organizations that do. Only good governance can solve
this problem; the government should provide people at least water, education,
health care, shelter.
Sindhi nationalist parties have no relief
program in their strategy; they can also start welfare programs.
A Powerful Narrative against Extremism
In addition to the things mentioned above,
there must be a powerful narrative against religious extremism in the province.
The government can take a baby step; it should invite all political, social and
religious leaders to discuss the issue and draw up a policy to curb the terror
threat in Sindh.