Karachi’s prominent religious and madrasa administrators belonging to various sects, academics, parliamentarians and civil society activists have agreed to initiate joint efforts to curb sectarian violence and promote sectarian harmony in the city.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and the International Research Council for Religious Affairs (IRCRA) jointly organised a three-day consultation in Islamabad, bringing leading religious scholars, madrasa administrators, civil society activists and media persons from Karachi together to discuss sectarian violence and its impact.
Darul Uloom Karachi’s Mufti Zubair Ashraf Usmani, Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli, MNA Dr Shazia Sobia Aslam, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan’s Karachi chief Allama Aqeel Anjum Qadri, academic Dr Mohsin Ali Naqvi, former Pakistan Madrasa Education Board head Dr Amir Tuaseen, Madrasa Makhzanul Uloom’s Maulana Qasim Mehmood, Shia scholar Ali Qarar Naqvi, Jamia Binoria Al-Alamia’s Mufti Muhammad Noman, Jamia Sattaria Islamia’s Hafiz Muhammad Salafi, Jamia Darul Khair’s Maulana Ahmedur Rehman Yar, civil society activist Dr Hassan Auj, VSH News’ Owais Iqbal Baloch and Madrasa Suffa’s Mufti Muhammad Haq Nawaz were prominent among the participants.
They said Karachi is among the country’s few cities that are flashpoints of sectarian violence, and expressed concern over the renewed wave of sectarian killings in the city.
They also said that since 2007, Karachi has been an urban epicentre of sectarian violence, with militants targeting religious scholars, leaders, doctors and traders on sectarian grounds. They agreed to set up a forum called ‘Pur Aman Karachi’ in which representation of all sects and ethnicities along with civil society and media persons will be ensured.
The forum will help fellow citizens to speak up in support of interfaith harmony and in condemnation of growing intolerance and extremism in the country. It will also act against calls for violence and vigilante action, and promote harmony among different faiths and sects.
CII chief Dr Qibla Ayaz said Karachi is a mini-Pakistan where people from every sect, ethnicity and class live together, and maintaining peace in the city is imperative for peace and development not only for the country but also the society at large. “Karachi is not the only hub of the country’s economic activities but also a centre of ideological consciousness.”
Zia Ur Rehman, a journalist and researcher covering militancy in Karachi, said that although the ongoing crackdown that started in September 2013 has weakened Taliban groups, armed wings of ethno-political parties and criminal gangs, sectarian violence still poses a great challenge for the law enforcement agencies.
He said that although Karachi, Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan, Kurram and Dera Ismail Khan are considered flashpoints of sectarian violence, Karachi has been omitted from the list in the past two years. However, external factors, especially the crisis in Middle-Eastern countries, influence Karachi’s sectarian strife, he added.
Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies head Maj Gen (retd) Muhammad Saad Khattak said Karachi has been facing major challenges of ethnic divide, sectarian divide, governance issues and civic problems.
“Polarisation on sectarian lines in Karachi is unique and dangerous. Killing of opponents, attacks and attempts to take holds of other sects’ mosques also worsen the situation.” Former defence secretary Lt Gen (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi said the country has been facing several challenges on both external and internal fronts. “It is very important to understand our internal issues to resolve them.”
Dr Ziaul Haq, head of the Islamic Research Institute at the International Islamic University Islamabad, discussed the importance of Paigham-e-Pakistan, a unanimous declaration-cum-religious decree signed by 1,800 religious scholars across the country, prepared in accordance with the injunctions of the Holy Quran, the Sunnah and the Constitution. He said it was prepared as a blueprint of an inclusive Pakistan and as a counter-narrative to violent ideologies.
The IRCRA’s Israr Madani said the consultation’s main purpose was to promote interfaith harmony, initiate a dialogue on diversity, set up a joint forum and bring together people from different faiths under one roof.