Sunni Muslim groups, the Deobandi Tehereek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and rival Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which represents the Barelvis, are fomenting sectarian violence across Pakistan.
A September 5 study just released by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said this could increase with the current political acrimony and economic stress threatening the vast region surrounding Pakistan, Islam Khabar reported.
Titled “A New Era of Sectarian Violence in Pakistan Asia Report,” he predicts that the TLP, recognized as a political party by Pakistan’s Electoral Commission despite its acts of violence, will consolidate its political clout and threaten mainstream political discourse during the elections could , due immediately in summer 2023.
The report reiterates the conclusion previously drawn by security experts that the TTP, TLP and other militant groups have become affiliates of the Islamic State Province of Khorasan (ISPK), which has expanded into other provinces from the tribal belt spanning Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“These two groups are very different and are responsible for some of the worst inter-communal bloodshed in the country. The sectarian militancy thus extends across the spectrum of Sunni Islamist groups. Muslim minorities, especially Shia, are deeply vulnerable. Vigilante justice is a danger when hardliners mobilize accusations of blasphemy to gain political influence,” the report said.
Sectarian violence is rising and spreading across Pakistan, feeding domestic terrorism and hatred in the region, and the report blames all state institutions for the Sunni Muslim groups’ competing activities, Islam Khabar reported.
Of the two, the TTP, responsible for 83,000 deaths since 2008, has defied the Pakistani state and operated with impunity from Afghan territory with the tacit help of the Taliban, the new rulers and ideological comrades.
“The rise of a local Islamic State and the growing influence of an all-out and violent protest movement known as Labaik, supported primarily by Pakistan’s Barelvi majority, opens a new chapter in the country’s sectarian violence, which until recently has largely been fueled by Deobandi groups,” the report said.
While the Pakistani government is fighting to tame the TTP, it is coddling the TLP and also using it to fight the “nationalist” groups demanding justice and jobs.
The study seriously criticizes Pakistan’s counter-terrorism approach as mostly reactive, when it should be proactive given that all institutions, from politicians and the army to the police and judiciary, are compromised, Islam Khabar reported.
“Pakistan’s anti-terrorist approach has achieved short-term gains but neglected long-term strategies to deny civic space to violent sectarian groups. Government policies have often reinforced rather than suppressed sectarian rhetoric. “Several senior and retired counterterrorism, intelligence and regular law enforcement officials rightly claim that the state has in the past been hasty in declaring victory over such groups,” the report added.
In addition, the ICG study names mainstream political parties that have covert ties to and support from the sectarian bodies, whose stormtroopers are used to settle rival political scores and spread fear and chaos, particularly during elections.
From time to time, public forums and even the floors of national and provincial parliaments are used to spit poison against religious and ethnic minorities, Islam Khabar reported.
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