The Sectarian Resurgence in Pakistan: A Threat Matrix?

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As a pluralistic society, Pakistan’s ethno-cultural and ethno-religious diversity has always been exploited internally and externally to turn the fault lines into a weapon. Even before the division of the subcontinent in 1947, sectarian disputes were the order of the day. However, the current sectarian resurgence with the rise of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under the leadership of Noor Wali Mehsud is significant as it brings together ethno-cultural and ethno-religious elements – reorganizing the group not just on the jihad line, but one Pashtun line – characterizes the coordination of interests between Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pashtun Tahafuz movement (PTM); both groups are anti-security forces for Pashtun rights violations.

In addition, the TTP has a supportive role during the protests of the banned Tehrik-e-Labbaik (TLP) opinion. This coalition of the ideologically non-aligned – TTP, a Deobandi jihad group, and TLP with Barelvi leanings – points to a heightened threat posed as an evolving threat matrix in western Pakistan due to the alignment of the traditional national security paradigm with emerging regional issues Connectivity and Geoeconomics in the Eurasian Region.

Read more: Islamabad wants to suppress surge in TTP attacks

Pakistan in the realm of religious conflict

Historically, Pakistan’s ethno-cultural and ethno-religious diversity has been exploited by hostile elements to create internal rifts. Contextualizing the rise and fall of sectarian groups; both ethnocultural and ethnoreligious, indicates their prevalence in response to certain internal and external factors.

From Mukti Bahini to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s Pashtun Nationalist Movement in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluch Liberation Army (BLA), Baluch Republican Army (BRA) and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) Movements in Balochistan, SindhuDesh Revolutionary Army (SRA), Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (BRA) SLA) and Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) in Sindh, Seraikistan Movement and Bahawalpur Province Movement in South Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA), Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) and Balawaristan National Front in Gilgit-Baltistan, the MQM; a democratic but ethno-lingual political party and the formation and activation of PTM in 2014 and 2018 respectively – ethno-nationalist groups with separatist tendencies were common; testifies to certain political and economic grievances along with the ethno-national regional aspirations for greater autonomy.

As for the religious fault line, Shiite-Sunni clashes and sudden acts of violence against Ahmadi, Hindu and Christian communities were evident. Religious extremist groups with Sunni and Shiite backgrounds and transnational bases like Al-Qaeda and TTP can be seen as destabilizing for Pakistan by challenging the state’s order. Also Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar e Jhangvi al Aalmi (ISIS-affiliated) with a Sunni background and Sipha-e-Muhammad, Zainoboon Brigade etc. with a Shiite background – these groups were either identified for this made that they were funded from abroad or locally by political elements for political manipulation.

Read more: Fawad confirms talks between Pakistan and TTP

Who is trying to destabilize Pakistan?

Hence the threats are obvious; at the same time national, regional and international character. Since their rise and fall is associated with Pakistan’s security paradigm, exploiting such fault lines is procedurally as follows, according to the pattern analysis:

  • Generation of myths based on human security issues.
  • Reinforcement of myths through effective storytelling.
  • Politicization of myth-based stories in order to seek international human rights interventions. In the current context, Karima Baloch, Baloch Missing Persons, Shia Missing Persons and humanitarian narrative projections by SAATH Forum Members come into consideration.

The reason the war has always contributed to change – from the British-Russian war to the Saur revolution, followed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war – the post-Soviet retreat of Afghan society and the recent United States-waged war on terror in Afghanistan – The evolving nature of warfare – the shift from kinetic to non-kinetic has affected Pakistan’s social fabric – locally, with effects on the politico-economic and socio-political dimensions of the social construct on the macro and micro level – regionally and internationally under the effects of multipolar rivalries in the fueling of the Sectarianism and the prevailing sectarian rifts in the Islamic world.

In addition, the compound interest-based threats worsen – the convergence of interests between BLA and TTP over CPEC and traditional rival India’s open support for secessionists in Pakistan – then the capture of Kalboshan Yadav of Balochistan and application for asylum by Baramdagh Bugti and Harbiyar Murri from India demonstrate the prevalent non-kinetic threats and hybrid warfare that spark subnationalist leanings in Pakistan – the country of strategic importance in the Eurasian context.

Read more: Pakistan wants to release TTP and TLP prisoners

In order to identify and weaken the invisible enemy that is spreading the renewed sectarianism in Pakistan, it is therefore imperative to redesign the national security paradigm, which, in addition to regional connectivity and geo-economics, combines traditional security with human security. As John Burton says, “Problem solving requires changing the way a problem is conceptualized”.

It is therefore crucial to develop a thought process that aims at a thorough consideration of the peculiarities behind these fault lines, the networks that nurture them and the vulnerability of our social sectors at the community level. Only then can the measures be determined which can neutralize the arming of these fault lines.

The author is a Editor, Research & Content Lead at the South Asia Times. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own views and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of Global Village Space.


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