Sectarian Spillover Into Pakistan?

Iraq’s sectarian violence haunts Pakistan
Web posted at: 1/24/2007 2:57:28
Source ::: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD • Plagued by sectarian violence imported from the Gulf during the 1980s, Pakistan is on guard for any spillover from the conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites gripping Iraq.

Bombs can go off anytime for many reasons in Pakistan, but the coming days mark an anxious period for the country’s Shi’ite minority as they mourn the death of one their sect’s heroes in the Islamic festival of Moharram.

So far, there has been no reaction to events in Iraq, but Pakistani leaders view what’s happening there with trepidation, as 15 per cent of the Muslim nation are Shi’ites.

As if he didn’t have enough to worry about with Al Qaeda, the Taleban, jihadi groups fighting the Indian army in Kashmir, and Baluch separatist rebels, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf shudders at the spectre of sectarian strife.

“The Islamic world is heading towards a crisis,” Musharraf told university students earlier this month, at a time when the world was aghast over Shi’ite guards taunting Iraq’s Sunni former ruler, Saddam Hussein, at the gallows.

“If we don’t get our act together, there will be a sectarian catastrophe in the Islamic world,” said Musharraf.

Sunni sectarian extremists have already forged links with Al Qaeda following Musharraf’s alliance with the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Osama bin Laden’s henchmen directed Pakistani Sunni militants to carry out assassination attempts on Musharraf and his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in 2003 and 2004.

Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi, a senior Shi’ite leader in an Islamist opposition alliance, made up of one Shi’ite and five Sunni parties, said Pakistan’s political clerics were deliberately avoiding a topic that is consuming Muslims everywhere.

“We have not made any statements on the situation in Iraq and we have also dissuaded our (Sunni) colleagues from doing so. We have decided that we will not be influenced by what’s happening in Iraq or any other country,” Naqvi said.

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