The rise of sectarianism


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WHILE Sunnis have always dominated South Asian Islam, Shias too have traditionally played an important role, with the two main branches of the Muslim religion long maintaining peaceful relations.1 The first Mughal Emperor gave the following advice to his son in his will: ‘Overlook the difference between the Sunnis and the Shias, otherwise the decrepitude of Islam would inevitably follow.’2 Humayun went even further: after fleeing to Iran once defeated by the Afghan invader Sher Shah Suri, he became a Shia.3 But, ‘Mughal tolerance of the Shia became more pronounced under Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar (1542-1605)’, whose son, Jehangir married ‘Nur Jahan, an Iranian lady who actually spread the Shia custom among the masses…’4

Even under Aurangzeb – a Mughal Emperor known for his militant Sunnism – almost one third of the aristocracy and more than half of its senior-most functionaries were nevertheless Shias.5 At the societal level, popular Islam scarcely differentiated between Shiism and Sunnism. The Barelwis of Punjab and Sindh, for instance, used to take part in Moharram ceremonies (but did not practice flagellation and other extreme ritual procedures).6 One of the most prestigious Sufi orders of South Asia, the Chistis, did not at all discriminate against the Shias.


During the British Raj, the only place where relations between Shias and Sunnis were strained was in Lucknow, the capital of the former kingdom of Awadh.7 Tensions developed there in the 19th century due to competition facing the former Shia ruling dynasty and the aristocracy that remained faithful to it from a rising Sunni bourgeoisie. In 1906, the Sunnis took to criticizing Shia rituals, saying that they were heterodox innovations, and began to practice Madhe Sahaba (a procession conducted on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday) as a show of strength.8 Rioting ensued, such that the Shias created the Shia Conference, an organization that was renamed Shia Political Conference in 1909.

Despite its new name, this institution did not articulate specific political demands, except a separate count of the Shias in the census.9 (This is how the figure of 4%, probably much lower than the actual percentage, was established by the Census Office after it acceded to the Shia demand). In the mid-1930s, the Shia Political Conference merged into the Congress Party. Without there being an apparent causal relationship, that was precisely when a new outbreak of rioting occurred, continuing into the early 1940s.10 But the division between Shias and Sunnis remained a local issue and never affected the cohesion of the Muslim League.


After the creation of Pakistan, relations between Shias and Sunnis remained peaceful up until the 1970s.11 In fact, the distinction was generally irrelevant: ‘There was intermarriage between the two communities and no one minded if the spouses continued to differ in their beliefs and rituals. Only in moments of curiosity did the Sunnis refer to the "strange" practices of the Shia: their kalma (Muslim catechism) was different from the kalmia of the Sunnis, their timings of namaz were different, they observed the month of fasting according to timings that differed to Sunni timings, and they went to different mosques and followed different rituals of burial of the dead. This curiosity was not flecked with any suspicion or misgiving…’12


Mariam Abou Zahab points out that it was even improper to ask someone whether he belonged to one group or the other.13 Jinnah himself converted to Shiism according to his secretary, Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, after his original Ismaili community objected to the fact that two of his sisters married Sunnis.14 According to Vali Nasr, Khawaja Nazimuddin (who became Governor General of Pakistan after Jinnah’s death) and Liaquat Ali Khan were also Shia.15 In the 1950-60s, two unelected heads of state – Iskander Mirza (1956-58) and Yahya Khan (1969-70) – were Shia. Another Commander-in-Chief, Musa Khan was a Shia who decided to be buried in Mashhad, in Iran. And while the Bhutto family has kept its religious affiliation virtually a state secret, some people suspect that they are Shias. Z.A. Bhutto’s father, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, was ‘a renowned Shia politician’, according to Hassan Abbas16 and his wife was Iranian and, another interesting clue, there are ‘many references to Shiism in the representation of Benazir’s martyrdom.’17 Vali Nasr points out that the colour of the PPP’s flag – black, red, green – are those of Shiism.18

The Pakistani Shias nevertheless organized. Shia landlords (mostly from South Punjab) and ulema – sometimes after having left the Congress party just before Partition to support the Muslim League – met in Lahore in March 1948 to form the All Parties Shia Conference (APSC). More militant Shias reacted by creating a rival organization, quick to up the ante on its forerunner, asking for political rights for their community. Their organization, the Idara-e Tahaffuz-e Hoquq-e Shia (ITHS – Organization for the defence of Shias’ rights), was also founded in 1948. Both groups were dominated by Punjabi landlords who patronized zakirs (clerics) and both groups concentrated on educational and ritual issues such as the introduction of a separate Islamiyat (Muslim civilization) curriculum for Shia students (as was the case during the Raj) and the recognition of the azadari (public ceremonies commemorating the martyrs of Karbala). These demands to a large extent went unheeded (a separate Islamiyat curriculum was not introduced as an optional course in the Punjab until 1954).


In 1963, Shias were victims of Sunni attacks of an unprecedented magnitude in Theri, a small town near Khairpur (Sindh), and then in Lahore. Hassan Abbas points out that, ‘The anti-Shia violence of 1963 had a major impact on Shia thinking and, consequently, on the community’s organizational politics. In the wake of the violence, the ITHS and the APSC lost significant support due to a perception that their activities had not produced more security for the community.’ An All Pakistan Shia Ulema Convention took place in Karachi in 1964 and designated Syed Muhammad Dihlawi as its leader. In 1966, Dihlawi started the Shia Demands Committee which requested the state to guarantee freedom and security for azadari funeral processions, separate religious instructions for Shias in public schools and self-administration of Shia trusts, shrines and property being part of awaqf.19

In 1968, Ayub Khan bowed to this demands – despite the opposition of Sunni organizations – but the president was to resign from his post a few months later and his successor, Yayha Khan (even though a Shia), would prove a greater ally to Sunni activists such as the Jama’at-e-Islami.


Politicization of the Pakistani Shias gained momentum in the late 1970s-early 1980s in the wake of the Iranian revolution under the influence of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini had left Iran in 1964 and settled down in Najaf in 1965 where he was sought out by young Shia clerics from Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan.20 In 1972, Pakistani students founded the Imamia Students Organization (ISO, a Shia student body).21 They focused on religious and social issues (including aid for poor students) to such an extent that the older generations of clerics looked at them as leftists, but they paved the way for political agitation that crystallized after the Iranian revolution.

After Khomeini took over power in Iran in 1979, Pakistan was a target in his endeavour to export the Iranian revolution. Tehran, for instance, distributed scholarships to Shia students who were invited to study at educational institutions in Qom. There young Pakistanis met co-religionists from the rest of the Middle East. Iranian cultural centres also multiplied in Pakistan. More importantly, as Mariam Abou Zahab writes, ‘The Iranian revolution inspired Pakistani Shias and contributed to their politicization.’22 The replacement of old zakirs by new ones trained in Iran contributed to this ‘complete change in the Shia community.’23


The Iranian revolution definitely had a strong impact on the Pakistani Shias, but before that Zia’s Islamization policy was even more directly responsible for the crystallization of Shia political mobilization, in particular his efforts to introduce Hanafi Sunni laws and his reform of zakat, which was at odds with Shia customs. The Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Fiqh Jafariya (TNFJ – Movement for the implementation of Shia jurisprudence) was created in April 1979 in reaction to Zia’s policy by Mufti Jafar Hussain with the support of the ISO which became the youth wing of the organization. It orchestrated agitation campaigns, including ‘a two day siege of Islamabad by Shia demonstrators from across Pakistan on 5 July 1980, which openly defied the martial law ban on public gatherings, and virtually shut down the government.’24 There is no doubt that the Iranian revolution had galvanized Pakistani Shias at that time. One of their leaders, Allama Arif Hussain al-Hussaini, a young Iran-educated cleric who was Khomeini’s vakil (representative) in Pakistan, emulated his style with a certain degree of success. But the key factor in the mobilization clearly came from within.


The TNFJ asked for the recognition of Shia law by the courts, the formation of Shia Waqf Boards and separate Islamic studies courses for Shia students. Zia eventually made concessions in 1980 in each of this domain in what is known as the ‘Islamabad Pact’. On 27 April 1981, the Ministry of Finance exempted Shias from taxes. But the ‘Pact’ was ‘not implemented fully till 1985’25, when there were new demonstrations to put pressure on Zia. The rallies were peaceful in Lahore and Peshawar but turned violent in Quetta where 20 Shia demonstrators were killed by the police.26

Furthermore, other concessions were counterproductive. For instance, ‘Throughout the 1980s Shia Generals held prominent positions in the military, albeit none were placed in charge of sensitive operations.’27 This tactic aroused opposition among Sunni activists who were highly disturbed by the Iranian revolution and consequently were prepared to receive support from Saudi Arabia, a country that was now competing with Iran for leadership of the Muslim world. In the early 1980s, Saudi Arabia was playing an increasingly important role in Pakistan politics and society. First, it had become deeply involved in the anti-Soviet jihad which had been launched from the NWFP – and as Khaled Ahmed pointed out, ‘Jihad and sectarianism intermingled in Pakistan (…) Because jihad was exclusively Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith, both schools traditionally anti-Shia…’28

Besides, Saudi Arabia had encouraged Pakistan in the early 1980s to proclaim the edict of zakat. Maruf Dualibi, ‘the Arab scholar who was sent to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia to impose the anti-Shia laws that Pakistan was averse to enforcing’,29 was the one who ‘framed’ the 1980 Zakat and Ushr Ordinance. King Faisal even ‘gave Zia the "seed money" to start the zakat system in Pakistan on the condition that a part of it go to the Wahhabi party’, the Ahl-i-Adith.30 Subsequently, in the late 1980s, Pakistan ‘succumbed to the Saudi persuasion by ousting the Iran-based Shia jihadi outfits in the Afghan government-in-exile formed in Peshawar.’31


Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, the Army of the Companions of the Prophets) was formed in this context in 1985,32 with the support of Zia after he had a ‘bad meeting’ with Khomeini.33 The SSP grew out of the Deobandi-oriented Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and enjoyed state support.34 Zia himself was keen to use Sunni militants to resist Shia mobilization and contain Iranian influence in Pakistan. The SSP’s primary goal was to have the Shias declared non-Muslim, just as the Ahmadis had been. It is therefore no surprise that many of its leaders had taken part in the 1974 anti-Ahmadi movement. In 1986 three fatwas apostatizing the Shias were issued by the Darul Uloom Islamia Binori Town, the Jamia Ashrafia and the Haqqania.35


Shias radicalized around the same time. In 1983, the death of Mufti Jafar Hussain enabled Allama Arif Hussain al-Hussaini to take over the TNFJ. This Pashtun from the Turi (Shia) tribe of Kurram (FATA), who had been appointed vakil (representative) of Khomeini in Pakistan, according to Hassan Abbas, ‘can be considered the architect of Shia radicalism in Pakistan.’36 He transformed the TNFJ into a political party in 1987. Sectarian violence took on new forms around that time: riots (such as in Lahore in 1987) and targeted killings. The principal leaders were assassinated one after another in the late 1980s-early 1990s: in 1987, Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, the Al-e-Adith leader and author of Khomeini and the Shias, a book criticizing the Iranian leader, was killed; the following year came the turn of Allama Arif Hussain, reportedly with the complicity of the ISI and Zia’s entourage;37 in 1990, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, founder of the SSP, was shot dead, probably by a Sunni rival, but the SSP accused the Shias and in retaliation killed the Iranian consul general in Lahore.

The successor of Hussaini, Allama Sajid Naqvi, was more moderate. His party stopped contesting elections and entered into an electoral alliance with the PPP in 1988. Naqvi also rechristened it Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan (TJP, Movement of Pakistani Shias) in 1993, ‘deftly removing from its name the word nifaz, which in Urdu means "implementation’’, in order ‘to appear less provocative to Sunnis…’38 But the TJP thereby alienated the most radical members of the party.


They established the Sipah-e Muhammad Pakistan (SMP, Army of Muhammad) in 1993.39 On the Sunni side, an extremist faction of the SSP founded the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (The Army of Jhangvi, named for SSP’s founder) one year later.40 The driving force behind the LeJ was Riaz Basra, a Punjabi trained in some Sargodha and Lahore dini madrasas before going off to fight the Soviets in the Harakat-ul Mujahideen and joining the SSP in 1985.41 As of 1995, the two groups no longer limited their target to opposition leaders but began targeting individual members of the opposite community: among the Shias doctors, civil servants and even army officers were the main victims of this evolution. And as of 1997, both groups resorted to less discriminating methods, tipping over into a practice of mass crimes that aimed not only to decapitate the rival organization but terrorize the other: bombs exploded outside a mosque after the Friday prayer, suicide bombers decimated a procession or a family celebration, each time killing dozens (see table).


Sectarian Violence in Pakistan 1989-2013






















































































106 (152)

190 (446)

398 (587)


57 (152)

509 (663)

1170 (1 569)


30 (139)

203 (397)

297 (626)


173 (213)

507 (563)

577 (900)


128 (220)

525 (687)

914 (1,319)





Source: sect- killing.htm and, in parenthesis, Pakistan Security Report– 2013. Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad, 2014, p. 24.

Up until the mid-1990s, there were more incidents labelled as sectarian than casualties resulting from such violence. Since that time the tendency has been reversed, reaching a climax in 2010 with 57 attacks killing 509 people (in 1989, 67 incidents were responsible for the death of 18 people; see table). Other sources give different figures, as evident from the 2013 report of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) (see also the web site of the Shaheed Foundation, www. shaheedfoundation/org/Eventlist. asp). The Interior Ministry has also occasionally produced statistics. In April 2014, it informed the Senators that sectarian violence had been responsible for the death of 2,090 people over five years.42

The breakdown for these figures, community-wise, is not always available, but the death toll on the Shia side is notably higher, not only because minorities generally fare the worst (as shown by the Muslim situation in India), but also because Sunni movements quickly joined forces with jihadists and have learned from their rather summary modus operandi.43 In 2013, according to the PIPS, out of 658 casualties, 471 were Shias and 99 Sunnis.44


Apart from this escalation of violence, sectarianism has become a part of everyday life in Pakistan – as evident from the pervasiveness of anti-Shia graffiti on the walls of some Pakistani cities.45 While the Sunni/Shia distinction had little significance in the early decades of post-independence Pakistan, today it has became a structuring feature of its identity – or rather identity crisis. No one talks about it in public – except declared activists – for the topic is politically incorrect: after all, the ‘Land of the Pure’ was founded to provide all Muslims without distinction with a homeland. But there is deep-seated uneasiness. Khaled Ahmed points out that a ‘war of names’ is now at work: ‘In earlier times such Shia names such as Naqvi, Jafri and Rizvi aroused no curiosity; now there is a tension in the air the moment these names are mentioned.’ At the same time, ‘extremist Sunnis have begun to name their sons Muawiyya, the man who contested the caliphate of Ali and whose son Yazid got Imam Husayn martyred.’46


According to Matthew Nelson, ‘Throughout Pakistan, religious and sectarian differences of opinion had come to resemble something like the proverbial "elephant in the living room".’47 Nelson concludes from his 800 or so interviews on religious education in Pakistan that ‘difference itself was the thing that most of [his] respondents had been taught to regard as undesirable, unacceptable and, at some level, "un-Islamic’’,48 a large majority of them did not want a Shia teacher for their children if they were Sunnis, considered that there should be only one style of namaz and justified this stand in the most simple way: because Sunnis were in a majority.’ Nelson found that his respondents ‘were less concerned about the finer points of religious doctrine, ritual practice or religious sectarian boundaries than they were about essentialized (political) majorities.’49

In fact, Nasr convincingly argues that ‘sectarianism is a form of religio-political nationalism’ and an ‘ethnic discourse of power.’50 Power, indeed, is the key variable explaining the crystallization of Shia as well as Sunni sectarian movements. Already in Lucknow in the early 20th century, Shia/Sunni tensions reflected a power struggle between the former Shia rulers and a rising Sunni middle class.51 This configuration runs parallel to the conflict during the same period between the Hindu middle class and a waning Muslim aristocracy that eventually gave rise to the Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan.


A similar dynamic explains the resurgence of sectarianism since the 1980s. Sunnis felt threatened – arguably excessively – by Shia mobilization in the wake of the Iranian revolution, viewing its Pakistani followers as a sort of fifth column. Against this national backdrop, opposition crystallized in places where the local context was fertile, in other words where Sunnis felt particular resentment toward age-old Shia domination.52 Jhang district in Punjab is a case in point. After Partition, Shia landlords employed Sunni refugees, who had left India with next to nothing, as tenant farmers. As Sunnis improved their level of education and became more urbanized, they emancipated themselves from their old masters and demanded their place in the sun, including a share of power. Thus in 1992, SSP leader Azam Tariq won the Jhang seat in the National Assembly, an unprecedented achievement for a previously marginal political force, all the more as he was re-elected in 1993. He lost his seat in 1997, but Jhang remains an SSP stronghold due to Sunni resentment toward Shia dominance.53

While power relations largely explain the ‘metamorphosis from religious schism into political conflict around mobilization of communal identity’54 on the Sunni side, among Shias this metamorphosis has remained incomplete. To achieve such a transformation, a community needs to believe in the relevance of the political fight. It was a self-defeating perspective for the Shias. Not only could they not hope to win many seats in Parliament on the strength of their numbers alone, but in the mid-1990s they also lost Iran’s financial backing, something Mariam Abou Zahab attributes partly to the fact that it was ‘counterproductive’ and to the fear of ‘a backlash of Sunni militancy fuelled by Pakistani Sunni extremists in Iranian Baluchistan.’55


Lately the Shias have explored three alternative routes. First, regarding the use of violence: during the 1990s they continued to resort to terrorism, the weapon of the weak, through the SMP which ‘was involved in 250 acts of terrorism between 1993 and 2001.’56 But this strategy is on the decline because it was affected by internecine fights and resulted in massive retaliation from the Sunnis: on one hand the chief of the SMP, Maulana Yazdani, was assassinated in 1996 by his rivals – who were arrested by the police; on the other hand security-service crackdowns, including one on the SMP’s headquarters in Thokar Niaz Beg (in the suburb of Lahore), have decimated the organization.57


In 2001, Musharraf banned the SMP and the LeJ which reappeared immediately under different names, respectively Tehreek-E-Islami Pakistan (TIP, Movement of Islam Pakistan) and Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan (MIP, Nation of Islam Pakistan). Instead of retaliating to terrorist attacks by using the same techniques, the Shias tend to demonstrate peacefully in order to put pressure on the state apparatus which should give them greater protection. In Balochistan, the Hazaras – who form a visible minoritybecause of their Mongolian features – have protested against the bombing of a bus full of pilgrims in Matsung by organizing a sit-in and by refusing to bury their dead in January 2014.58

Second, in the domain of party politics, Shias have sought to bargain for electoral support among the mainstream parties. The PPP has been their principal partner, but they have achieved little in that regard. The PPP has not always been a reliable protector, as evident from the fact that in 1993, in Punjab, the party formed a coalition with the SSP. Those who still believed in the possibility of a Shia political agenda, formed the TIP (ex-SMP) and joined the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, United Action Front) in 2002. In 2008, after the division of the MMA, no Shia party contested the election. Former ISO leaders then started the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) in 2009 which won one seat in the Baloch state assembly in 2013 – and was ‘considered the major Shia party in Pakistan’ in 2014.59


Third, at the societal level, they tend to regroup in towns and cities where they thought they would be less vulnerable. But this process of ghettoization, for Khaled Ahmed, made them ‘easy to kill’60 even in places like Karachi where, however, the MQM may offer protection to the Shias.61 Shias have also tended to find refuge in religiosity. That was the route the TNFJ faction, which had split from the Hussaini-led group in 1983, had already followed. Those who have taken it turned their back on politics to cultivate rituals in a more emotive fashion than in Iran where the republic’s official Shiism has discontinued flagellation, for instance.

All things considered, the rise of sectarianism since the 1970s has introduced a vertical split in Pakistani society that probably represents one of the biggest challenges to national cohesion today. Especially since, besides peripheral groups like the Hazaras of Balochistan62 and the Shias of Gilgit-Baltistan63 (where sectarian violence began in 198864), one of the most severely affected areas is the core province of Punjab.


* This article draws from Christophe Jaffrelot’s forthcoming book, Pakistan’s Paradox: Instability and Resilience. HarperCollins, New Delhi.


1. See Muhammad Qasim Zaman, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan: The Radicalization of Shia and Sunni Identities’, Modern Asian Studies 32(3), 1998, pp. 687-716 and Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘The Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan: The Changing Role of Islamism and the Ulamain Society and Politics’, Modern Asian Studies 34(1), January 2000, pp. 143-185.

2. Cited in John F. Standish, Persia and the Gulf: Retrospect and Prospect. Saint Martin’s Press, New York,1998, p. 39.

3. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and its Links to the Middle East. Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2013, p. 2.

4. Ibid.

5. Juan R.I. Cole, Roots of North Indian Shi’ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1988, p. 81. For a historical overview, with special references to Hyderabad, see the first chapter of Toby M. Howarth, The Twelver Shi’a as a Muslim Minority in India. Routledge, London and New York, 2005.

6. See Vernon Schubel, Religious Performance in Contemporary Islam: Shi’i Devotional Rituals in South Asia. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, 1993, pp. 160-161.

7. The other city with a significant Shia minority, Hyderabad, did not experience such tensions.

8. Keith Hjortshoj, ‘Shi’i Identity and the Significance of Muharram in Lucknow, India’, in Martin Kramer (ed.), Shi’ism, Resistance and Revolution. Westview Press, Boulder, 1987.

9. Mushir ul Hasan, ‘Traditional Rites and Contested Meanings: Sectarian Strife in Colonial Lucknow’, in Violette Graff (ed.), Lucknow: Memories of a City. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1997, pp. 114-135.

10. Mushir ul Hasan, Islam, Communities and the Nation: Muslim Identities in South Asia and Beyond. The University Press, Dacca, 1988, p. 341, ff.

11. Andreas Rieck, ‘The Struggle for Equal Rights as a Minority: Shia Communal Organizations in Pakistan, 1948-1968’, in Rainer Brunner and Werner Ende (eds.), The Twelver Shia in Modern Times. Brill, Leiden, 2000, pp. 268-283.

12. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 4.

13. ‘Entretien avec Mariam Abou Zahab: L’Islamisme combattant au Pakistan: un état des lieux’, Hérodote 139, 2010, p. 90.

14. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 8.

15. Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Shape the Future. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2006, p. 88.

16. Hasan Abbas, Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan. Occasional Paper Series, West Point, Combating Terrorism Center, 2010, p. 23.

17. Michel Boivin and Remy Delage, ‘Benazir en odeur de sainteté: Naissance d’un lieu de culte au Pakistan’, Archives de sciences sociales des religions 151, July/September 2010, p. 199.

18. Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival, op. cit.

19. Hassan Abbas, Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan, op. cit., pp. 22-23.

20. Chibli Mallat, The Renewal of Islamic Law. Muhammad Baqer as-Sadr, Najaf and the Shi’i International. Columbia University Press, New York, 1993.

21. Mariam Abou Zahab, ‘The Politicization of the Shia Community in Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s’, in Alessandro Monsutti, Silvia Naef and Farian Sabahi (eds.), The Other Shiites. Peter Lang, Berne, 2007.

22. M. Abou Zahab, ‘The Regional Dimension of Sectarian Conflicts in Pakistan’, in Christophe Jaffrelot (ed.), Pakistan: Nationalism Without a Nation? Zed Books, London, 2004, p. 115.

23. Ibid., p. 116.

24. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘Islam, the State and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan’, in ibid., p. 88.

25. Muhammad Amir Rana, ‘Evolution of Militant Groups in Pakistan (4)’, Conflict and Peace Studies 6(1), January-June 2014, p. 117.

26. Ibid.

27. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘Islam, the State and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan’, p. 89.

28. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 114.

29. Khaled Ahmed, ‘Can the Taliban be far Behind?’, The Indian Express, 21 March 2014 ( I would qualify Khaled Ahmed’s interpretation of history here because Pakistan was certainly not as passive as it is suggested in this account.

30. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, p. 29.

31. Ibid., p. 105.

32. It grew out of the Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba created the year before.

33. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 95.

34. Mariam Abou Zahab, ‘The SSP: Herald of Militant Sunni Islam in Pakistan’, in Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds.), Armed Militias of South Asia: Fundamentalists, Maoists and Separatists. Columbia University Press, New York, 2009, pp. 160-161.

35. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 105.

36. Hassan Abbas, Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan, op. cit., p. 35.

37. Mariam Abou Zahab, ‘The SSP: Herald of Militant Sunni Islam in Pakistan’, op. cit.., p. 169.

38. Hasan Abbas, Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan, op. cit., p. 37.

39. Ibid.

40. The symmetry of these two splits needs to be qualified according to Khaled Ahmed. For him, the SMP-TJP ‘unannounced’ break was genuine while the SSP-Lashkar-e-Jhangvi ‘announced’ break was not. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 142.

41. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 123.

42. Irfan Ghauri, ‘Sectarian Violence: Over 2,000 People Killed in 5 Years, Interior Ministry Tells Senate’, The Express Tribune, 24 April 2014 (

43. Frédéric Grare, ‘The Evolution of Sectarian Conflicts in Pakistan and the Ever-Changing Face of Islamic Violence’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, (Routledge), 30(1), April 2007, p. 138.

44. Pakistan Security Report – 2013. Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad, 2014, p. 25.

45. Muhammad Asif, ‘Sectarian Ideological Warfare Through Graffiti’, Conflict and Peace Studies 6(1), January-June 2014, p. 88.

46. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. xxv.

47. Matthew J. Nelson, ‘Dealing With Difference: Religious Education and the Challenge of Democracy in Pakistan’, Modern Asian Studies 43(3), 2009, p. 801.

48. Ibid., p. 604.

49. Ibid., p. 607.

50. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘Islam, the State and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan’, op. cit., p. 87 and 86.

51. Imtiaz Ahmed, ‘The Sunni-Shia Dispute in Lucknow’, in Milton Israel and N.K. Wagle (eds.), Islamic Society and Culture: Essays in Honour of Professor Aziz Ahmad. Manohar, Delhi, 1983, pp. 335-350.

52. Muhammad Waseem, ‘Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan’, in K.M. De Silva (ed.), Conflict and Violence in South Asia. ICES, Kandy, 2001, pp. 19-89.

53. Mariam Abou Zahab, ‘The Sunni-Shia Conflict in Jhang (Pakistan)’, in Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifield (eds.), Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict. Social Science Press, Delhi, 2004. p. 135-148.

54. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘Islam’, op. cit., p. 86.

55. M. Abou Zahab, ‘The Regional Dimension of Sectarian Conflicts in Pakistan’, op. cit., p. 117. Today Iran seems to encourage the training of transnational Shia elites on its own soil.

56. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. 143.

57. Hassan Abbas, Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan, op. cit., p. 38.

58. ‘Hazaras Refuse to Bury Matsung Blast Victims’, The Express Tribune, 26 January 2014 (

59. Muhammad Amir Rana, ‘Evolution of Militant Groups in Pakistan (4)’, p. 122.

60. Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., p. xxiii.

61. In fact, the MQM(A) is probably the only party that continues to harbour a large number of Shias without even recognizing sectarian differences, understandably because Muhajirs cannot afford to be divided along such lines. But Shia Muhajir leaders are now targeted in Karachi by the Pakistani Taliban.

62. Muhammad Younas, ‘The Systematic Extermination of Hazaras’, Dawn, 21 February 2013. See

63. Shujat Hussain Mesam, ‘Eyewitness Accounts of Shia Genocide in Gilgit and Chilas’, 6 April 2012. Available at:

64. On sectarianism in Gilgit Baltistan, see Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian War, op. cit., pp. 189-192.