23 July, 2021

The Body Count

The Shia-Sunni conflict reaches a flashpoint once again

The Body Count

AS it tries to survive the latest political crisis, the Benazir Bhutto regime is faced with a fresh spate of sectarian violence. The locus seems to have moved back to Punjab. In the last three weeks, target attacks by Sunni and Shia extremists have claimed 20-odd lives. The latest round began on August 5 when a Shia civil servant was gunned down in Sargodha, Punjab. The Shias retaliated on August 14: gunmen attacked a group of Sunni Independence Day marchers in Karachi, killing 12 people and injuring scores. The reprisal took many Shia lives in Vehari, Punjab.

The Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan (ASSP) of the Sunnis and the Sipah-e-Mohammad of the Shias have killed hundreds in the last two years in Karachi and Punjab. The government says all campaigns to destabilise it are accompanied by sectarian or ethnic violence. They link the present spurt of violence with the Opposition stir to oust Benazir.

Headquartered in Punjab, the two groups have modern weapons, and the politicised Punjab administration is not equipped to deal with them. The...

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