You are on page 1of 31

Published online 8 August 2008

Journal of Islamic Studies 20:1 (2009) pp. 55–85 doi:10.1093/jis/etn057

CONTEXTUALIZING SECTARIAN
MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN: A CASE
STUDY OF JHANG1

TA H I R K AM R A N
University of Southampton

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


INTRODUCTION

Given the scale and kind of chaos in Iraq after the end of the rule
of Saddam Hussein, the issue of sectarianism has assumed a new
significance, as a possible ‘Clash within Muslim Civilization’ seems
imminent. The issue is one that merits serious scholarly investigation that
goes beyond understanding it as a side-effect of so-called fundamental-
ism or as a response to national or international political developments.
In most of the studies done so far on the issue of sectarianism in Pakistan
the local context has not been fully explored. This article examines
sectarianism in the district of Jhang, which became the epicentre of
violence against the Shi6a in the 1980s and 1990s. From Jhang it spread
to Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Bahawalpur and thence, beyond
Punjab, to Karachi, and also the Tribal and Northern Areas.
If sectarian murders in Jhang could be linked to a single event, it would
be the assassination of the radical Deobandi2 cleric and leader of the
1
The names of persons, places and groups have been spelled out in the
characters of the Latin alphabet as they are most commonly found in the
established usage in Pakistan—formal transliteration would not be helpful to
anyone following up references containing these names. In those instances where
it seemed appropriate, formal transliteration is provided in parentheses at first
occurrence of the name.—Ed.
2
‘In the case of the Deobandis, devotion to the Prophet himself, to his
teaching, and to those who, as his heirs, offered guidance, served as the basis for
new bonds and for cultural and psychological resources in a period of consider-
able socio-political change [. . .] an acceptance of the period of the life of the
Prophet and the first decades of Islam as providing the fundamental examples of
behaviour and belief; all seek self consciously, by a wide variety of means,

ß The Author (2008). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic
Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org
56 t ah ir k am r an
militant Sunni organization Sipah-i Sahaba (Sip:h-i 4aA:ba), Haqq
Nawaz Jhangvi (Eaqq Naw:z Jhangv;),3 on 22 February 1990. He had
just set foot out of his house around 8 p.m. to attend the wedding of
Shaykh Shawkat 6Al;’s son in nearby Ahrar Park, when two motor-
cyclists emerged from the corner of the street, approached Haqq
Nawaz, sprayed him with bullets and melted away into the darkness
of the wintry night.4 The victim’s diminutive, blood-splattered body was
rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital, Jhang, where he was
pronounced clinically dead. However the legacy of death and hatred that
the incident bequeathed survives to this day. Soon after that incident,

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Jhang witnessed greater mass protests than ever before. An eyewitness
account recalls that it was ‘as if the whole city of Jhang had thronged
outside the main building of the hospital; everyone visibly sad and
sombre; many of them were genuinely hateful, seething with anger
and indignation, accusing the Shi6a elite of the Jhang district of the

to relive that pristine time. A cluster of terms describes these movements, of


which two particularly recur. One is tajd;d which suggests the process of renewal
and specifically commitment to the way of the Prophet. A second is jih:d, which
points to the effort or the action required in conforming to the way of God.’
Barbara D. Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900
(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002), 4. See also: Syed Mehbub Rizvi, Ta8r;kh
D:r al-6Ul<m Deoband: Bar-i Bagh;r kay musalm:non  ka sab say ba_ra k:rn:ma
(Lahore: Id:ra-i Isl:miyy:t, 2005).
3
Haqq Nawaz belonged to Mauza (maw@i6) Chela Thana Massan Tehsil
(taAB;l) and District Jhang. He was born in 1952 and hailed from the Sipra clan
which has a very small landholding. His father Wal; MuAammad was a known
Khojj;
 of the area. Haqq Nawaz did not go beyond fourth grade in school. He
was then sent to E:fiC J:n MuAammad to learn the Qur8:n by heart, which he
did in two years. E:fiC J:n MuAammad persuaded him to go to Masjid Sheikhan
Wali (Shaykhan Wal;) in Abdul Hakim (presently in District Khanewal). There he
learnt the art of recitation from Q:r; T:j MuAammad and also grammar. Then
he spent five years at D:r al-6Ul<m Kabirwala and was greatly influenced by
Mawl:n: Manzur Ahmed (ManC<r AAmad), a famous Deobandi scholar of the
area. Lastly he went to Khayr al-Mad:ris, Multan to learn Aad;th. He remained
there for seven years. He served briefly as im:m at Toba Tek Singh. He came to
Jhang in 1973 as a khat;b of the Masjid Mohalla (maAalla) Piplianwala.
(Interview with Haqq Nawaz’s older brother Mehr Sher MuAammad and his
cousin E:fiC MuAammad Naw:z, in Mauza Chela, Jhang, August 2006.)
4
See for further reference, the daily Jang (Lahore), 23 February 1990; the
daily Naw:-i waqt (Lahore), 23 February 1990; the editorial in the monthly
Khil:fat-i R:shida, 1/4 (June 1990); the fortnightly, Khad:m al-D;n, 35/34–5
(Lahore; 9–22 March 1990). See also: Azmat Abbas, Sectarianism: The Players
and the Game (Lahore: South Asia Partnership, 2002), 11–12.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 57
ghastly act’.5 The cry K:fir K:fir, Sh; 6a6 K:fir (Infidel, Infidel Shi6a
Infidel) reverberated around Jhang. Thereafter, sectarian militancy
became synonymous with Jhang, displacing the long-standing cultural
eclecticism, sectarian mutuality and compassion amply symbolized in
the romantic tales of H;r and Ranj:, Mirz: 4aAiban and the poetry of
Sul3:n B:h<. Love and romance were replaced with hatred, and peace
with ‘tit-for-tat killing’.7 Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi’s death precipitated
murders, which spread from Jhang to other parts of Punjab and Pakistan.
There have been a number of general studies of sectarian militancy in
Pakistan, which notably attribute its rise to the changes brought about

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


during the Zia period following the Iranian revolution. This paper is an
attempt to provide a localized study focused on Jhang, the epicentre of
sectarian violence in 1990s Punjab (see Map 1). It seeks to understand
how sectarian mobilization intersected with and competed with bir:dar;
(kinship group) politics. It also situates sectarian militancy within the
context of a rising urban commercial class in Jhang City, drawn largely
from local shaykhs and East Punjab artisan migrants, who were locked
out of political power by the Shi6a landowners who traditionally
dominated district politics. Local traders and bazaar merchants, who had
wealth but no political clout, extended unequivocal support and funding
to sectarian Sunni organizations like the Sipah-i Sahaba (SSP) and its
offshoot Lashkar-i Jhangvi (LJ). In addition to reflecting on this political
economy of sectarianism and the extent to which it was permanently
able to displace bir:dar; influences, this paper attempts to uncover the
impact of violence on voting patterns. Finally, the paper is concerned
with a series of events that were turning-points in the rise of militancy in
Jhang. While much of the analysis reveals situations unique to Jhang,
this case study is important in revealing the complex interplay between
5
Interview with E:j; 6Abd al-6Az;z, a resident of Jhang, a Sipah-i Sahaba
activist and eyewitness, Jhang, 12 August 2006.
6
Shi6a here denote the ithna-i 6ashar; or Twelvers. They believe in the
institution of Im:mat whereby the twelve Imams are considered as the true
representatives of Islam as against Khil:fat or Khulaf:8-i R:shid;n. See John L.
Esposito, What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2002), 45–7.
7
The contention of the International Crisis Group’s report (April 2005). This
view has been contested by the claim of Mawl:n: Ilyas Balakoti (Ily:s B:l:ko#;),

an ideologue of the SSP, that ‘More than 300 Shi6a were killed in sectarian
violence between 1985 and 1989 in Jhang district before Jhangvi was murdered
in January 1990.’ In fact, Jhangvi was killed in February 1990. (Interview with
Ilyas Balakoti at J:mi6a-i 6Uthm:niya, Satellite Town, Jhang, 11 August 2006.)
See also: Muhammad Ilyas Balakoti, Firqa w:riyyat j:riAiyyat (Jhang: n. p.
1996), 1–9.
58 t ah ir k am r an

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Map 1: Punjab province, Pakistan

different sources of political identity and mobilization in Pakistan.


Generalized, more-or-less journalistic, accounts of Islamic militancy
tend to overlook these complex realities. Before turning to an analysis
of those realities, which will begin with a description of Jhang district,
it is important to make some remarks about the bir:dar; system in Jhang,
and to review some of the existing literature on the rise of sectarian
militancy in Pakistan.
The leading bir:dar; groupings in Jhang are the Syeds (Sayyid) and
the Sials (Siy:l). The Syeds are all Shi6a. So too are the Sials, with
the exception of the Bharw:nas of Tehsil Jhang. The Sials with Shi6a
adherence are concentrated in the tehsils of Shorkot and Ahmedpur
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 59
Sial respectively.8 As elsewhere in the Punjab, British rule consolidated
the authority of these mediator groups.9 After 1857 bir:dar;s were
subsumed into a system of governance of the Raj. The bir:dar; heads,
whom the British called ‘natural leaders’, received, in lieu of the services
they provided to the Raj, patronage through acts of investiture. Hence
many of them were granted much coveted ranks like zaildars (dhayld:r)
and safaydposh.
 They acted as mediators between the populace and the
British rulers. The interests of these landed magnates were safeguarded
against the fast-encroaching urban bourgeoisie through legislation like
the Land Alienation Act (1900) and Court of Wards Act (1902). These

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


kinships later on provided an institutional base for the Unionist Party,
formed in 1923. As happened all over Punjab, the bir:dar;s vied for more
patronage from the British—for example, the Tiw:nas and Aw:ns in
Shahpur district. Similarly in the case of Jhang, the Syeds and Sials were
competing factions. Political rivalry continued unabated in independent
Pakistan. During the 1980s and 1990s, interestingly, there have been
instances of intra-kinship rivalry when one faction within the same
kinship worked to the detriment of the other by stoking sectarian issues.
Therefore intra-kinship as well as inter-kinship rivalries figured quite
prominently in precipitating sectarian tensions in Jhang. Consideration
thus needs to be given to the way in which bir:dar; politics could
reinforce as well as compete with sectarian mobilization. The question
that needs to be asked is: Are rural bir:dar; politics and urban religious
mobilization totally autonomous? This paper attempts to explore the
connections between them.
Existing studies of sectarian militancy do not go into this subject.
Instead, they locate sectarianism in terms of regional and national
political developments. These are then seen as encouraging the growth
of sectarian militant groupings which are themselves the offspring of
sectarian parties and organizations. The latter provide ideological
inspiration for the violence carried out by the paramilitary organiza-
tions. A number of general studies of sectarianism in Pakistan refer
only in passing to Jhang. The main works are by such scholars as Vali
Nasr, Qasim Zaman and Mohammad Waseem.10 They link increased
8
For details, see Siddique Sadiq, Jhang: The Land of Two Rivers (Jhang:
Lahore: Ahmad Sajjad Art Press, 2002), 209–27.
9
See David Gilmartin, Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of
Pakistan (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988), 108–45, and Ian
Talbot, Punjab and the Raj (New Delhi: Manohar, 1988).
10
Vali Reza Nasr, ‘The Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan: The Changing
Role of Islamism and the Ulema in Society and Politics’, Modern Asian
Studies, 341 (2000): 139–80; Qasim Zaman, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan: the
60 t ah ir k am r an
sectarianism with Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization, the Afghan War, the
proliferation of Deobandi madrasas and the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The Crisis Group Asia Report No. 95 on The State of Sectarianism in
Pakistan adopts a similar approach. One of the few studies to reflect
specifically on Jhang by Mukhtar Ahmed Ali11 is written more as a
report than an in-depth scholarly study: the historical, social and geo-
graphical context is underdeveloped. It is to these contexts that we will
now turn.

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


JHANG DISTRICT

Jhang12 is located in the south-west of the Pakistani Punjab, 210


kilometres from the provincial capital Lahore and 76 kilometres from
Faisalabad, once its divisional headquarters (see Map 2). Most of its
economy is agriculture based and a large proportion of its population
(constituting 76.6%) live in 1083 registered villages and around 2735
unregistered :b:d;s.13
Jhang historically has possessed an overwhelmingly Sunni population,
but one devoted to an intercessional version of Islam, in which the Sufi
saint is sacralized as the intermediary between man and God. Therefore,
the saint and shrine are central in the religious expression of the people
of Jhang. Bah:8 al-Eaqq of Multan, Jal:l al-D;n Sh:h Surkh Bukh:r;
of Uch and Far;d Ganj Shakar of Pakpattan have a fairly large following
in Jhang. The Shi6a form a minority but have traditionally wielded
landed power.

Radicalization of Shii and Sunni Identities’, Modern Asian Studies, 323 (1998):
689–716; Mohammad Waseem, ‘Political Sources of Islamic Militancy in
Pakistan’ in Ian Talbot (ed.), The Deadly Embrace: Religion, Violence and
Politics in India and Pakistan 1947–2002 (Karachi: Oxford University Press,
2007), 145–63.
11
Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Sectarian Problems of Pakistan: A Case Study of
Jhang (Colombo: Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 2000).
12
Urban Jhang consists of three distinct parts, namely Jhang City which is the
old historical site and the ruling seat of the Sials; Jhang Meghiana, a relatively
later addition, to which the British gave the name of Jhang Sadar and to which
they shifted the District Courts and offices for fear of floods; and, Satellite Town,
founded during the 1960s. See: Government of Pakistan, District Census Report
of Jhang (Islamabad: Statistical Division, 2000), 13.
13
Ibid, 92–3.
Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010
61

Map 2: Jhang District


SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN
62 t ah ir k am r an
The colonial Gazetteer of Jhang District reported in 1883–4 that:
Shi6ahs are unusually numerous in Jhang, a fact due to the influence of the Shi6ah
Kuraishis of Shorkot and Hassu Balel, and the Sayads of Uch who are connected
with the famous Sayad family of Belot in Dera Ismael Khan District and Shah
Jiwana and Rajoa in the Jhang District. They are the most bigoted type. They
observe the Muharram most strictly, abstaining from all luxuries for the first ten
days of the month, and on the 10th they accompany the Taziahs [ta6ziya] bare-
headed and bare-footed. They throw dust on their heads and beat their breasts
with extreme violence, and allow neither Hindu nor Muhammadan to approach

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


the Taziah without baring his head and removing his shoes.14
This was repeated verbatim in the District Gazetteer of 1929 with the
comment:
Shi6aism is on the increase in the district. The influx of wealth on account of
canal irrigation has invested some Sayyid families with added importance, and
has proved helpful in spreading Shi6aism.15

The absence of documentary sources precludes precise information of


the sectarian demography of the Jhang District; one can nevertheless
infer the progressive rise in the Shi6a population in the decades that
followed. This rise was aided by the landed power of the Syeds and the
Sials. Shi6a identity was considerably crystallized by the 1930s. In 1939,
for example, one thousand Shi6a went to Lucknow from Jhang and
courted arrest in support of the Tabarra Agitation,16 which had been
disallowed by the Government of UP.17

14
Gazetteer of Jhang District 1883–84 (Lahore: Sang-i M;l Publications,
2000), 50. Drawing on the Census of 1881, it states that the total number of
Muslims in the district was 326,919, among whom 11,835 were Shi6a and only 8
Wahhabis.
15
Gazetteer of Jhang District 1929, 69.
16
Tabarra: i.e. cursing the first three caliphs, Ab< Bakr, 6Umar and 6Uthm:n,
who according to the Shi6a deceitfully deprived 6Al;, the Prophet’s son-in-law and
cousin, of his right to succession. Therefore the Shi6a resort to tabarra. To
counter that agitation Majlis-i AAr:r started the practice of madh-i BaA:ba,
wherein the Sunnis recited verses praising the four rightly-guided caliphs. That
movement forced UP Government to put a ban on tabarra, which stirred the
Shi6a up a great deal. Dietrich Reetz, Islam in the Public Sphere: Religious
Groups in India, 1900–1947 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 257.
17
The Shi6a activists were sent to Lucknow at the behest of Mub:rak 6Al;
Sh:h, a leading member of the Shah Jiwana clan. Bil:l Zubayr;, T:8rikh-i Jhang
(Jhang, 1973), 371; Siddiq Sadiq, Jhang, 237–8.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 63

BIR2DAR>S

Almost eighteen bir:dar;s inhabit rural Jhang, Sials being the most
influential because of their numbers, affluence and political clout.18 The
Syeds are also politically powerful and wealthy. In population terms
Jhang is overwhelmingly a rural district. Nevertheless, migrants from
East Punjab form an important group in Jhang City. They are drawn
from the trading and weaving communities. Despite their wealth these
communities were traditionally marginalized in the realm of power
politics by the dominant local landholders.

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Jhang’s history, until the reign of Wal;d:d Kh:n Siy:l (d. 1747) in
the early eighteenth century, is shrouded in ‘darkness’. However, the
accounts of the Greek historians Arrian and Curtius along with the
Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang allude to its very remote history that
certainly goes as far back as fourth century bc, when the region had
its first taste of marauders at the hands of Alexander in 327 bc.19
Despite Jhang’s ancient past, the documented sources with some ‘validity
claim’ do not go back beyond the eighteenth century when Sial rule was
firmly in place. Therefore, the histories of Jhang and the Sial tribe are
inextricably enmeshed. Consequently, the adage ‘the history of Jhang is
the history of the Sial’20 has a substantial element of truth in it.
M:l Kh:n’s (d. 1503) assumption of leadership ushered in an era of
Sial supremacy in Jhang. He meted out a crushing defeat to the ruling
Nawls, and rebuilt the city of Jhang in 1462, which had been devastated
in the battle. Sial rule reached its zenith during the reign of Wal;d:d
Kh:n (1717–47), spanning over three decades. His legacy was sustained
by his successors until Ranjit Singh’s rise to power in the Punjab. AAmad
Kh:n, the last Sial chieftain, after offering stiff resistance to the Sikh
army was eventually cowed in 1810, and Sial suzerainty over Jhang was
ended. After annexation of the Punjab in 1849, the Sial chief Ism:6;l
Kh:n was co-opted by the British, and duly rewarded for the services
he discharged during 1857. Thus the political importance of the tribe
remained throughout the colonial period as its chiefs fitted very well
into the client–patron network set up by the British. Sials continued
to be influential after independence, despite the fact that the Sial chief
In:yatull:h Kh:n had opposed the idea of Pakistan in 1947. At the
18
Ibid, 40.
19
Gazetteer of the Jhang District 1883–84, 23. Some old material collected
from Shorkot mound in Jhang District, namely an agate seal in pictographic
language, is supposed to be 10,000 to 15,000 years old. For the reference, see
Siddiq Sadiq, Jhang, 67.
20
Gazetteer of the Jhang District 1883–84, 27.
64 t ah ir k am r an
present time, Am:null:h Kh:n is one of many claimants to the Sial
leadership but the internecine conflicts among the Sials have weakened
their power relative to the Syeds in local politics. Apart from the
Bharw:na Sials of Tehsil Jhang and the Janji:na Sials of Shorkot, the
leading Sials are all Shi6a.
The prominent Syed families are that of Rajoa  in Tehsil Chaniot and
Sh:h Jiw:na in Tehsil Jhang. However, the Syeds have a marked presence
in Shorkot and Uch. Most of them trace their descent to Sher Sh:h,
Sayyid Jal:l al-D;n Surkh Bukh:r;.21 They own large tracts of land in
Jhang and Chiniot. Both Syed families enjoyed the full patronage of the

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


British as a reward for the ‘good service’ that they rendered as and when
it was needed. Sayyid MuAammad Ghawth, Sayyid Chir:gh Sh:h, Sard:r
Eusayn Sh:h and Sayyid Ghul:m 6Abb:s among the Rajoa  Syeds held
positions of pre-eminence during British rule. At the present time
Sard:rz:da Gafar 6Abb:s is the leading figure among the Rajoa  Syeds.
Similarly, Sayyid Khizar Hayat (Kha@ir Eay:t) from the Sh:h Jiw:na
Syeds who ‘have always been of importance’ was virtually reared by the
British through the Court of Wards. His younger brother Mub:rak Sh:h,
and Sayyid R:ja Sh:h’s son Abid Hussain (62bid Eusayn) rapidly
achieved a political fame that still resonates in his daughter and heir
Abida Hussain (62bida Eusayn) and her cousin and political rival FayBal
4:liA Eay:t. Both of these Syed families are Shi6a, so that many political
analysts looked askance at them for manoeuvring sectarian loyalties for
political gain. Abid Hussain was a close associate of Muhammad Ali
Jinnah in the 1940s and used his influence quite sagaciously to earn
ministerial positions in the 1950s. In the political arena Sials had no
leader who could match Abid Hussain in terms of political insight and
stature.22 Indeed, the emergence of Abid Hussain on the political scene
consigned the Sials to insignificance, particularly in the period from the
run-up to the creation of Pakistan up to the 1970 elections.
21
Bil:l Zubayr;, Tadhkira-i awliy:8-i Jhang (Jhang: Jhang 2d:b; Academy,
2000), 213.
22
Abid Hussain entered the political limelight in 1936 when, as a student
leader, he presented a welcome address to Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Lahore, who
was there to preside over a meeting of the Muslim Students Federation. Later on
he was elected Chairman, District Board Jhang (1937–54). He became MLA
(Member, Legislative Assembly) in 1946 and member of the Punjab Assembly in
1951. In 1954 he joined the cabinet of Muhammad Ali Bogra as Minister of
Agriculture. Later on, he joined the Republican Party and became its secretary-
general. Ayub Khan put him under an Elected Bodies Disqualification Order and
so he could not contest the 1962 and 1965 elections. The last election he
contested was in 1970, which he lost to the J:mi6atu l-6Ulam:8-i Isl:m candidate
Ghul:m Eaydar Bharw:na. He died in 1971. Siddiq Sadiq, Jhang, 217–18.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 65
Syed–Sial factional rivalries have contributed to sectarianism. In
Jhang, the politics of sectarian differentiation first emerged during the
1951 Punjab election. Ironically, the two Syed families, Sh:h Jiw:na and
Rajoa—close
 relatives yet political adversaries—in order to undermine
each other politically lent unswerving support to non-Syed and Sunni
candidates. Abid Hussain successfully lured the p;r of Sial Sharif into
throwing in his lot with Mawl:n: MuAammad Zakir (Dh:kir) who
pulled off a victory against Rajoa candidate Sard:r Ghul:m MuAammad
Sh:h from the Chiniot constituency. Similarly, Rajoa  Syeds went all out
in support of Mawl:n: Ghul:m Eusayn against Mub:rak 6Al; Sh:h,

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


a candidate of the Sh:h Jiw:na group from Jhang constituency. Despite
Shi6a–Sunni differences being considerably whipped up in the run-up to
the electoral contest, Mub:rak 6Al; nevertheless secured a comfortable
victory.23 Sectarianism was thus used as a ploy by Shi6a Syed families as
part of their factional rivalries. The power politics articulated in intra-
clan divergence was transformed into inter-clan rivalry in the span of
two decades. Hence the Syed in-fight gave way to a Sial–Syed contest
for power. As we shall see below, bir:dar; rivalries intersected with
sectarianism not just in electoral contests but in outbreaks of violence
such as the B:b-i 6Umar episode. This can be understood as a major
turning-point in the rise of sectarianism in Jhang.
Another local political factor was the role of the local merchants and
traders (shaykhs) and the artisan class. The latter, predominantly
weavers, are mostly migrants from Gurgaon, Rohtak and Hissar, who
settled in Jhang City after Partition. Jhang, like other cities of the Punjab,
was more a market centre than an industrial area; in the 1970s and
1980s it witnessed urban growth along with remittances from the Middle
East. Affluence engendered among the urban bourgeoisie a desire to
break free of the political stranglehold of the largely feudal Shi6a elite.24
Since 1947, the migrant community had traditionally supported Nawab
Iftikhar Ahmed Ansari (Naw:b Iftikh:r AAmad AnB:r;), but in this
period was beginning to show signs of discontent. Ansari’s unequivocal
support to the Shah Jiwana Syeds was ostensibly the prime factor in
eventually easing him out of the political reckoning during the 1970s.
The migrants, alienated from Nawab Ansari, constantly playing second
fiddle to Shi6a landlords, coalesced behind the SSP leadership and, from

23
NaB;r AAmad Sal;m;, ‘Jhang mayn Sh;6a-Sunn; tan:zu6a: :gh:z say anj:m
tak’ in Zindag; (Lahore, 14–20 December 1991), 19–21.
24
Ian Talbot, ‘Understanding Religious Violence in Contemporary Pakistan:
Themes and Theories’ in R. Kaur (ed.), Religion, Violence and Political
Mobilization in South Asia (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005), 157.
66 t ah ir k am r an
the 1980s onwards, they were a crucial element of the SSP’s electoral
strength in Jhang City.25

THE AER2R INFLUENCE

Like other Punjab towns, Jhang experienced religious mobilization in


the 1930s that took on sectarian as well as communal characteristics.
The Majlis-i AAr:r-i Isl:m (founded in 1929) established its roots in

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Jhang City through the efforts of Chir:gh 6Al; Chisht; and Mawl:n:
MuAkam D;n.26 The Ahrar had an avowedly antagonistic stance against
Ahmadis and the Shi6a.27 It had in its ranks firebrand orators like
MaChar 6Al; Azhar, D:8<d Ghaznav; and 6A3:8ull:h Sh:h Bukh:r;, later
an inspiration to the SSP leadership particularly Haqq Nawaz and
Ziau-r-Rehman Farooqi (Diy:8 al-RaAm:n F:r<q;).28 The latter’s father
MuAammad 6Al; J:nb:z was a committed Ahrari and instilled the same
fervour in his son.29 Haqq Nawaz used to hold a wooden hatchet in his
hand, which had been the Ahrar symbol, while delivering the Friday
sermon in the mosque, particularly at the outset of his career as khat;b.30
Interestingly, the Sipah-i Sahaba shared many common characteristics
with Majlis-i Ahrar. It drew its leadership from a similar lower middle
class background. Both movements reposed unflinching faith in the
Deobandi version of scriptural, literalist Islam and also the tactics
employed by both were much the same.31 They both used agitational and
25
They have formed a voter bank of around 14,000 supporters of SSP from
Jhang City.
26
Bil:l Zubayr;, Ta8r;kh-i Jhang, 371.
27
Dietrich Reetz, Islam in the Public Sphere: Religious Groups in India,
1900–1947 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 257.
28
Balakoti in the course of his interview used the phrase muqarrir-i bebadal
(peerless orator) for Haqq Nawaz.
29
Mawl:n: Muj;b al-Rahm: Inqil:b; (AafiCa-hu All:h), Ha@rat Mawl:n:
Diy:8 al-RaAm:n F:r<q; Shah;d (raAima-hu All:h); A Caller to the Unity of the
Umma, www.pitas.com/dailyislam/zia_farooqi.html, accessed 3 March 2007.
30
Interview with Mehr Sher Muhammad, older brother of Haqq Nawaz
Jhangvi, Mauza Chela, Jhang, August 2006. For further references on the Ahrar
see J:nb:z Mirz:, K:rw:n-i aAr:r (Lahore: Maktaba-i TabBira, 8 vols., 1975).
31
Ahrar has among its leaders men from different sectarian persuasions, like
Mazhar Ali Azhar who was a Shi6a, but whose overarching ideology was
embedded in Deobandi Islam. Ab< l-Kal:m 2z:d and Eusayn AAmad Madan;
are known to be the eminences grises behind the Ahrar. Mirz:, Karw:n-i :Ar:r,
vol. i.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 67
militant methods for political gain and in particular they relied on fiery
speakers to seek popular attention. They could enthrall audiences
for hours by appealing to their religious sentiments. However, the SSP
also issued its party magazine Khil:fat-i R:shida quite regularly from
Faisalabad. Lastly, both targeted minority groups. Manzoor Ahmed
Chinioti (ManC<r AAmad Ch;nio#;)(1931–2004),
 one of the founding
members of the SSP, received instruction at the Multan-based anti-
Ahmadi seminary of Ataullah Shah Bukhari in 1951.32 Haqq Nawaz,
too came to prominence during the anti-Qadiyani movement in 1974,
which culminated in Ahmadis being designated as non-Muslims as a

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


result of a constitutional amendment on 30 June 1974. That develop-
ment worked as a shot in the arm for puritanical clerics like Haqq
Nawaz Jhangvi and Manzur Ahmed Chinioti. The anti-Qadiyani move-
ment served as a prototype for the anti-Shi6a movement launched and
fomented by Haqq Nawaz. He wanted the Shi6a to be pronounced
apostates through constitutional means exactly like the Qadiyanis. That
formed the main theme of his speeches in the 1980s. His call to declare
the Shi6a as k:fir had, besides the local perspective, some national and
international dynamics—the Iranian Revolution and the sharpening of
sectarian identities in Pakistan. Despite these wider regional influences,
Haqq Nawaz’s public agitational career owed much to its more parochial
Ahrari inspiration.

THE GROWTH OF SECTARIANISM IN JHANG

The SSP’s ability to institutionalize sectarianism in Jhang occurred


against the backdrop of increasing Sunni–Shi6a tension. We have seen
earlier how this was partly rooted in the factional rivalries of elite Shi6a
families. It also owed much to a series of incidents, the first of which took
place in Hassu Balail, a village at Bhakkar Road in Shorkot Tehsil in
October 1957. An effigy of 6Umar, the second caliph of the Muslims was
desecrated and subsequently burnt. NaCar Eusayn Quraysh;, a Shi6a
landlord was the chief organizer of the episode which profoundly
impacted on the future course of local politics. The commotion emanat-
ing from the episode led to the formation of a Sunni organization,
Majlis-i TaAaffuC-i N:m<s-i 4aA:ba, spearheaded by Mawl:n: Ghul:m
32
Later on, Chinioti gave instruction at the Banuri Mosque, Karachi ‘in his
speciality of condemning the Ahmadi community as apostates’. See Khaled
Ahmed, ‘Maulana Chinioti the Great Apostatiser (1931–2004)’, Friday Times
(Lahore), 13–19 August 2004.
68 t ah ir k am r an
Eusayn, the then khat;b of Jami6a Mosque, Dujji Road, Jhang.33 The
establishment of that organization was a decisive step forward in
making sectarian difference a rallying point for the Sunnis. Similarly in
Mauza Kaki Nau also in Tehsil Shorkot, Mawlaw; Khud: Bakhsh Gill
was gunned down by MuAammad Naw:z Kathia in 1964, just when
he was delivering his khutba in the course of which he eulogized the
Companions of the Prophet.34 Despite the protests against this episode,
the perpetrator of the crime could not be apprehended. The dust had
hardly settled when in Rodo Sultan, a small town in Tehsil Jhang,
Mawl:n: Dost  MuAammad, a Deobandi ‘maulvi’ (mawlaw;) and

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Jami6atu l-6Ulama-i Islam activist was brutally murdered in 1967.35 He
was known for his oratory condemning Shi6a landlords, which eventually
cost him his life.
The cumulative effect of these episodes was to increase sectarian
tensions. An even more crucial turning-point, however, was the 1969
B:b-i 6Umar incident.36 This again must be understood not merely as
a straightforward sectarian conflict, but as an episode that was also
rooted in factional rivalries between Shi6a groupings. Shi6as were
prepared to stir up sectarian rivalries in order to do down their fellow
Shi6a from rival bir:dar;s. We thus have here an immensely important
intersection between sectarian and bir:dar; politics.
The B:b-i 6Umar incident occurred on the eve of a mourning proces-
sion on 7 MuAarram in Jhang City. The procession originated from the
Im:mbargah Muh:jir;n right after fajr prayer and, after taking quite
a labyrinthine route, assigned by the district administration, terminated
at Im:mbargah-i Qad;m.37 There were two Deobandi mosques on the
procession route, Masjid-i Taqwa and Masjid-i Ahl-i Eadith. A day prior
to the procession, a huge billboard was seen installed exactly on the
route, very close to Masjid-i Taqwa.38 This worried the district admin-
istration. However, a compromise was reached on the condition that the
procession would go its usual route without objecting to the billboard

33
Interview with Mawl:n: Ilyas Balakoti, Jhang, August 2006.
34
Ziau l-Qasimi (Diy:8 al-Q:sim;), MuAammad Diy:8 al-Q:sim;, S:w:nih
Aay:t am;r-i 6aCmat n:m<s-i 4aA:ba, Mawl:n: Eaqq Naw:z Shah;d: Ayk
shawBiyyat, ayk ta8r;kh, ayk 3<f:n (Faisalabad: Maktaba-i Q:simiyya, 1991), 44.
35
Ibid, 45.
36
Ibid, 47–9.
37
Interview with Sayyid Than:8 al-Eaqq Tirmidh;, Jhang, August 2006.
38
Jhang City has three gates: Nur Shah Gate, Khewa Gate and Mamna Gate.
The Khewa gate was given the second name of B:b-i 6Umar during MuAarram of
1969. Interview with Mehr Afzal Sial (Af@ul Siy:l), a renowned advocate in
Jhang, of Shi6a persuasion, Jhang, August 2006.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 69
put up on the way. The only condition, put forward by the Shi6a organ-
izers of the procession, was that the inscription on the board should be
shrouded. After the compromise was reached, the procession started off.
After coursing through the narrow streets of Jhang City, as it reached
close to the two mosques, someone unveiled the board. Subsequently,
a processionist by the name of Ashraf Baloch, an underling of the Sials
from Jhang City soaked his shirt in the nearby drain, then hurled it on to
where the name 6Umar was written. This was an act of utter desecration
for the Sunnis.39 Tumult ensued. It was nothing short of a pitched battle
between the rival sects. By the time the fury had subsided, six people had

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


lost their lives including Mawl:n: Sh;r;n, a khat;b and prayer leader of
Masjid-i Taqwa.40 That was the first instance of the two sects colliding
head on. General Yahya Khan’s coup d’état and emergency on the very
day of the B:b-i 6Umar incident prevented further loss of life. However,
Sunni clerics like Mawl:n: 6Abd al-Hal;m, Mawl:n: Yas;n, Asadull:h
Q:sim; and Sayyid Ghul:m MuB3af: Sh:h infused a new lease of life
in a dysfunctional Majlis-i TaAaffuC-i N:m<s-i 4aA:ba and launched
a campaign in the condemnation of the Shi6a that had a telling impact on
the general public and more so on the electoral outcome.
The B:b-i 6Umar incident caused a turn-around in the socio-political
complexion of Jhang. The anti-Syed group capitalized on the Sunnis’
charged sentiments. In all three National Assembly constituencies it
paraded the widows of those killed in the incident in black mourning
dress in the Sunni congested areas of the city. This fanned sectarian
emotions and overturned the political chessboard.41 Abid Hussain from
Shah Jiwana lost to his old time friend Ghul:m Eayd:r Bharw:na, 62rif
Kh:n Siy:l tasted defeat at the hands of N:Cir Sul3:n, and Gafar 6Abb:s
from Rajoa  went down to Mawl:n: MuAammad Zakir of Muhammadi
Sharif. Even a Sunni candidate like Iftikhar Ansari lost against Shaykh
Iqb:l, a local trader on a provincial Assembly seat because of his political
allegiance to Abid Hussain.
It emerged later that the billboard had been unveiled to precipitate
a riot at the behest of Nawab Habibullah Khan Sial (Naw:b Eab;bull:h
Kh:n Siy:l). This stage-managing of violence for political purposes has
been written about by Paul Brass in the different context of the

39
The whole event was narrated by Sayyid Than:8 al-Eaqq Tirmidh;, an eye-
witness to the episode. August, 2006.
40
Mawl:n: Sh;r;n was an Urdu speaking Muh:jir. Afterwards the Masjid-i
Taqwa was named after him, Interview with MuAammad F:r<q, resident of
Jhang city, 2 September 2006.
41
Interview with Eajj; 6Abd al-6Az;z, Jhang Sadar, 12 August 2006.
70 t ah ir k am r an
institutionalized Hindu–Muslim riot systems of such UP cities as
Aligarh.42 Interestingly, Habibullah Khan Sial himself was Shi6a like
the Syeds of Shah Jiwana. However, in the particular case, factional clan
and kinship rivalry took precedence over sectarian affinities; they were
used as a ploy to scuttle the political influence of a rival bir:dar;. The
ploy worked very well to serve the ambitions of Habibullah though it
would wreak havoc in the days ahead. The two main characters in that
episode were, according to Sayyid Than:8 al-Eaqq Tirmidh;, a local Shi6a
notable, MuAammad Arshad and Ashraf Baloch.  It was Arshad who
uncovered the board exactly when the MuAarram procession reached the

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


corner of the street from which B:b-i 6Umar was merely a few yards
away, and Baloch who perpetrated the act of desecration by throwing
filth at the name of 6Umar. MuAammad Arshad43 was in the pay of
Habibullah Khan, and Ashraf Baloch  was his personal attendant.
Habibullah Khan’s grandson was quite categorical when asked about
his grandfather’s alleged involvement in the B:b-i 6Umar incident: ‘My
grandfather did all that to avenge the defeat that he suffered at the hands
of Colonel Abid Hussain in the 1946 elections.’44 This episode, arising
out of bir:dar; rivalries, helped pave the way for the institutionalization
of sectarianism in the SSP. This threatened for a time to eclipse bir:dar;-
based politics in Jhang.

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL INFLUENCES


ON SECTARIANISM

Thus far we have been uncovering the local roots of sectarianism in


Jhang. It is important, however, to set these in a wider national and
regional context, and that is the focus of this section. After examining
this broader perspective, we will return to the impact of sectarianism in
Jhang following the creation of the SSP. The three key wider develop-
ments are the Iranian Revolution, the Afghan Jih:d and General Zia’s
42
Paul Brass, The Production of Hindu–Muslim Violence in Contemporary
India (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), 32–3.
43
Muhammad Arshad divulged the secret to Than:8 al-Eaqq Tirmidh; when
his own son was killed in cross-fire between rival sectarian groups in a Sabzi
Mandi (vegetable market) area of Jhang in 1993. He then repented, confessing
his role as an accomplice in a heinous crime carried out at the behest of
Habibullah Sial. Interview with Than:8 al-Eaqq Tirmidh;, Jhang city, 10 August
2006.
44
Interview with Eusnayn Siy:l, Jhang City, August 2006.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 71
state-sponsored Islamization, which encouraged a ‘Sunnification’ of
Pakistan.
The 1979 Iranian Revolution emboldened Pakistan’s Shi6a so that they
‘abandoned the Shi6a tradition of political quietism’.45 Sipah-i Sahabah
spokesmen are quite strident in pointing out the huge amount of Shi6a
literature being produced in Urdu and freely distributed through the
consistently widening network of the Iranian Cultural Centres. In that
literature ‘[the] 4aA:ba [the Companions] were denigrated in [an] utterly
brazen way’.46 So, not only ‘awakened’ but ‘emboldened’ in the wake of
the Revolution’s success in Iran, the Shi6a were public and vociferous in

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


putting forward demands for ‘rights and representation’, trusting in
Khomeini’s support, which he quite lavishly extended to them. Former
Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Agha Shahi, revealed an interesting fact:
‘Khomeini once sent a message to the Pakistani military ruler Zia ul Haq,
telling him that if he mistreated the Shi6a, he [Khomeini] would do to him
what he had done to the Shah’.47
This favourable international environment encouraged membership of
avowedly Shi6a political movements sponsored both financially and
politically by Tehran. Tahr;k-i Nif:dh-i Fiqh-i Ja6fariyya P:kist:n (TNFJ)
was one such organization with monetary and political ties with Tehran.
Proselytization was yet another impact of a vigorous ‘Shi6a revivalism’,
evoking as a consequence a sharp Sunni counter to re-balance the
situation. Zaman, while drawing on the claim made by Sayyid Arif
Husayn Naqvi, finds ‘considerable evidence of Shii proselytization
especially in rural and small town Punjab’.48 The compulsory deduction
of zak:h from bank accounts also became a reason for defections from
Sunni ranks. Many non-practising Sunnis converted to Shi6ism just to
avoid having zak:h deducted from their annual savings.49 With the Shi6a
revival in Iran, as Nasr puts it, ‘the years of sectarian tolerance were
over. What followed was a Sunni-versus-Shi6a contest for dominance,

45
‘Political quietism’ here means taqiyya or dissimulation of Shi6i adherence.
See Ian Talbot, ‘Understanding Religious Violence’, 154.
46
Interview with Maulana Ilyas Balakoti, Jhang, August 2006.
47
Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the
Future (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 138.
48
Sayyid 62rif Eusayn Naqv;, Tadhkira-i 6Ulam:8-i Im:miyya-i P:kist:n
(Islamabad: Markaz-i TaAqiqat-i F:rs;-i Īr:n wa P:kist:n, 1984) quoted in
Qasim Zaman, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan’, 689–716.
49
Hussain Haqqani, ‘Weeding out the Heretics: Sectarianism in Pakistan’,
Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, 4 (Hudson Institute, Washington D.C.;
November 2006) at www.futureofmuslimworld.com/research/pubID.58/pub_
detail.asp
72 t ah ir k am r an
and it grew intense.’50 Nasr’s assertion of course seems quite sweeping as
the phenomenon of sectarian differentiation was inextricably complex,
emanating from the interplay of myriad currents and cross-currents.
Nevertheless the Iranian revolution and the impact it had on the
Pakistani Shi6a spurred Deobandi reaction, which had so far been
sporadic. ManC<r Nu6m:n;’s book, Ir:n; Inqil:b: Im:m Khumayn; awr
Shi 6iyyat with its preface written by Ab< l-Easan Nadw; represents a
concerted response to the mounting Iranian influence in Pakistan. That
book was later to become ‘the gospel of Deobandi militant organizations
that in 1980s mushroomed across Pakistan to press the fight against

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


the Shi6a’.51
The Afghan Jih:d against the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan was
crucial in strengthening existing Deobandi influence in Pakistan and
directing it in favour of militancy. The flow of foreign funds into Pakistan
during the 1980s saw a proliferation of Deobandi madrasas in the
Punjab, Karachi and NWFP. Some of these worked as a prime source of
imparting jih:d; training along with ideological instruction to the young
students. The total number of madrasas in Pakistan in 1947 was 245;
by 2003 the figure had risen to an astounding 7,000.52 These institutions
were avowedly sectarian in their outlook as well as committed to a jih:d-
centric interpretation of Islam. Hussain Haqqani explores the role of the
Zia regime in sponsoring such organizations like the SSP as a counter-
weight to the Shi6a ascendancy. He therefore maintains
The Zia ul Haq regime saw the SSP as a check on the rise of Shi6a influence and
gave it a free hand. Soon covert links had been established between SSP and
Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which managed official Pakistani
support of Jihadi operations in Afghanistan and Indian controlled Kashmir. SSP
cadres attended Afghan Mujahideen training camps and returned to kill Shi6a
leaders within Pakistan. The rise of the Taliban in the 1990s further deepened the
ties among Pakistan’s various Jihadi groups, Deobandi madrasas and Sunni
sectarian organizations like Sipah-e Sahaba.53
Thus state patronage and foreign funding provided a favourable
environment for the expansion of such organizations as the SSP and LJ.54
When in 1991, for example, the SSP held Haqq Nawaz International
50
Vali Nasr, ‘Shi6a Revivalism’, 148.
51
Ibid, 165.
52
Ali Riaz, Global Jihad, Sectarianism and the Madrassahs in Pakistan
(Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, 2005), 8.
53
Hussain Haqani, ‘Weeding out the Heretics’.
54
Encouragement from successive regimes and unremitting flow of foreign
funds (especially from Saudi Arabia) combining with absence of governmental
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 73
Conference in Islamabad, persons like Mawl:n: 6Abd al-Q:dir 2z:d,
an employee of the Government of the Punjab and khat;b of the
B:dsh:h; Mosque, Lahore, was one of the speakers. Similarly, Senator
Sam;6 al-Eaqq’s participation in the conference points to the state’s
favourable disposition toward SSP.55 Mawl:n: 6Abd al-Eaf;C Makk;,56
a scholar from Saudi Arabia, was the chief guest—a clear illustration of
the extraneous sources of support furnished to the SSP.
The need to counter a ‘Shi6a threat’ in Pakistan had been brought
home to the Zia regime by the Shi6a protests at the time of the Zakat and
6Ushr Ordinance promulgated in 1979. This formed a crucial element in

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


the state-sponsored Islamization process. It brought Shi6a out in protest
in unprecedented numbers. The parliament in Islamabad was besieged
by more than 50,00057 Shi6a from all over Pakistan in July 1980. They
came together under the banner of Wif:q-i 6Ulama8-i Sh;6a P:kist:n.58
Imamia Student Organization (ISO)59 played a pivotal role in making the
whole episode in Islamabad a remarkable success. The convergence of
such a huge number of Shi6a at the federal capital was made possible
largely because of the ISO’s unflinching endeavours. Thus it was brought
home to the government that ‘the mode of zakat collection enumerated
in the Ordinance was not in conformity with their beliefs and demanded
that Shi6as should be treated in accordance with their personal law.’60
The parliament house in Islamabad remained under siege for two days,
forcing Zia to amend the Ordinance. Immediately afterwards the Shi6a
clergy thought of constituting an organization with the express objective
of averting the danger of the blatant ‘Sunnification’61 of Pakistan and

oversight have been cited as principal factors in the dramatic rise in the numbers
of mad:ris (European Commission, 2002), quoted in Ali Riazi, Global Jihad, 5.
55
Zindag; (Lahore, 8–14 June 1991).
56
Ibid.
57
See Azmat Abbas, Sectarianism, 7. However, Vali Nasr (‘The Shi6a Revival’,
161) puts the figure of Shi6a activists who gathered in Islamabad at 25,000.
58
Ibid.
59
A group of students from Lahore University of Engineering and Technology
founded ISO on 22 May 1972 to provide an All-Pakistan Shi6a platform.
Dr. Majid Noroze Abidi (M:jid Nawroz  62bid;) and Ali Reza Naqvi (6Al; Ri@:
Naqv;) were among the founders of the organization. The numerical strength and
organizational capability of ISO leaders became evident during the 1979–80
agitation of the Shi6a against Zia’s Zakat and 6Ushr Ordinance. See Azmat
Abbas, Sectarianism, 9.
60
Ibid, 7.
61
Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, ‘Islam, the State, and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy
in Pakistan’, in Christophe Jaffrelot (ed.) Pakistan: Nationalism Without a
Nation (London: Zed Books, 2001), 87–90.
74 t ah ir k am r an
safeguarding the interests of their community. Hence TNFJ62 came into
being in 1979 in Bhakkar, under the leadership of Muft; Ja6far Eusayn.63
It became palpably more assertive in its political stance when 62rif
al-Eusayn; succeeded him as leader in 1984.64 In 1993 there emerged its
armed offshoot by the name of Sip:h-i MuAammad (SMP) under the
leadership of Ghul:m Ri@: Naqv;, the then district President of Tahr;k-i
Ja6fariyya, Jhang. By the end of 1994, SMP established its headquarters
at Thokar Niaz Beg, a suburb of Lahore which possessed a sizable Shi6a
population.

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


THE FORMATION OF THE SSP AND
ITS ACTIVITIES IN JHANG

Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi was influenced by all these national and inter-
national currents as well as by the earlier model of sectarian mobilization
provided by Ahrar. It was under his leadership that sectarianism was
institutionalized with the formation of Anjuman-i Sip:h-i 4aA:ba on
6 September 1985. Soon afterwards, its name was changed into Sipah-i
4aA:ba P:kist:n (SSP). The association came into being in the J:mi6a
Masjid Piplianwali, where Haqq Nawaz had been a prayer leader (im:m)
and given sermons since 1973.65 Then Haqq Nawaz was n:8ib am;r
(deputy leader) of J:mi6at al-6Ulam:-i Isl:m, Punjab. The SSP’s central
executive comprised 28 founding members. Sectarianism was institution-
alized when the SSP was formed with radd-i r:fi@iyy:t (refutation of
the Shi6as) as its core objective. Interestingly, Haqq Nawaz took on the
62
The TNFJ was renamed as Tahr;k-i Ja6fariyya P:kist:n in a convention held
in March 1993 at Faisalabad. See Azmat Abbas, Sectarianism, 8.
63
Ja6far Eusayn (1916–83) was born in Gujranwala, educated in Lucknow,
India and Najaf, in southern Iraq. He then taught at a Shi6a seminary in his native
city. He served on various government committees including the Council of
Islamic Ideology. Qasim Zaman, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan’, 694–5.
64
6All:m: 2rif Eusayn al-Eusayn; was a Turi Pushtun from the Shi6a
stronghold of Parachinar in northern Pakistan. He had received instruction from
Najaf and Qum and was sent to Pakistan by the Iranian government in 1978.
However, according to his official biography, he was expelled from Iran before
the Revolution. Azmat Abbas, Sectarianism, 8.
65
Dast<r, Anjuman-i Sip:h-i 4aA:ba (Jhang: Markaz; Daftar Anjuman-i
Sip:h-i 4aA:ba P:kist:n, J:mi6a Masjid Pipliawali, n.d) and also see Ziau
l-Qasimi, S:w:nih Aay:t, 39. It was registered on 21 January 1986 under the
Societies Registration Act, XXI of 1860; see the Certificate of Registration,
no. RP/799–F/S/86/352.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 75
Barelvis at the outset of his political career. The mun:Cara (religious
debate) held at Kot Lakhnana, Jhang, between him and Mawl:n: Ashraf
Siy:lv; strained relations between the Barelvis and Deobandis. Haqq
Nawaz lost that mun:zara. Barelvi–Deobandi tension grew into physical
confrontation in 1987 when two Barelvis were murdered by an SSP
supporter in Purani Eidgah. Soon afterwards Haqq Nawaz realized that
the Barelvi–Deobandi confrontation was counterproductive, changed
course and started working to forge a Sunni alliance against the Shi6a.66
SSP ideologues like Ziau l-Qasimi, Ilyas Balakoti and MuAammad
Sal;m Butt link the emergence of their organization with such events as

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


the Tabarra campaign conducted in Hassu Balail, Kaki Nau and Rodu
Sultan at the behest of Shi6a landlords against the Companions of the
Prophet. They attach most significance to the B:b-i 6Umar incident
which took place in 1969. However, as we have seen, this obscures the
larger context for the rise of sectarianism provided by Zia’s policy of
‘Shariatization’, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Afghan Jih:d and
proliferation of d;n; madrasas.
Sectarianism lay at the heart of the SSP’s goals. Out of the eight aims
spelled out by its founding members, five aimed at circumscribing
Shi6ism in Pakistan if not completely extirpating it. Assuring the sover-
eignty of God and the finality of the Prophet, striving for the legitimate
status of the Companions of the Prophet, for the implementation of
Khil:fat-i r:shida, doing their best to condemn Shi6ism, and making
sincere efforts to bring together all Sunni schools of thought—were all
tendentious clauses in the list of objectives put together by the SSP
leadership.67 Similarly the criteria of eligibility for membership of the
organization particularly the first and the last of the four mentioned in
the Dast<r (the party constitution) were very explicit about its sectarian
exclusivism. This allowed Sunnis to be members, but explicitly excluded
the Shi6a. The Dast<r was promulgated from the 1st January 1986.68
66
Interview with Mehr Af@al Kh:n Siy:l, advocate, in Jhang, August 2006.
67
Dast<r, Anjuman-i Sip:h-i 4aA:ba, 1. See also these comments from an
interview with Sal;m Butt, Jhang, August 2006: ‘The very first clause warrants
some explanation as Shi6a religious scholars affirm the ending of Prophethood,
accepting MuAammad as the last Prophet. However the exponents of the
Deobandi version, particularly ManC<r Nu6m:n; through his journal al-Furq:n
claims that the notion of Im:mat in Shi6ism is in sheer contradiction to the
Islamic tenet of khatam-i nabuwwa [the sealing of Prophethood]. They think that
Shi6as hold their twelve Im:ms in much higher esteem than even Prophets. It led
as a consequence to a fatwa issued by many Deobandi clerics declaring Shi6as
non-Muslims.’ See further, Sa6;d al-RaAm:n 6Alaw;, Afk:r-i Shi 6a (Lahore: n.p.
1991), 462–9.
68
Ibid.
76 t ah ir k am r an
The official flag of the SSP reflected an unequivocal devotion to the
Companions: Ab< Bakr, 6Umar, 6Uthm:n, 6Al;, and Mu6:wiya were
represented as stars with the inscription, on a crescent, of the Aad;th,
‘My Companions are like stars, follow them and you will be led to
salvation’. That was the core theme of the campaign, initiated by the
SSP’s Patron-in-Chief with great verve and gusto.
As already referred to, the migrant East Punjab community mostly
from Gurgaon, Hissar and Karnal provided a key base of support for the
SSP in its Jhang heartland. Its other support there came firstly from local
traders and shopkeepers (mostly shaykhs by caste) from Jhang Sadar;

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


secondly from returned workers from the Gulf. These sought political
opportunities to reflect their newly acquired wealth. They had also
brought back a redefined religious identity that was militantly Sunni and
regarded Shi6is as ‘the other’. Both these factors encouraged their support
for SSP.69 The profile of the founding leadership of SSP affords ample
testimony of the potential base and constituency it was destined to have
in the years to come. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali has worked out the ethnic
identity of the Senior SSP leadership in Jhang as follows:70

Eaqq Naw:z Founder and first Sarparast-i a6l: Local


Diy:8 al-Q:sim; Chairman Supreme Council Muh:jir
Isr:r al-Eaqq Q:sim; N:8ib Sarparast-i a6l: Muh:jir
Diy:8 al-RaAm:n Far<q; Sarparast-i a6l: (killed 1998) Muh:jir
A6zam F:riq N:8ib-Sarapast-i a6l: (killed 2003) Muh:jir
Shaykh Eak;m 6Al; President Local
M. Nas;m 4idd;q Secretary-General Muh:jir
Shaykh Ashf:q Finance Secretary Local
Mun;r AAmad Shah;d Chairman Municipal Committee Muh:jir
M. Sal;m Butt Legal Advisor and member Majlis-i Sh<r: Muh:jir

Barring Haqq Nawaz himself and to a far lesser extant Shaykh Hakim
Ali, there was no local influential SSP leader. Most of its leadership cadre
was drawn from the Partition migrants’ community. Zia-ul Qasimi
69
Muhammad Qasim Zaman while quoting Omer Noman dates the process
of the proliferation of the middle class in the Punjab to the 1970s and 1980s. The
outflow of labour overseas brought about remarkable changes in status and
expectations. There was an encouragement to radical sectarianism in Pakistan.
See: Zaman, The Ulema in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change
(Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002), 126.
70
Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan’. My thanks to Sal;m Butt
for pointing out an error in the table prepared by Mukhtar Ahmed Ali. The first
Secretary-General, according to Sal;m Butt, was Nas;m 4idd;q and not Y<suf
Muj:hid.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 77
(Diy:8 al-Q:sim;), Esar-ul Haq Qasimi (Asr:r al-Eaqq Q:sim;) and
Zia-ur Rehman Farooqi (Diy:8 al-RaAm:n F:r<qi) were East Punjab
migrants who had originally settled in Faisalabad, whereas Azam Tariq
(A6zam F:riq) hailed from Chichawantani, district Sahiwal.
From the outset, the SSP adopted an aggressive posture. This was seen
at Kull P:kist:n Dif:h-i 4aA:ba Conference (All Pakistan Conference for
the Defence of the Prophet’s Companions) held on 7th February 1986 at
Chandan Wala Mohalla, Jhang Sadar. Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi presented
a welcome address which amounted to an indictment against the Shi6a
community at large. The real motive of Haqq Nawaz in the text of the

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


address mentioned was to rally the Sunni ulema around him in order
to launch a nationwide movement against the Shi6a.71 He managed to
secure support from some of those present, such as Mawl:n: Kh:n
MuAammad and Mawl:n: 2mir Eusayn Sh:h Gil:n;. Yet his extremist
message was too aggressive for the majority.
With the launch of the SSP, Haqq Nawaz busied himself in stormy
tours of various districts and cities, deploying his oratory to best effect.
Because of the incendiary, sectarian content of his speeches he was,
on numerous occasions, debarred from entering the cities where his
visits had been scheduled—Okara, Chichawatni, Ahmadpur East and
Muzzafargarh, to name a few.72 Besides, he devoted considerable time in
helping poor litigants in Jhang District Courts and in the process, as he
was of fiery disposition, fell out with the district administration on
numerous occasions. His assertive style nevertheless won him numerous
personal admirers and increased the support for his organization.
Thus the popularity of the SSP and its founder grew rapidly. This was
reflected in the 1988 elections in which Haqq Nawaz bagged 38,995
votes from the constituency NA–68 Jhang III. He lost to Abida Hussain
by a relatively narrow margin as she obtained 47,374 votes.73 ‘A leader
of a national stature, Abida Hussain was the favourite who was expected
to win hands down,’ Mehr Zafarullah Khan Bharwana Sial has declared,
71
Haqq Nawaz, Khutba-i istaqbaliyya, Kull Pakistan Dif:h-i-4aA:ba
Conference, held on 7th February 1986 in Jhang. That Khutba-i istaqbaliyya
(welcome address) for the invitees of the conference was the only thing ever
written by Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi himself. Interview with Sal;m Butt, Jhang,
10 August 2006.
72
Ziau l-Qasimi, S:w:nih Aay:t, 123–36.
73
Another interesting fact is that Haqq Nawaz contested the election on the
JUI ticket. See Mr. Justice (Retd.) Sardar Fakhre Alam (Chairman, Election
Commission), Mr. Justice Rashid Aziz Khan (Member Election Commission),
Mr. Justice Hamid Ali Mirza (Member, Election Commission), General Elections
Report. Vol. 2: Comparative Statistics for General Elections 1988, 1990, 1993
and 1997 (Islamabad: Government of Pakistan), 57.
78 t ah ir k am r an
‘Everyone, except a khat;b of a local mosque, anticipated a far more
convincing victory for her. After that defeat all was auguring well for
Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi.’74
However, by that time, sectarian killing had already begun with
the murders of AAsan All:h; Zah;r in 1987 and TNFJ leader 6All:ma
62rif al-Eusyn; in 1988. Haqq Nawaz himself had not many more days
to live. On 22 February 1990, his tumultuous life and career came to
an end.75 SSP’s rhetoric had always been aggressive, but now deeds
matched words. Eventually in 1996 Lashkar-i Jhangvi was to emerge
as an armed off-shoot of the SSP. Militancy not only intimidated Shi6is,

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


but increased SSP’s electoral support. From the time of Haqq Nawaz,
influence in the National Assembly was sought in order to amend the
Constitution so that there could be a ‘Sunnification’ of the Pakistani
state.
After the assassination of Haqq Nawaz, sectarianism vied with
bir:dar; politics as the dominant form of mobilization in the Jhang
region. Deobandi clerics took on an increasingly important political role
as the SSP assumed centre stage in urban political activity. Bir:dar;
allegiances continued to be a key factor, nevertheless, in the politics of
rural Jhang. This was demonstrated by the continued monopoly of the
Sials and Syeds of the Jhang District Council. The chair of the Jhang
District Board/District Council since Partition has been either a Syed or
a Sial.76 Even in urban Jhang militant sectarianism never completely
replaced bir:dar; politics and especially the influence of the Sial faction.
Ruling it out completely was an error of judgement on the part of the
Government and Jhang district administration, particularly on the eve
of MuAarram 1990.
On that occasion the government of the Punjab was visibly perplexed
about the law and order situation during the period of mourning as
this followed hard on the heels of the murder of Haqq Nawaz. As a pre-
emptive measure, the government called together urban notables and

74
Interview with Mehr Zafarullah Khan Bharwana Sial, an ex-member of the
Provincial Assembly Punjab, former Chairman District Council Jhang, Jhang,
August 2006.
75
Mawl:n: Diy:8 al-Rahm:n F:r<q; became the Chief Patron of SSP after
Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi’s assassination. Before that he was im:m and khat;b of a
mosque run by the Awqaf Dept. at Sumundri District, Faisalabad: Zindag;
(Lahore, 14–20 March 1991).
76
The chairpersons have been: Abid Hussain, Muhammad Arif Khan Sial,
Abida Hussain (two tenures), Mehr Akhter Bharwana, Mehr Muhammad
Zafarullah Bharwana, Sughra Imam: Siddiq Sadiq, ‘Jhang: The Land of Two
Rivers’, 403.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 79
leaders of the SSP for negotiation. Malik Saleem Iqbal, the Health
Minister of the Punjab, presided over the proceedings on 16 July 1990.
District administration, the SSP leadership and other important persons
were made part of the negotiations and taken into confidence. An amn
mu6:hada (peace treaty) was concluded to the satisfaction of the
government.77 But only a few days after the treaty, a bomb exploded
at Chowk Bab-i 6Umar in Jhang City, killing 3 Sunnis and injuring 28.
This effectively sabotaged the peace efforts. The very site of the bomb
explosion was not far away from Amanullah Khan Sial’s Aavayl; in
Jhang City. This is highly suggestive of the fact that the efforts to bring

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


peace to the conflict ridden city were stymied because bir:dar;s had been
counted out as stakeholders from the whole process.
However, the SSP did expand beyond its roots in sectarian rivalries
and bir:dar; politics in Jhang. It organized itself remarkably well at
district and tehsil level. According to one estimate, the SSP had 74 district
and 225 tehsil level units before it was proscribed on 12 January 2002. It
additionally ran 17 branches in foreign countries including Saudi Arabia,
Bangladesh, Canada and the UK. With its 6,000 trained and professional
cadres and 100,000 registered workers78 it was the best-knit and
organized Islamic party in Pakistan after Jama6at-i Isl:m;.

SSP AND THE SPREAD OF SECTARIAN


VIOLENCE IN THE PUNJAB

SSP’s growing influence was accompanied by an association with


violence. While Jhang was the scene of many sectarian killings, they
spread to other areas of Punjab and beyond. Although SSP attempted
to distance itself from the activities of the armed offshoot
77
Along with Malik Saleem Iqbal, Arshad Lodhi, Deputy Commissioner, and
Superintendent of Police, those who took part in the negotiations were: Maulana
Rashid Ahmad Madni, Mohalla Chandanwalla, Dildar Ali (Secretary, Anjuman-i
Tajran), Haji Muhammad Ali (President, Anjuman-i Tajran), Mian Iqbal
Hussain, Muhammad Zahur Chuhan Advocate, Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal
(Chairman, Municipal Committee, Jhang), Muhammad Farooq (President,
Anjuman-i Tajran, Jhang City), MuAammad Rafique Saqi (General Secretary,
Anjuman-i Tajran Jhang City), Muhammad Aslam (Joint Secretary, Anjuman-i
Tajran, Jhang City) and Maulana Esar ul Qasimi. See: Amn mu6ah:da (ManC<r
Sh<da) Dil:6; intiC:m;ya wa membr:n-i Committee Anjuman-i Sip:h-i 4:A:ba
wa mu6aziz;n-i Jhang (Jhang: hand-written document, 1990).
78
Ibid. See also: ‘Sipah-i Sahaba Pakistan,Terrorist Group of Pakistan, South
Asia Terrorism Portal, 21 June 2004’, at www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/
Pakistan/terroristoutfits/ssp.htm, accessed 23 February 2007.
80 t ah ir k am r an
Lashkar-i Jhangvi, which was created in 1996, this was never done
convincingly. LJ had links with ‘international terrorist’ movements,
which culminated in the banning of both organizations by President
Musharraf in response to the post 9/11 situation. Support for the SSP and
LJ has as a result been driven underground.
The end of the Afghan War resulted in the existence of a large number
of well-trained militants. Some of these were attracted to organizations
like SSP, which were able to employ them. SSP was a cash-rich organ-
ization because of its indirect funding from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Popular philanthropy, much of which came from Deobandi sources, also

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


swelled its coffers. The Deobandi madrasa union, Wif:q al-mad:ris,
which has its head office in Multan, along with Khayr al-mad:ris
seminary, the national centre for Deobandi instruction, openly supported
the SSP.79 Young zealots mostly recruited from the seminaries were sent
for training in the arts of violence in Afghanistan. Therefore sectarian
militancy escalated to a considerable extent. Under the leadership of Riaz
Basra (Riy:@ BaBra), the LJ comprised those militants well instructed
in the use of explosives and guerrilla tactics. They went to Afghanistan
for training in a camp in Sirobi, near Kabul run by the Taliban Minister
Mawlaw; Eam;dull:h.80
The Taliban had been a great source of inspiration for the SSP leaders,
who sought to replicate their policies in Pakistan. Azam Tariq, while
speaking at an International Dif6a-i 4aA:ba Conference in Karachi
in October 2000 said: ‘the SSP aims to transform 28 large Pakistani
cities into model Islamic cities’ where television, cinema and music
would be banned.’81 Azam Tariq was an ardent supporter of the jih:d in
Indian-controlled Kashmir. When Masud Azhar (Mas6<d AChar) founded
Jaysh-i MuAammad in the aftermath of his release in Kandahar,
following the hijacking of an Indian aircraft in December 1999, Azam
Tariq pledged to send 500,000 jih:d;s to Jammu and Kashmir to fight
Indian security forces.82
SSP extremists had two major styles of operation, namely targeted
killings and indiscriminate shootings at places of worship. A number

79
International Crisis Group, ‘The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan’, 15.
80
Owais Tohid, ‘An Eye for an Eye, in Death, as in Life. Interview: Qari
Shafiqur Rehman’, October 2003 at www.newsline.com.pk/newsoct2003/
stopoct1.htm
81
‘Sipah-i Sahaba Pakistan, Terrorist Group of Pakistan’ at www.satp.org/
satporgtp/countries/Pakistan/terroristoutfits/ssp.htm, accessed 3 March 2007.
82
‘In the Spotlight: Sipah-i Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)’, 9 July 2004, at http://
www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?documentid=2308&programID=39&from_
page=../friendlyversion/printversion.cfm, accessed 3 March 2007.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 81
of leading Shi6is were assassinated. They included Tajamal Abbass
(Tajamm al-6Abb:s), the Commissioner Sargodha, Ali Reza, Deputy
Commissioner Khanewal, Zainul Abideen (Zayn al-62bid;n), Jail
Superintendent Jhang, and ISO’s Dr. Naqvi, to name a few instances.
Indiscriminate firing on worshippers in mosque/im:mb:ra was the other
method that resulted in numerous killings. The Momenpura incident
on 11 January 1998 was a case in point with 27 Shi6is massacred;
17 were killed in Muzaffargarh in January 1999;83 and 57 in two sepa-
rate incidents in Quetta on 9 June and 4 July 2003.84 However, it was
not a one-sided affair, to say the least. Countless Sunnis also lost their

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


lives in retribution. On 13 August 1991 Mian Muhammad Iqbal of Sufi
Group of Industries and SSP nominee for Provincial assembly seat PP–65
was killed in Jhang. Within a month five Sunni clerics were gunned down
near Malhuana Mor, Jhang.85 In September and October of 1996,
48 Sunnis were killed in Multan while offering prayers in the mosque.
Concurrently the five-day long battle between Shi6is and Sunnis in
Parachinar with the death toll at 20086 from both sides aggravated the
situation beyond repair.
By 1992, the SSP activists had gained access to sophisticated weapons
systems. In June of that year they used a rocket launcher in an attack,
which killed five police personnel.87 The attempted assassination of the
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in January 1999, is yet another example.
He was lucky that the bomb planted beneath the bridge on the Raiwind
Road on the route to his residence exploded prematurely, but it was
a clear testimony of how lethal the sectarian terrorists had become. They
were not only growing in fighting power but multiplying in numbers.
Animosh Roul mentions six other splinter groups of SSP besides the LJ,
namely ‘Jhangvi Tigers’, ‘Al Haq Tigers’, ‘Tanzeem ul Haq’, ‘Al Farooq’
and ‘Al Badr Foundation’.88
83
Rana Jawad, The News International Pakistan, (Lahore) 19 January 1999.
84
Suba Chandran, Sectarian Violence in Pakistan (New Delhi: Institute of
Peace and Conflict Studies Publications, August 2003).
85
The clerics killed on 7 September 1991 were Sayyid 4:diq Eusayn Sh:h,
Mawl:n: Rash;d AAmad Madan;, E:fiC Eabib al-RaAm:n, E:j; 6Az;z
al-RaAm:n and Q:r; MuAammad Eudhayfa. All of them belonged to Jami6at
al-6Ulam:8-i Isl:m and were SSP sympathizers. See Siddique Sadiq, Jhang: The
Land of Two Rivers, 250.
86
V. Nasr, ‘Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan’, 141.
87
‘Sip:h-i 4ahaba Pakistan, Terrorist Group of Pakistan’, www.satp.org/
satporgtp/countries/Pakistan/terroristoutfits/ssp.htm, accessed 3 March 2007
88
Animosh Roul, ‘Sipah-i 4aA:ba: Fomenting Sectarian Violence in Pakistan’
Terrorism Monitor’, 3/2 (27 January 2005) at www.jamestown.org/terrorism/
news/article.php?articleid¼2369166.
82 t ah ir k am r an
During the 1990s, Iranian officials functioning in various capacities in
Pakistan became the target of SSP militants. Most prominent among
them was 2gha 4:diq Ganj;, Iranian Consul-General who was gunned
down on 19 December 1990 by a young lad from Jhang, Shaykh Eaqq
Naw:z.89 Ganji is widely believed by SSP supporters to have master-
minded Haqq Nawaz Jhangvi’s murder. However, there was no tenable
evidence of 4:diq Ganj;’s involvement other than his presence in Jhang
on the day of the murder. MuAammad 6Al; RaA;m;, an Iranian diplomat
was another victim of a targeted killing in Multan in 1997. The Iranian
Cultural Centre at Lahore was set ablaze the same year in January. It was

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


in retribution for the assassination of Ziau r-Rehman Farooqi along with
26 others at the Lahore Session Court. Five members of the Iranian
armed forces were fatally ambushed in September, sparking off a serious
diplomatic row between Islamabad and Tehran. ‘The targeting of
Iranians was apparently meant to convey the message to Shi6a militants
that not even their ‘patrons’ were safe.’90
Like all revolutions, the anti-Shi6a campaign of SSP thrived on the
spilling of human blood. The cult of the martyr was very effectively
deployed by the successors of Haqq Nawaz, which enhanced not only
SSP’s electoral standing but also its renown. Thus, ironically, Shi6a
influence implicitly permeated into the SSP’s overall schema as the Shi6a
theological discourse is structured around the cult of the martyr. Scores
of martyrs and the ongoing sectarian strife gave the SSP a ‘functional
utility’91 that contributed immensely to perpetuating its hold over Jhang.
The way sectarian polarization enabled SSP to increase its vote bank
has similarities with the way that communal violence in a number of
UP towns has strengthened the hold of the BJP. In the central Jhang
constituency in the 1990 election, Mawl:n: Esar al-Qasimi, Haqq
Nawaz’s successor and Vice Patron, secured election with a considerable
majority. As Isl:m; Jumh<r; Ittih:d’s (IJI) candidate for the National
Assembly, he obtained 62,486 votes. He also stood as an independent
candidate for a Provincial Assembly seat and defeated IJI ticket holder

89
Zindag; (Lahore), 14–20 December 1991; Shaykh Eaqq Naw:z was later
hanged in Mianwali jail on 28th February 2001. K:ka Ball;, kin of Amanullah
Sial, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the assassination of Haqq Nawaz
Jhangvi. ‘Sipah-i Sahaba Pakistan, Terrorist Group of Pakistan’ at www.satp.org/
satporgtp/countries/Pakistan/terroristoutfits/ssp.htm, accessed 3 March 2007.
See also: Azmat Abbas, Sectarianism, 13.
90
Owais Tohid, ‘An Eye for an Eye’.
91
Brass, ‘Production of Hindu–Muslim Violence’, 377.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 83
and favourite Shaykh Iqbal with a margin of almost 10,000 votes.92 Esar
al-Qasimi did not live long after winning the election. He was the victim
of a political assassination in January 1991 while returning from the
polling station on the southern corner of Jhang Sadar. His murder took
place on the very day of the by-election for the Provincial Assembly
seat PP–65 Jhang V. Ironically, Esar al-Qasimi’s assassination was
not orchestrated by any Shi6a machination. He was allegedly killed at the
behest of the local Sunni power broker, Shaykh Iqbal. His son was the
principal accused and Shaykh Iqbal had to pay the huge sum of
Rs. 3.5 million as blood-money to Esar al-Qasimi’s family to settle the

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


issue. Nevertheless sectarian killings continued unabated. The situation
became so bad that, it is said, an important political figure like Abida
Hussain, from the Syed family, took up an ambassadorial post in USA
in 1990–93 as Pakistan was no longer safe for her.93
Esar al-Qasimi was succeeded by Mawl:n: Azam Tariq (1962–2003)
as SSP nominee for the National Assembly seat NA 68. He convinc-
ingly won elections in 1993 against his close rivals, Amanullah Sial
and Shaykh Iqbal. However, in 1997, he lost to PML(N) candidate
Amanullah Sial, and retained by just seven votes his Provincial Assembly
seat of PP–65 against Dr. Ab< l-Easan AnB:r;.94 This result signalled the
return of bir:dar; influence to Jhang politics. It also indicated that the
people of Jhang had grown weary of violence and militancy. Lashkar-i
Jhangvi with Riaz Basra, Akram Lahori and Asif Ramzi in its ranks
brought notoriety to SSP, despite Azam Tariq’s denial that there were any
connections between LJ and SSP. ‘Proclaimed offenders like Sal;m Fawj;,
An< Gadh;, 6Ij:z alias Jajj; and F:lib Qiy:mat had unleashed a reign of
terror in urban Jhang. Sunnis as well as Shi6is left the troubled city, whose
economy had been ruined’.95 The situation obtaining in the 1990s has
been well depicted by 4afdar Sal;m Siy:l in this verse:
Ayk kuttay ney apnay s:th; kuttay say kah:: Sal;m!
bh:gh j: warna :dm; k; mawt mar j:8i g:.
A dog said to his dog companion: Sal;m!
Run away or else you’ll die the death of a human.

Nawaz Sharif’s crackdown on militancy during 1997–99, together


with the general disapproval of violence and militancy, saw a
92
General Elections Report, ii. 243. He contested that election from JUI
(Sami al-Haq Group) quota. See Zindag; (Lahore),14–20 March 1991.
93
See for reference, Takb;r (Karachi), 5 December 1991.
94
Azam Tariq got 25,501 votes against Dr Ab< l-AnB:r;’s 25,494 votes.
General Elections Report, ii. 242.
95
Interview with 4afdar Sal;m Siy:l, Jhang, August 2006.
84 t ah ir k am r an
considerable decline in sectarian killing in Jhang. Leading militants such
as Riaz Basra and Asif Ramzi died in police ‘encounters’ while Akram
Lahori is held in prison. Peace returned to the district. From January
1999 to December 2000, not a single incident of sectarian violence was
reported. The military takeover on 12 October 1999 may be one of the
reasons that militant groups had assumed a low profile. However, the
next elections held in 2002 under military rule reversed the process.
Azam Tariq won the election even though he was in jail. Both the LJ and
SSP along with their Shi6a rivals SMP and TJ had been banned by Pervaiz
Musharaf on 14 August 2001 and 2002 respectively.96 Nevertheless,

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


Azam Tariq was allowed to contest the elections as an independent
candidate. This decision evoked sharp reaction from many quarters.
Azam Tariq’s victory was quite unexpected. Nevertheless, it fits a pattern
in Pakistan, in which representatives of militant religious outfits tend
to do well in the conditions of ‘guided democracy’ because of the
marginalization of mainstream parties. However after 9/11, such figures
as Azam Tariq have had to act circumspectly. After securing election
victory, instead of siding with the opposition alliance of religious
parties MMA, Tariq went along with the pro-Musharraf Muslim League
(Quaid-i Azam) and managed to secure the release of the imprisoned SSP
activists. In October 2003, Azam Tariq was killed in Islamabad; the
death most foretold in the history of Pakistan, according to the Daily
Times, Lahore. There had been 20 attempts on his life prior to it. Azam
Tariq’s murder was a death knell to SSP or ‘Millat-i Isl:miyya’ (the name
given to the organization after the SSP was proscribed in 2002). The
resulting leadership vacuum has rendered the organization rudderless.
Its immediate future seems bleak. Long awaited peace has returned to
Jhang where bir:dar; allegiances have resumed their traditional political
influence.

CONCLUSION

This article argues that it is crucial to understand sectarianism in terms of


its politicization. It has revealed that in the case of Jhang the bir:dar;s
used sectarianism as an instrument for political gain. The stage managing
of the B:b-i 6Umar incident is a case in point. However, in due course of
time, sectarianism secured a political space in urban Jhang where it
96
See for further detail Ch Akhter Ali, ‘Reference under 6(2) of the Political
Parties Act (as amended)’, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Islamabad, 29 January
2002.
SECTARIAN MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN 85
afforded opportunities for previously marginalized local and refugee
communities. It thrived on existing patterns of religious sectarian mobil-
ization, which had been directed against the Qadiyanis. Increasingly,
Shi6is were the target of sectarian militancy in the wake of the Afghan
Jih:d and the Iranian Revolution. The proliferation of madrasas with
foreign funding provided much needed cadres for such organizations as
the SSP. However, sectarianism never totally replaced bir:dar; politics.
While the conditions in Jhang were especially propitious for the rise
of sectarianism, the key to understanding its spread elsewhere in Pakistan
also lies in seeing it as a vehicle for the politics of identity for margin-

Downloaded from jis.oxfordjournals.org at University Of Illinois Library on October 14, 2010


alized social groups. This offers an approach that may better explain
sectarianism, and perhaps also evolve to counter it.
E-mail: tahirkamran_gcu@yahoo.com