Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens quotes a social fact that in the course of human society make-up, not more than 150 people could assemble under the leadership of an individual. Thus it was challenging during the earlier stages of human society, as how to unite people within the growing human population, since staying united was pivotal to the human survival in the nomadic lifestyle. Through the power of cognition homo sapiens tried socialization by coming up with the imaginative entities of tribes, dogmas and eventually nation-state concept.

In the course of human history, religion has so far served as the most powerful rallying point and immensely helped the development of human societies across the world. In the wake of eventualities and wars, human beings who otherwise would not relate to each other still stood united in all kind of adversaries. With the inception of divine religions, this human bond grew beyond the geographical and political boundaries. Even the modern concept of nation-state is still subservient to the inclusiveness provided by the religions. However, this immensely powerful unification bond also couldn’t stay immune to a primate human instinct of exclusiveness and division. Consequently, in every major divine religion, as we see in history when its followers grew in numbers, the concept of sects seeped in.

This phenomenon of sect making was assigned a more pluralistic word sectarianism. If we confine our discussion to Islam only, then we see that despite its teachings of inclusiveness, it itself has been severely fragmented into different sects. Although when the civilization that emanated from Islam was at its peak, the making of new sects and following its newer interpretation was considered a fashionable trait and the confident civilization of that time could afford to do that too. The followers of different sects would indulge in educational debates and discussion of jurisprudence.

However, as any human civilization, Islamic civilization also started to meet its decline. The ride from the rise to the fall was bumpy. And during the process of decline the same educational sects were seen to be pitted against each other and their respective adherents would blame each other for the newly faced set of miseries. And this blame shifting was not confined to educational debates anymore rather it experienced the naked hostility and millions of people have perished in the unending sectarian fights and wars.

If we fast-forward this discussion to the present day Pakistani society make-up, we see a badly fragmented and ruptured social structure around us based on the same centuries old sectarian divide (read feud). For instance, very recently, upon hearing of the insane murder of world renowned qawwal Amjad Sabri who was scion of the famed Sabri family of qawwals, somebody around me said, “He wasn’t a Shia, wonder why he was killed?”. This one question, speaks volumes on its own self. The divisions have gone so deep that now only based on sectarian affiliations some of the people around us are simply become ‘spendable’. People who look like us, talk like us and to put it simply are part of us, somehow have our silent nod of acceptance even if they get killed! We accept them, it is okay only because of the sectarian divide has erected walls of apathy.

Amjad Sabri’s murder is still under investigation but in retrospect this line of killings, in majority of the cases, always had a sectarian leaning. At the macro level Islamic message at any point doesn’t condone any human killing. The word to ponder over is human, not even Muslim. But here it seems justifiable for one sectarian group when a member of competing group gets slaughtered. The word humanity, human feelings and the sanity of human life seems to evaporate. Very recently a famous anchor raised the question of persecution of another marginalized Pakistani community. By just raising that question, it generated so much heat that resulted in shutting down of that entire line of questioning alongside the program itself.

Social scientists might attribute these belligerent and apathetic behaviors to many other factors. Factors like vastly huge population, scarcity of resources, illiteracy, poverty and many other social index based factors, but the fact remains that this line of violence was uncommon before the notorious regime of Zia-ul-Haq. Society was more pluralistic. For instance, the match making (zaroorat-e-rishta) ads in the newspapers of those days, would not include sectarian alignment for the would-be bride or groom. People would shrug off the questions of sectarian affiliations and respond more in abstract terms such as Muslim, etc. The Muharram processions or Eid Milad-un-Nabi celebrations were an accepted norm of the society. However, during and post Zia era, we see these very norms of the society became the bone of contention in the society. Sporadic violence on these question increasingly became a well-known characteristic.

Naturally, we need to probe into the factors that have brought us to this point where we have our own versions of ‘Shaheed’ now. First and foremost is the radical change that happened in the Middle East, especially the rise of oil rich Persian Gulf states, who peddled a particular interpretation of Islam, also called Puritanism. This ideology had the backing of huge resources and thus was put forward as a course of increasing the political ‘area of influence’ in the region. Naturally Pakistan, a majority Muslim population country couldn’t stay immune. Another catalyst was provided by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan whereby US would like to settle its Vietnam debacle's score with USSR without, apparently, leaving its fingerprints. The idea of indigenous Afghani resistance was floated by providing it a religious shade. For world powers, it was another score settling pitch but the Pakistani youth and the clergy took it too seriously. That resistance essentially was termed as jihad against infidels by, a popularly coined term, people-of-the-book.

The most unique aspect of this jihad was that it became an exclusive domain of a particular ideological group that was pushed forward by the Arab states of Gulf region. However, the further complexity was added by the Shia revolution in Iran. Although the hostility lines between Iran and Gulf states were drawn on nationalistic grounds for millennia, however, very soon the sectarian element not only pervaded but dominated the discourse. The security apparatus of Pakistan naturally found its inclination to those sectarian groups who were willing to provide the fodder of the war. During the years that followed, there was a sharp rise to the militancy against the non-Jihad committed section of Pakistani population. Essentially we saw a sharp rise of sectarian skirmishes between various sects and the minority sects were the one who mostly became the victim of violence. Unfortunately, for the security agencies, it was an accepted ‘collateral’ and state wouldn’t antagonized the elements who were waging the Afghan Jihad. This soft-corner of the state, further emboldened the proprietors of this aggression.

This was precisely the time, when Pakistan witnessed a spree of target killing against the minority sects’ individuals and also against the majority sects too that didn’t take part in that jihad. Thereby we witnessed scores of able people who were sacrificed at the altar of this sectarianism and state’s designation of favorite groups. The story is long and have been told several times, but the solution is still nowhere in sight. The first and foremost step is for the state to realize that it cannot run any tenable foreign policy if it still clings to the hangover of 90s. All it would achieve is the abject alienation among the world community and never ending chaos within Pakistan. It needs to enact strict laws against sectarian hatred and fool proof implementation of these. No country has ever moved forward when a large section of its population has to spend life under a consistent fear for its life. The amazing people like Amjad Sabri would keep on dying until the genesis of this hatred is not probed impartially and eventually eradicated.