ISLAMABAD - Both the religious sects are blaming each other for the tragedy in which 11 people were killed and over 60 others injured in the sectarian clashes that erupted in the garrison-city when a procession coincided with a Friday sermon at a mosque near Fawara Chowk. Angry protesters attacked the mosque and seminary, torching its building and an adjacent cloth market causing loss to the property worth billions of rupees.

Communal clashes erupted in Multan and Hangu while deaths were reported in Kohat. One could expect protests, but destroying property and killing people are uncalled for. The groups or outfits organising the demonstrations should ensure that there is no damage to property and loss of lives. The nation remembers the peaceful long march of Tahirul Qadri when the participants who were hundreds of thousands in number remained well-disciplined.

Anyhow, there should be no reason for the clashes between Shias and Sunnis as both the sects were united in their struggle under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam to carve out a separate homeland for the Muslims. Now when Pakistan has threats to its internal and external security, its people irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sect must unite to save Pakistan.

Contradictions between the two sects date back to 1,400 years, but the present magnitude of sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis was never witnessed before 2003. Of course, there is a foreign hand behind such incidents, as hostile countries stir conflicts among various sects to destabilise Pakistan. A tragic incident of an attack on Christians soon after the bomb blasts in Quetta and Karachi was reflective of intrigues by international hostile forces, especially RAW, which wish to destabilise Pakistan.

In 2007, bloody sectarian clashes took place in Parachinar near the Afghanistan border in which 105 people were killed. In 2006, a bomb blast at a grand gathering of Sunni Tehrik to celebrate Eid Milad-un-Nabi killed its leaders. In 2006, 35 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in district Hangu in suicide bombings on the Ashura procession and subsequent violence. In 2004, 50 people were killed when a bomb exploded in an Ashura procession in Quetta.

A redeeming feature is that great majority of Muslims have kept themselves away from this conflict. However, religious scholars with divergent views and religions need to play their role to foster tolerance and educate people about the significance of interfaith and sectarian harmony for maintaining peace and tranquility while leaders of the two sects need to proceed with great caution to prevent the events from turning into a wider communal conflict.

Islam is indeed a religion of peace and harmony, and advocates love, moderation, enlightenment and respect for humanity. But some fanatic religious scholars’ extreme strands depict it as a religion of violence and bloodletting. Militants and terrorists who claim they are true followers of Islam, in fact, negate the Islamic teachings of peace, love, humanity and kindness.

It is because of those misguided elements that Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions of the world whose real spirit is being intentionally concealed and distorted. The fact of the matter is that Islam is against bigotry and dogmatism; it advocates religious liberalism with no parallel in human history; it preaches love for humanity and respects the rights of all human beings.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was quick in taking measures to bring the miscreants to justice. He requested the Lahore High Court chief justice to name a senior judge of the court to hold a judicial inquiry into the incident so that responsibility could be fixed and the culprits awarded deterrent punishment.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court chief justice formed a judicial commission to probe the Rawalpindi mayhem and Justice Mamoon-ur-Rashid Sheikh would head the commission. Shahbaz Sharif also took exception to the failure of the Rawalpindi administration while many heads have rolled on this failure. The CM directed the police to further enhance security in their respective areas and also depute cops in plain clothes at public places. He said ban on provocative speeches and illegal use of loudspeakers would be implemented strictly. This would improve the situation and ward off possibility of similar events in future.