April 25, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4675

Pakistani NGO Maps Religious Extremism in Pakistan, Says Extremism Greater Menace than Terrorism

April 25, 2012
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 4675

In February 2012, a leading Pakistani research institute published a report stating that the problem of religious extremism in Pakistan poses a greater threat to the country than does terrorism and examining a series of extremist incidents from September 2010 to September 2011.[1]

The 54-page report, titled "Extremism Watch: Mapping Conflict Trends in Pakistan 2010-2011," was published by the Jinnah Institute, a non-governmental organization based in Islamabad.

Marking the release of the report, Jinnah Institute Executive Director Ejaz Haider said: "Extremism is a greater menace in terms of a state's ability to deal with it, rather than terrorism, and this fact enhances the importance of studying extremism in Pakistan."[2]

Below are excerpts from the chapter in the report titled "Conflict Trends: Presenting the Data," written by Jinna Institute deputy director Salman Zaidi.[3]

"The Largest Number of Incidents by Category Related to Interfaith Extremism, With 53 Cases Reported" September 2010–September 2011

"The largest number of incidents by category related to interfaith extremism, with 53 cases reported over the year [September 2010–September 2011]. Such incidents did not ordinarily translate into violent attacks – a total of seven lives were claimed and five persons were injured due to interfaith extremism.

"Similarly, in the 62 attacks against schools, three lives were lost and 61 [people] were injured. The alarmingly high number of casualties was reported in 44 sectarian [Sunni versus Shia] attacks, with 454 persons killed and 1,089 injured. The 25 recorded incidents of extremist violence specifically targeting the Shia community resulted in 214 killed and 665 injured.

"Seven [Sufi] shrine attacks killed 65 and injured 206, while 17 other incidents of extremism claimed 5 lives and injured 30 persons.

"December 2010 stood out in the monitoring period for the highest number of incidents, recorded at 30, 10 of which were cases of interfaith extremism. However, November 2010 recorded the highest numbers of casualties in 24 incidents, of which 4 sectarian attacks claimed 130 lives and injured 268. Sectarian attacks have been high throughout the monitoring period, with September – December 2010 and January 2011 recording very high casualties. This trend picked up again in April and August 2011…."

"The frequency of school attacks has been fairly consistent other than two peaks in the data, November-December 2010 and March-April 2011, indicating the greatest number of attacks. Month-wise data does not suggest a pattern for attacks against shrines or for incidents recorded under the other incidents category."

I. Interfaith Conflict

"Newspapers Reported 53 Cases of Interfaith Extremism…, Which Included Various Discriminatory Acts against Religious Minorities, Blasphemy Allegations against Muslims and Non-Muslims"

"Newspapers reported 53 cases of interfaith extremism over the monitoring period, which included various discriminatory acts against religious minorities, blasphemy allegations against Muslims and non-Muslims as well as violent attacks. Punjab recorded the highest number of incidents at 31, followed by 13 in Sindh, 8 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one case in Baluchistan. The majority of news reports collected pertained to blasphemy related cases. The Hindu community’s demands for the Hindu Marriage Act was reported several times in the press, but was not recorded in this compilation.

"A. Blasphemy-Related Cases

"A total of 18 news reports in the data involved accusations of blasphemy against one or more persons. Eight Muslim men and a teenage boy were accused of blasphemy and out of these, there were four cases in which Muslim men were killed. There was one reported case in which the police did not register a blasphemy case against a Muslim male. In addition, there were four separate cases of Muslim women being accused of blasphemy.

"The blasphemy-related cases pertaining to members of minority groups included two Christian women and a teenage girl. One of the accused women was Aasia Bibi, whose case received international attention. Two Christian men were threatened with violence due to blasphemy cases, while one was killed.

"Those killed in blasphemy related attacks include the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti [a Christian]. Five incidents related to rallies or groups agitating against Salmaan Taseer, protesting any amendments to the blasphemy laws or asking that Aasia Bibi be put to death. Several newspaper columns and editorials in leading English and Urdu newspapers reviewed for this project showed the divide in public views over the Aasia Bibi incident and echoed much of the sentiment on the street.

"In one incident, a leader of a religious political party stated that Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salmaan Taseer had committed no wrong. In another incident, members of Senate refused to pray for Salmaan Taseer.

"Two of the men and a teenaged boy accused of blasphemy were reported as having mental disabilities. Five incidents involved the families of the accused asking for justice or protection against mob violence.

"Several news stories revealed how blasphemy accusations were used for making criminal gains and settling personal vendettas. In one case a Christian woman sought to accuse her rival of blasphemy, but upon reaching the police station found that she herself was facing blasphemy charges."

"There were Protests When a Christian Lawmaker was Asked to Read Out the Annual Budget in the Punjab Parliament; Christian Relics and Graves were Desecrated in a Lahore Graveyard; A Pastor’s Life was Threatened Unless He Converted to Islam"

"B. Persecution of Christians

"Fifteen news stories in the data reported various kinds of discrimination and acts of violence against Christians. These included a ban on the Bible demanded by the leader of a religious party; there were protests when a Christian lawmaker was asked to read out the annual budget in the Punjab Parliament; Christian relics and graves were desecrated in a Lahore graveyard; a pastor’s life was threatened unless he converted to Islam; the Bible was desecrated and the police did not register a case for blasphemy when demanded by Christian protesters.

"Mixed marriages between Muslim and Christians led to at least two deaths.

"Two attacks against churches are recorded, whereas two attacks were averted. On 14 September 2010, two persons were injured in a bombing at the Northern Diocese of Pakistan Lutheran Church in Mardan.

"On 16 November 2010, a wall of the King of Kings Church in Saddar, Lahore was demolished by municipal authorities reportedly under pressure from local influential persons. On 22 March 2011, police were able to avert large mobs in Badami Bagh, Lahore from demolishing a church. Similarly, on 1 May 2011, police was successful in turning away a mob that had gathered to attack a church in Gujranwala."

"The Body of an Ahmadi [Muslim] was Exhumed Under Pressure from Local [Islamic] Religious Groups from a Muslim Graveyard… To Be Buried Elsewhere; The Body of a Hindu Girl was Also Exhumed from a Muslim Graveyard in Rawalpindi to Be Buried in the Adjacent Christian Graveyard"

"C. Persecution Against Other Religious Minorities

"There were reports of two incidents of targeted violence against Ahmadis [Ahmadi Muslims who are banned from describing themselves as Muslims] in which five persons were killed and two injured. A pamphlet calling for the killing of Ahmadis was distributed openly in Faisalabad.

"In two separate incidents, an Ahmadi place of worship was attacked in Mughalpura, Lahore, while the body of an Ahmadi was exhumed under pressure from local religious groups from a Muslim graveyard in Sargodha, to be buried elsewhere.

"The body of a Hindu girl was also exhumed from a Muslim graveyard in Rawalpindi to be buried in the adjacent Christian graveyard. There were two news reports of discrimination in aid relief distribution against the Hindu community during the 2010 floods in Sindh.

"In addition, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan threatened to kill all non-Muslim employees of Punjab government, if they were not removed from office. In Lahore, members of the Sikh community were prevented from offering prayers at the gurdwara by Dawat-e-Islami.

"D. Interfaith Violence

"In rare cases of violence between religious minorities, it was reported that a mob of Hindu men in Thar had attacked a family that had converted to Sikhism. In another incident, a Muslim convert from Christianity in Peshawar was tortured by members of the Christian community. He asked for protection for himself and his four family members.

"Three news reports carried stories of interfaith marriages in which the couples faced extreme discrimination from their communities. A woman who had converted to Islam for her marriage was killed by her Christian brother in Faisalabad…."

II. Sectarian Conflict

"Sectarian [Sunni versus Shia] Extremism Accounts for 92.6% of All Casualties Recorded over the Monitoring Period; The Highest Statistic in Sectarian Extremism Relates to Violent Attacks against Shias"

"Sectarian [Sunni versus Shia] extremism accounts for 92.6% of all casualties recorded over the monitoring period. The category takes on several forms in the data: violent attacks against Shias; Shia-Sunni clashes; intra-Sunni violence among Barelvi and Ahl-e-Hadith groups; violent attacks against Sunni mosques and congregations.

"For several incidents, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ – an affiliate of Al-Qaeda] have claimed responsibility, but many of the incidents recorded under this category cannot be classified as either Shia-Sunni clashes or anti-Sunni violence.

"A. Anti-Shia Attacks

"The highest statistic in sectarian extremism relates to violent attacks against Shias. Of the 44 incidents of sectarian violence reported over monitoring period, 25 involved target killings of Shias, bombings of Ashura or Chehlum processions [taken out by Shias], attacks against Shia pilgrims and mosques. In these target killings, 214 lives were lost and 665 persons were injured. Out of these 25 incidents, 12 took place in Quetta [the capital of Baluchistan] and rest in Karachi, Kurram and South Punjab.

"The highest number of target killings was recorded over the period September–December 2010 and January 2011. A major incident occurred in September 2010 where 30 persons were killed and 300 injured in a suicide attack on the Yaum-e-Ali procession [of Shia Muslims] in Lahore. In November 2010, 54 persons were killed and 150 injured in the Yaum-al-Quds rally in Quetta.

"A spike in sectarian attacks was seen in December 2010, which coincided with the Islamic month of Moharram. Six separate attacks were reported in different parts of the country, including attacks on Ashura processions [of Shia Muslims] in Hangu, Peshawar and Shikarpur that killed 30 and injured 69. These incidents included a bomb blast in Karachi University that injured five members of the Imamia Students Organization [a Shia group], in addition to a car bombing outside the Al-Zahra Hospital in Hangu that killed 10 and injured another 22.

"June and July 2011 stand out for an increase in the frequency of target killings, particularly in Baluchistan. Four persons were killed and nine injured in June in two target killings, while five such attacks in July took the lives of 35 and injured 15. All except one attack occurred in Quetta, which has a significant Hazara-Shia population. The incident on July 28 2011 involved Shia pilgrims being intercepted en route by unidentified gunmen.…"

"Swat University Vice Chancellor, Dr. Farooq Khan, Who was Working to Rehabilitate Children Trained as Suicide Bombers [was Among Sunni Scholars Killed]; Six Mosques were Attacked in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Five during the Friday Prayers"

"B. Shia-Sunni Clashes

"Newspapers reported 13 deaths and 35 injuries in three separate incidents that involved Sunni-Shia clashes. Two of the incidents involved the now defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba [Pakistan or SSP, which now functions as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – LeJ]. In one incident, as many as 17 inmates of the Kohat Jail were injured when fighting broke out after a sectarian argument.

"There were occasional opinion pieces related to the ongoing violence in Kurram Agency between rival Sunni and Shia groups. However, for the most part, the mainstream English print media carried comparatively little coverage of this conflict, particularly from a sectarian perspective. The two news stories in this compilation were both related to attacks against unarmed civilians in Kurram, the first incident involving a bus carrying Sunni passengers and the latter carrying Shia passengers.

"C. Anti-Sunni Attacks

"One Sunni scholar and three clerics lost their lives over the monitoring period. This included Swat University Vice Chancellor, Dr. Farooq Khan, who was working to rehabilitate children trained as suicide bombers and militants.

"Maulana Abdul Kabir Qadri, associated with the Qambrani mosque in Quetta, Mufti Maulana Irshadullah Abbasi, Imam of Daee Masjid in Karachi and Maulana Abdul Karim Mengal, Imam of Jamia Albadar in Quetta were killed in the sectarian attacks.

"Six mosques were attacked in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five during the Friday prayers, resulting in huge losses of life. The worst attack occurred on 5 November 2010, in which 72 were reported killed and 80 injured, when a bomb went off in the Wali Khan mosque in Darra Adam Khel.

"On the same day, another mosque in Sulemankhel near Peshawar was attacked, killing 4 and injuring 20. On March 4, 2011, a bomb exploded in a Nowshera mosque, killing 11 and injuring 44 persons. On August 19, 2011, 50 persons were killed and 80 sustained injuries when Jamia Masjid Madina in Jamrud, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agency, was attacked during Friday prayers.

"D. Intra-Sunni Clashes

"One person was killed and 10 injured in Karachi when Barelvi and Ahl-e-Hadith groups [of Sunni Islam] clashed over the control of a mosque. In another incident 18 were injured in a shootout in Khuzdar when rival Sunni groups fought over the issue of leading the prayers.

"In two other incidents, funerals of tribal lashkars were attacked by [Taliban] suicide bombers which killed 43 and wounded 52 in Adezai, while 31 were killed and 63 wounded in the Dir incident."

III. Attacks Against Sufi Shrines

"Attacks against Sufi Shrines Constitute a New Category of Violence against the Sufi Version of Islam; In Recent Years Such Attacks have Claimed Hundreds of Lives"

"Attacks against Sufi shrines constitute a new category of violence against the Sufi version of Islam. In recent years such attacks have claimed hundreds of lives.

"Over the monitoring period September 2010 – September 2011, five attacks against Sufi shrines were recorded which killed 65 and wounded over 200 devotees. As mentioned in the methodology, these figures have been collected from news reports carried on the same day or the day after the event, whereas the actual number of casualties increases over subsequent days after the incident. It was attempted in some cases to ascertain the actual number of casualties through hospital registers and police records a few days after the incident. However, these figures proved very difficult to confirm…"

"Attacks against Sufi shrines were recorded as follows:

"7 October 2010: At least nine persons were killed and more than 70 wounded in suicide bombings at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi. There were outbreaks of violence and protests following the event as parts of the city came to a standstill…."

"25 October 2010: At least seven persons were killed and 14 injured when a bomb planted in a motorcycle went off outside the gate of Baba Farid Ganj Shakkar’s shrine in Pakpattan. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. The Ganj Shakkar in Pakpattan is one of the most revered Sufi shrines in South Asia.

"14 December 2010: Three persons were killed in an attack by militants on the Ghazi Baba shrine in Budhber near Peshawar.

"3 February 2011: Two people were killed and at least 22 injured when a bomb went off at the Urs celebration at Haider Sain shrine in Lahore…."

"3 April 2011: Two suicide bombers blew themselves at the 13th century shrine of Ahmed Sultan Sakhi Sarwar in Dera Ghazi Khan, killing 44 and injuring more than 100. The shrine had been receiving threats for a long time…."

IV. Attacks Against Schools

"A Total of 62 Attacks against Schools were Recorded over the Monitoring Period September 2010 – September 2011"

"A total of 62 attacks against schools were recorded over the monitoring period September 2010 – September 2011. The majority caused damage to school infrastructure without a loss of life – three persons were killed in these attacks on institutions, with 61 being injured.

"In addition, two school vans were attacked, both in separate incidents in Peshawar, killing five school children, a van driver and wounding 21 individuals including six children and two teachers. In a target killing case in Khar, Zakia Bibi, the headmistress of the Government Girls Primary School Dak Bangla, was killed when masked men fired on her. Two of her female colleagues also sustained injuries.

"A pamphlet was circulated in Peshawar by the relatively unknown Jamatul Tawheed wal Jihad group, threatening teachers and students attending educational institutions. The pamphlet stated that such institutions promote 'infidelity.'

"Information compiled about the 62 incidents is presented in Table 3. Of the schools attacked, at least seven were private institutions while 37 were reported to be Government Primary Schools – 21 were for girls and 16 for boys. Two Government High Schools and a Girls’ Degree College were also attacked.

V. Other Incidents of Extremism

"Twenty CD Shops [Selling Music] were Blown up; [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] have been Threatening CD Shop Owners; Copies of the Quran were Burnt in Mosques; TTP Asked for Imposition of Sharia Law"

"Other incidents of extremism include a range of news stories that could not be categorized in any of the above.

"Twenty CD shops [selling music and movies] were blown up in six incidents, killing five persons and injuring 30. All of these incidents have taken place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province over the monitoring period. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used in all the bombings, which occurred in Peshawar, Badaber, Mardan, Kohat, Landi Kotal and Swabi.

"The TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] have been threatening CD shop owners in many of these areas to discontinue their business and at least two news stories reported how shop owners were compelled to change their line of work.

"In two separate incidents, copies of the Quran were burnt in mosques in Swabi and Akora Khattak. Both incidents sparked furious reactions among the residents of the localities. It could not be determined who carried out the act in Swabi, but in Akora Khattak, the accused was a young man who admitted burning the Quran in protest.

"Separate incidents were recorded about a private radio station being bombed in Charsadda; a statement against classical dance classes by a religious party leader in Karachi; a billboard in Peshawar with the image of a woman being defaced; a protest against cable television led by a local cleric in Jhwarian; and a protest in Lahore against the celebration of Valentine’s Day led by the Tahaffuz-e-Namoose-Risaalat [an organization defending the Prophet's code of life].

"Finally, in two separate incidents the TTP asked for imposition of Sharia law in the newly created district of Torgar in KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province] and flogged 65 men in Orakzai for violating the TTP ban on the use and sale of drugs…."

Share this Report: