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Pak sectarian wound festers

Islamabad, Aug. 18: A philanthropic saviour of the poor in Karachi became the latest victim of sectarian clashes in Pakistan.

Dr Ibne Hasan, who treated the poor and needy in the Malir district of Karachi free of charge, was gunned down by unknown assailants outside his clinic on Saturday, August 16.

The murder resulted in riots during Hasan’s funeral and the police had to use force to restore order in the city.

But the mob fury was another stark reminder of the running battles that have been taking place in Pakistan between radical Sunni and Shia groups.

The Sunnis comprise 80 per cent of Pakistan’s 143 million population and the Shias 18 per cent.

Most Sunnis are moderate but the country has become a battleground for radical groups representing these two sects. The Sunni militants say they represent the Saudi Wahabis while the Shia radicals stand for the Iranian version of Islam.

Hasan was yet another victim of this bloody feud that has increasingly targeted professionals and technocrats.

The Herald magazine, quoting interior ministry officials, said during the last 10 years, more than 90 doctors, 34 lawyers and various scholars, mostly Shias, have been killed by “mercenaries”.

Among the targets in the past five years have been a former governor of the southern Sindh province, a chief executive of a state-run petroleum corporation and several noted scholars.

Some 137 people have also lost lives in 55 sectarian-related incidents in Karachi alone.

The worst sectarian massacres in recent months was the July 4 suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province. More than 50 worshippers were killed in the attack.

It was probably against this backdrop that Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali urged his countrymen on the eve of Pakistan 56th Independence Day to fight the real enemy.

“Threat to national security stems both from within and from outside, with the former being more dangerous as it hits at the roots of society, “ Jamali told participants of a national security workshop at the National Defence College in Islamabad.

Although President Pervez Musharraf banned five terrorist outfits in January 2002, the threat of sectarian violence continues to haunt the authorities.

“The ban has done little to stem the tide of violence and killings of professionals.

“The organisations still operate and execute plans masterminded by the chiefs who remain underground,” Azmat Abbas, a Karachi-based analyst, said.

A Sunni cleric in Karachi, who was arrested last year for his involvement in 12 sectarian murders, showed no signs of repentance when asked if it was not against his religion if one killed a human being.

“It is a jihad. I would have gone out and killed another 12 or more Shias if I had the opportunity,” the cleric said.

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