Amidst political crisis, a week of unfortunate events in Pakistan Thursday came with two fatal incidents of terror, one in Peshawar and another in Quetta. Apparently the two attacks have nothing in common. Places, nature of gatherings, motives, circumstances and choice of targets all seem very different from each other.
Peshawar attack was termed as part of the usual Taliban (a radical form of Sunni Deobandi) practice of bombing Sufi (Sunni Barelvi) shrines, as they consider gatherings and prayers at Sufi shrines as un-Islamic. The caretaker was quoted saying, “The shrine had received threats from a Bara-based militant outfit. They warned us that if women came to the shrine and other anti-religion activities continued, something would happen to the shrine, but we did not take it seriously.”
Quetta attack was in a deobandi mosque, where weekly gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat i.e. Shab-e-Jumma, was about to start after prayers. An attack on non-politically aligned Tablighi Jamaat members is a bit baffling. While they are often criticized for various reasons, soft-Islamisation, providing cover up for members of terrorists organistaions, recruiting ground for Islamists outfits, Tablighee Marakiz (centers) and congregations are surrounded by shops and stalls of Sunni Deobandi sectarian and Jihadi offshoots providing propaganda material, CDs, cassettes, flags, stickers and booklets.
In general, members of all Deobandi political, sectarian and Jihadi factions respect the Tablighi Jamaat. Several right-wing politicians like Nawaz Sharif, Pervez Elahi, Farooq Laghari and Arbab Ghulam Raheem have participated in their annual processions at Raiwand, Lahore. The Jamaat has significant influence among the armed forces and bureaucracy. It has most of its devout followers in traders, small entrepreneurs in urban areas of Pakistan, while rural areas are mostly under the influence of traditional Sunni Barelvi (SUfi) sect.
Criticism from other sects apart, Tablighee Jamaat has its share of dissenters and detesters among Deobandi sect too. Fierce Jihadi demagogue Maulana Masood Azhar in his famous speech “Babri Masjid ki Pukar” condemened the Tablighee jamat for demoralizing their Jihadi activists with sermons against “Jihad bis Saif” (Jihad by sword) and stressing on “Jihad bin Nafs” (jihad with one self). Referring to one of their recruits, trained for avenging India, demoralized and disheartened, he is now working in a factory to earn his living, saying this Masood Azhar breaks down in tears and cries loudly while the devotees shout slogans. A discussion thread on “Sunni Forum” offers reservations of Pro-jihadi spectators.
Swat designed fall into the hands of Militants of TNSM, JeM, HuM and HuJI, brought worst consequences for followers of Tablighee Jamaat. When they kept themselves estranged to what militants were practicing in the name of Jihad and imposition of Sharia laws.
The fear and angst among the people was to a level that one couldn’t speak against the militant’s practices. Those who dared to do this had to face implications by getting killed or forced to flee the area. Some members of Tablighee Jamaat have joined the detesters and faced the same.
Kher Rahman, a member of Tablighee Jamaat from a remote village of tehsil Kabal, Swat in a sitting had opposed what Fazlollah, Shah Doran and CO were doing in the name of Sharia. When Fazlollah’s fanatic followers came to know this, he was asked to appear before the local commander. Rehman knew what it meant, fearing consequences, he went in hiding. His son, a madressah graduate and nephew were killed and Son-in-laws were detained, to rescue his son-in-laws he handed over himself to militants. He was heard saying, “Am going to be slaughtered to rescue my in-laws”. Few days later, his mutilated body with bullet wounds on head and chest found in Ali Grama village. The same day Army announced a military offensive, 5 members of Tablighee Jamaat were kidnapped, bullet riddled body of one recovered from Sanghota the next day.
Fazlollah close associate Shah Doran visited Tablighee jamaat markaz in Takhta Band, Swat with half a dozen suicide bombers. Their regular Shab-e-jumma speeches were interrupted, Shah Doran rose to the Minbar (Pulpit) and calls on the members of Tablighee Jamaat saying, “Our Shura after long deliberations have decided to confer to you the title of “Our Tablighee Sisters” as you were unable to support us like men in our Jihad for Islamic Sharia.”
After that all the functions and activities of Jamat were forcibly stopped and their Markaz seized for militants’ own activities.
The new generation of militants is very intolerant to the very existence of a parallel version opposed to their own. It is evident from their attacks on mosques, shrines, madressahs and massacre of non-combatant locals, non-complying Deobandis, Christians, Ahmadis and Shias by their sectarian allies i.e. LeJ, SSP, ASWJ.
After Pakistan Army’s recent offers and willingness to reconcile with the militants, the militant offshoots from Punjab have halted their fierce attacks on military installations as well as offices of intelligence agencies. They suddenly transformed into defenders of Pakistan and its ideology. Though, they have been allowed to mow down their erstwhile enemies Shias.
From Gilgit Baltistan, Kohistan, Karachi, Kurram to Mastung and Quetta, they are killing Shias indiscriminately. To misinterpret this systematic genocide of Shias as routine Sunni-Shia violence, many narratives are floated through mainstream media as well as social media and blogs.
The intra-deobandi violence is being presented as attack by Shias on Sunnis.
How, terror attacks on Deobandi affiliates help anti-Shia LeJ is evident from their statement issued to the newspapers published by “Daily Intikhab” after the IT University bus attack in Quetta.