Not only a sectarian divide

By K.N. Pandita

The roots of Shia-Sunni jihad bedevilling Pakistan’s Punjabi dominated regions in general and more recently the Kurram Agency of FATA in particular, have to be traced in the deep – seated conflict and contradiction existing in traditional ideologues of the Shia and the Sunni sects of Islam ever since the tragic happenings in Kerbala in 7th century A.D. After the Arab conquest, Iran became predominantly Shia for several reasons. Her centuries old pre-Islamic monarchical mindset harking back to the days of great Achaemenian and Sassanian Empires, her dislike for Arab domination resulting in several anti-Arab revolts and uprisings, her rich and ennobling cultural heritage and national pride, her agriculture-oriented economy and entrenched feudalism, her organized and structured society as against a tribal and a nomadic way of life are some of the factors, which prompted Iranians to carve out their Shia (literally meaning weaning away from mainstream) identity and reinforce it through exceptionally studious, accurate and reasoned scholarship.

The Iranians wrested the leadership of the Islamic world when they ousted the first regular Sunni Ummayid caliphate and replaced it by the Abbasid Caliphate in the early 8th century A.D. Legendry Abbasid Caliphs at Baghdad, namely Haroon, Mamoon, Mansur, Mehdi and Mustansir all carried Iranian blood in their veins Their Prime Ministers from the House of Barmak (corruption of Sanskrit Pramukh) or the anglicised Barmecide were the Buddhist high priests of the famous Buddhist ministry, Navbahar (Nava Vihara) at Balkh – Bamiyan (present day Afghanistan). After conversion to Islam, they were carried by their captors to Baghdad and handed over to the Abbasids. The Barmecide (Baramakeh of Iranian historians) rendered the most valuable service to Islamic civilization by organising the House of Knowledge (baitaul hikma), actually a Translation Bureau, where the most celebrated works of great Greek philosophers were translated into Arabic.

Iran has always questioned the right of Saudi Arabia to act as the leader of the Muslim world. Protest is the first ingredient of Shia philosophy because they began with a protest against what they call illegal and unjust denial of caliphate to Ali and his progeny, the Imams. With the passage of time, geopolitical strategies sucked the two sects into its vortex. The first affront to Shia ideology came from the Sunni orthodoxy championed by Abdul Wahhab of Saudi Arabia (19th century) who, apart from radicalising the Sunni sect, lent his full support to Shah Saud in capturing power in Saudi Arabia and declaring himself the founder- king of his ruling dynasty. On the Iranian side, the first legendry figure to challenge Wahhabism and also monarchical system was Ayatollah Khumeini. After the successful Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, and the formally declared agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Saudi’s met with a compulsion of providing their guns with adequate ammunition to counter the spread of Khumeini’s doctrine. Thus the secret agents of leading Sunni dominated countries with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the forefront, and morally and materially supported by the Americans, met and created the ar-Rabitu’l-Islami in Saudi Arabia as the nodal agency to conceive, plan, provide and execute what is known today International Theo-Fascism.

The US -launched pro-mujahideen and anti-Soviet agenda in Afghanistan was a part of Wahhabi sponsored International Theo-Fascism. It is true that the Wahhabis snatched away the Khumeinite concept of “Export of Islamic Revolution” from Iran’s hands and recast in their own mould. Iran was forced to withdraw into its shell for some time.

With Iranian economy partially stabilising under the clerical rule, and zero tolerance against the regime, Iran has come to a stage where she would like to re-assert herself if not as the leader of the Islamic world at least as a voice in that group, which cannot be ignored. The Americans have provided her the wherewithal to push her mission. Thus we find that Iran is actively involved in Lebanon, in Iraq, in some Gulf Emirates and also in Shia dominated parts of Afghanistan. Iran’s ambitions are further strengthened by her onward moving nuclear agenda particularly in the light of UN sanctions becoming ineffective and saner elements in the western world warning against the use of muscle power in Iran.

Interestingly, Iran and Pakistan have been trying to downplay the atrocities perpetrated on Shia minority in Pakistan. Although the Pakistani government may not be evincing interest in flaring sectarian violence but at the same time it is unable to tighten its control on Sunni Wahhabi radical groups in that country who have become a real threat to her integrity and solidarity. In Kurram, the Sunni Wahhabi Theo-Fascists gathered from Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Indonesia, and Bangladesh etc challenged the local Shia population’s dominance. Thus in a sense it is not only a Shia-Sunni conflict but also a strife of the indigenous Kurramis against foreign non-ethnic monopolists enjoying the largesse of Pakistan’s radical groups, intelligence agencies and the military-bureaucratic combine.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre aof Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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