Pakistan is suffering from one of its worst outbreaks of sectarian and political violence in recent months as Shi’ite Muslims partake in Muharram, an annual period of mourning. At the same time, President and military strongman Musharraf has been charged with treason, which could spark more instability. Musharraf had been placed under house arrest earlier this month, but has since been released, and is now seeking permission to go to Dubai to visit his mother.
Pakistan government could become destabilized
Cities across the country remain under curfew as the government tries to get the situation under control. Pakistan’s current government has only been in power for a few months, so continued violence could destabilize the fragile political regime. With the Taliban active in Western Pakistan and tensions with India remaining high, a new wave of internal violence could cripple an already unstable country.
Most of the current violence stems from sectarian tensions between Shi’a and Shi’ite Muslims. Hundreds of years ago, Muslims were divided over the succession of the Caliphate, then the leader of the followers of the Prophet Mohammad. This divided Islam into two different groups, who then adopted and developed different interpretations of Islam. Shi’ites form minorities in most Islamic countries besides Iran and Iraq, while Sunni Islam is the most widespread interpretation.
In Pakistan, Shi’ites also form a minority and are now reportedly being targeted for attacks. A procession of Shi’ites in Rawalpindi was attacked last Friday and at least eight people were killed. Meanwhile, on Monday a fire broke out in the Shi’ite neighborhood of the northwestern town of Koha, killing at least one civilian and one police officer.
Attacks on Shi’ite Muslims
The attacks against Shi’ite Muslims have increased rapidly in recent years as the Taliban has grown in power and influence within the country. Hard-line Sunni groups, such as the Taliban, often target Shi’ites due to their adherence to Shi’ite beliefs. As the country continues to remain unstable, the Taliban and other groups have been targeting Shi’ite Muslims and inciting violence against their communities.
Meanwhile, the recent treason charge against Musharraf could stir up more unrest. Musharraf originally fled the country for the United Kingdom in 2008, after losing an election, he decided to return to the country in March of 2013. Musharraf was quickly arrested but remained out on bail. Since returning to the country, he has been charged and implicated in numerous crimes, including murders and now treason.
Now, the announcement that Musharraf will be charged with treason may destabilize fragile conditions. While Musharraf remains widely unpopular in Pakistan and has lost most of his influence over the military, he still has enough supporters to cause trouble. For now, the government appears to be intent on keeping Musharraf in Pakistan so that he may be charged.