“Sectarian” means concerning or about a sect. A sect is a party or group within a religious body. We can see for ourselves how the people, mainly Muslims, in the country are divided into so many sects, the broadest being those of the Sunnis and Shias.
It has rightly been said that Pakistan is a state of multi-culture, multi-ethnic and multi-sect/subsect. Starting from the two main sects of the Sunnis and Shias, now we have several sub-sects like Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba, Sipah-e-Muhammadi, Deobandi, and Barelvi. These sects are in silent or open conflict most of the time.
Historically, until the 1970s, the Sunnis and Shias, despite their differences, violently opposed the Qadianis. The Qadianis.sect was very small or negligible when it was declared non-Muslim in 1974 by an act of Parliament. Thereafter, the differences between the Sunnis and Shias began surfacing prominently. The successful Iranian revolution encouraged the Shiite groups to struggle against the Sunni groups. The Sipah-e-Sahaba (of the Sunnis) and the Sipah-i-Muhammadi (of the Shias) are the primé sectarian parties, engaged in fighting and terrorizing each other.
The causes of sectarian conflicts and fighting are political, economic and social. Firstly, the religion-political parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam and the recent Islami “tehriks” (movements) and organizations could not get enough votes in the successive general elections. Failure at the ballot box created feelings of dissatisfaction among their workers. This dissatisfaction resulted in sectarian disputes with other more successful political groups.
Secondly, perhaps the greatest cause of the sectarian conflicts is the general illiteracy and backwardness of our people. The ignorant masses are misled by the sectarian parties into channels of hatred, conflicts and fighting through false propaganda. The general illiteracy, especially in the rural (village) areas, is because of the feudal (jagirdari) system.
Thirdly, we have failed to revolutionize agriculture and industrialize the country on modern lines. We have not developed the country well scientifically and technologically. Our power production has not very much gone up. All this has resulted in an unusual rise in prices and social dissatisfaction.
Fourthly, the operation of foreign agents and spies inside the country became much easier in an atmosphere of corruption, economic and social disorder and political uncertainties. These powers managed to arrange bomb explosions, firing on civilians and commission of other terrorist acts. This was done to weaken Pakistan and to attain their own objectives (aims).
Fifthly, the Afghanistan situation, directly and indirectly, contributed to the ugly sectarian situation. The volunteers returning from the Afghan freedom war with weapons were free to join the sectarian party of their choice. The Kashmir situation made. India șend terrorists to Pakistan to pose as supporters of the sectarian parties and to operate on their behalf.
The solution to the sectarian situation in Pakistan lies in the removal of the main causes for it. For this purpose, education of the masses on the right lines is the first essential. Then the break-up of the feudal system forever is the second main requirement. The economic policies of the government will have to be streamlined (improved on modern lines) to meet all the current and future demands of the people.