A Sunni shield for Shias

The Sunni community of Gilgit-Baltistan set an example this Muharram by leading mourning processions in the heart of the province, literally providing a human shield to the Shias who have been at the receiving end across the country all year.

For a nation apprehensive of terror attacks, — particularly after Wednesday’s attacks on Imambargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi — the effort made by the Sunnis to spread harmony came as a silver lining amid dark clouds of sectarianism. The Army had to be called in in the picturesque province in April as14 died and 50 were injured in sectarian violence which lasted days and spilled on to the Karakoram Highway.

A Shia majority area, communal tensions have been common since the 1970s, particularly after the opening of the Karakoram Highway in the mid-1980s facilitated people from other parts to settle in the otherwise remote region. Matters came to a head during the Zia regime which injected sectarian and jihadi elements into the area.

The feel-good Gilgit-Baltistan story apart, terrorists struck at the Shia community in the Dera Ismail Khan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing seven and injuring 20 people in a bomb blast. The bomb was planted in a garbage dump along the route of a Muharram procession. In Sargodha, Punjab, 30 people were injured in a firing on a Shia procession.

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