Emerging sectarian trends in Punjab
The National Action Plan (NAP) focuses on four major areas, namely: capacity building of institutions, counter terrorism actions, regulation & registration and strengthening cooperation for effective communication. All twenty points of NAP can be bracketed under these four areas. For the purpose of this article, we shall restrict our analysis to Punjab and try to determine emerging sectarian trends as a result of NAP gap analysis.
The data indicates that 1,777 incidents of amplifier violations were observed on Fridays in 2015 resulting into 1,125 legal actions. A breakdown of this data shows that maximum violations were made by the speakers or prayer leaders or religious scholars of Barelvi sect (1240) followed by Deobandis (344), Ahl-e-Hadith (176) and Ahl-e-Tashi (17) respectively. Among the districts which topped the amplifier violation list include Gujranwala (157), Faisalabad (149), Sialkot (135), Lahore (114), Rahim Yar Khan (113), Rawalpindi (106) and Multan (92) respectively. Whereas in 2016, three hundred and fifty three (353) violations have been observed translating into 189 First Information Reports (FIRs). On sectarian basis, the leading violators are Barelvis (274) followed by Deobandis (31), Ahl-e-Hadith (29 and Ahl-e-Tashi (4) respectively. The districts where most of these violations have been noticed include Hafizabad (62), Faisalabad (54), Gujranwala (41), Rahim Yar Khan (29), Chiniot (17) & T.T Singh (16) respectively. This clearly shows that a considerable decrease in amplifier violation has been registered in 2016 when compared with preceding year. Interestingly the violation percentage by Barelvis has increased up to 78% than that of 69% in 2015.
We are not certain about the sudden decrease in amplifier violations on Fridays in 2016 when compared with last year. However, the rate of FIR registration has clearly decreased in 2016. The percentage of legal actions was 64% in 2015 as compared to 53% in the current year. Thus the police force has registered less percentage of cases in 2016 as compared to last year.
Among the hate material seized in 2015, two hundred and forty nine (249) incidents were reported whereupon 226 legal actions were taken. Most of these incidents were reported in Lahore (48) followed by Rahim Yar Khan (37), Sheikhupura (18), Bahawalpur (17), Faisalabad (15) and Mandi Baha Uddin (11) respectively. Whereas in 2016, forty-one such incidents were reported leading to thirty police actions. Though number of raids for hate material confiscation has reduced nonetheless percentage of legal actions has also reduced to 73% in 2016 from 91% in 2015. Again we are not aware about the sharp decrease in instances of raids on hate material.
There were eighty incidents of prayer leaders fanning sectarianism reported in 2015, leading to seventy legal actions. Most of these incidents were reported in Sheikhupura (21) followed by Rahim Yar Khan (12), Nankana (08), Multan (06) and Muzzaffargarh (05) respectively. In 2016, a total number of twenty-one such incidents were occurred whereupon eleven cases were registered. Most of these incidents were reported from Sheikhupura (05), Gujranwala (04), Layyah (04) and Rawalpindi (02) respectively. Again a clear decrease in number of such incidents along with a sharp dip in percentage of case registration in 2016 has been noticed.
Since NAP emphasises on choking finances to terrorists and terror organisations, the police force has also been monitoring chanda collection in the province. In 2015, two hundred incidents of chanda collection were observed whereupon one hundred and sixty-two cases were registered in Punjab. These incidents were reported mainly from Faisalabad (74), Chiniot (20), Bahawalpur (15), Bahawalnagar (14), Bhakkar (11), Lahore (11), Mianwali (09), Jhang (08) and Sargodah (05) respectively. In 2016, one hundred and eleven such incidents were reported from Punjab with sixty-two cases. Again majority of these incidents were reported from Faisalabad (45), Vehari (15), Bahawalnagar (12), Khanewal (11) and Layyah respectively. Once again the percentage of legal action has decreased considerably in 2016 as compared to last year.
Assuming that the police reporting mechanism is uniform along with evenhanded action against such violations, we can deduce interesting results on the basis of above data. First, a clear decrease in number of such incidents has been seen. Second, percentage of legal actions has also decrease showing a sharp dip in police action on these incidents. Since we don’t know about the convictions therefore we are not in a position to comment on effectiveness of legal action. Third, Barelvis have emerged as principal violators in every category thus indicating the trend of taking over the religious space conceded by the Deobandis. The conventional tug of war in the sectarian perspective has mainly been fought between the Sunni and the Shia, wherein, the former is represented by the Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith, the new developments can swing the balance a little bit in favour of the latter. This can be observed on the basis of recent developments of the last couple of years. Among the major agitations, sit-ins, demonstrations, road blockades and public meetings, Barelvis have become more assertive and confrontational than other religious sects. Many issues and matters have found common grounds in debates and discussions of Barelvis and Ahl-e-Tashi. Their attitudes towards local authorities have become critical and their demeanor towards government machinery and law enforcement agencies has been found scathing. For example, the Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah movement has criticised every institution in the country and has tried to create more space on religious turf. Moreover, Sunni Tehrik and Minhaj-ul-Quran have also gained considerable momentum recently.
Moreover, if the current Barelvi religious awakening is not stopped with effective measures we might witness highly radicalised tendencies among Barelvi adherents as we have been observing among Deobandi followers. Ideally speaking the space provided by the latter should have been dominated by an effective administrative regime thus dictating things to the religious zealots rather than being threatened by them. Fourth, the epicentre of religious radicalism remains southern and central regions. The high population density of these areas makes them prime target of religious organisations for human resource recruitment. The prayer leaders promote sectarian divisions, which in turn become a moot point for sectarian funding and hence give rise to chanda collection. Fifth, the effectiveness of the action under NAP can only be gauged through impressive conviction rates.
Lastly, the points related to madrassah reforms and restructuring of Criminal Justice System need to be taken up seriously for meaningful action.