There is a time for peace and there is a time for war. In the modern world, the times of peace are simply the period of intermission in which the nations gear up and pump the munition back into their war machines while passing white-toothed smiles to their adversaries. This theory has survived the test of time. The inter-war period between the two World Wars simply of 20 years (1918-1938) which saw new technological breakthroughs which shifted the paradigm in waging war; more or less nations re-gearing for another conflict. 1950 Korean War has the same background story. 60 years later, Kim Jong-un of North Korea might have tested a nuclear warhead recently and ramping up pressure on its Southern counterpart. History is merely repeating itself.
The cat and mouse game of reloading weapons before going for Round-2 seems to have reared its ugly head once again, this time in the proclaimed ‘Muslim Ummah’, with two major powerhouses of the Middle East; Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Supporting your favourite contenders while keeping your larger national interests at hand isn’t necessarily a bad thing. U.S did it back in the ’80s while arming rebels against USSR. Pakistani government is alleged to have supported Taliban regime in Afghanistan to counter Indian-influenced Northern Alliance and so on. The list is non-exhaustive. Yet the one criteria the citizens of any country and more specifically Pakistan should NOT keep in mind while supporting a country is the sect of the regime installed.
Enter the so called ‘Shia-Sunni’ conflict and the emotional populace of Pakistan.
Why Iran-Saudi tussle may have nothing to do with sectarianism?
While the ardent fan-boys of both sects inside Pakistan may be religiously (pun intended) debating on who to side with, the fact remains that the fight between the regimes in Riyadh and Tehran is based on ‘power not piety’. As a recent documentary by Al-Jazeera pointed out, the clashes between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran were escalated only after the rise of petro-power in the former and Islamic revolution in the latter in late 1970s. Things have gotten only worse with time as religious fervor has begun taking over common sense.
Both nations have been fighting proxy wars to better their influence in the Middle East in ways they deem best. Saudi Arabia has doled out funds to terrorist groups and terrorists at large while Iran has been equipping, training and sending militias to fight on foreign soils. ‘To each his own’ is the phrase that comes to mind.
Is sectarian violence and war really a thing?
It is easy to sweep all the luggage under the carpet under the broad term of ‘sectarian wars’ by taking eyes off the mess created incessantly by foreign military interventions i.e Iraq and Afghan wars.
If sectarianism was high on the agenda, would Iran still have backed Sunni Hamaas as well as Shia Hezbollah in the fight against Zionist Israel? Iran has been known to provide both men and material support to the Palestinian cause regardless of the sect operating in the theatre of war for the better part of 2 decades.
Iran also happens to back Allawite regime in Syria, where the civil war broke out as a part of Arab-Spring and not as a sectarian conflict. It is pertinent to mention here that Allawites have been recognized as Shias only in the last half of the century or so, hence denying the alliance to be labelled on the lines of theological ties.
In Yemen, the conflict is portrayed as Sunni government forces pitted against Shia Houthi rebels while the Zaidis of Yemen may have more common with the Sunni residents of the country than any other sect from other parts of the world.
Pakistan: A country with bigger fish to fry
Pakistan is already facing a barrage of problems ranging from insurgency in its North-Western border to outpour of hatred between different religious groups over petty issues. The last thing it needs are foreign powers dictating and inciting religious hatred among others things to its citizens.
It has also paid a heavy price for supporting countries in their proxy wars, the results of which are apparent in form of suicide bombers, Klashinkov culture and rising intolerance for the past 3 decades. The aftermath of Afghan war can be described as anything but pretty to the eye. The current government, however, has put its feet down when it refused to send its Army as paid mercenaries to Yemen soil on the whims of the rulers in Riyadh.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif may have inter-faith harmony among the list of things on the agenda when they reach Tehran to call on Iranian counterparts after they set down to talk peace this week. Nothing like the two Sharifs being on the same page regarding foreign policy, is there?
The supposed ‘Shia-Sunni hatred’ narrative might as well be a byproduct of lazy, cliched and misguided journalism more than anything else.
My Verdict: Sectarian wars? Not our cup of tea, bro.