SHIA-SUNNI SECTARIANISM: IRAN'S ROLE IN THE TRIBAL REGIONS OF PAKISTAN
Farook, Shazia Kamal
This thesis analyzes Shia-Sunni sectarianism in the northern tribal areas of Pakistan, and the role of Iran in exacerbating such violence in recent years. The northern tribal regions have been experiencing an unprecedented level of violence between Sunnis and Shias since the rise of the Tehreek-e-Taliban militant party in the area. Most research and analysis of sectarian violence has marked the rise as an exacerbation of theologically-driven hatred between Sunnis and Shias. Moreover, recent scholarship designates Pakistan as a self- deprecating "failed" state because of its mismanagement and bad governance with regard to the "war on terror." However, the literature ignores the role of external factors, such as Iranian's foreign policy towards Pakistan playing out in the tribal areas of Pakistan in the period since the Soviet-Afghan War.Some of the greatest threats to the Shia population in Pakistan arise from the Islamization policies of General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Policies in favor of Sunni Islam have since pervaded the nation and have created hostile zones all over the nation. The implementation and enforcement of religious edicts by a political leader like Zia is the product of influence by the Iranian Revolution of 1979. These two events have created a blueprint for the efforts to create a theocracy.As question of identity ignites passions and tragic violence, Pakistan needs to adopt a new narrative that can help counter the militant's obsession with the "other." There is a need to find a theory that can help promote relationships and peacebuilding. The avenues for that are madrassas, and they have been a remarkable feature of the militant agenda. Peacebuilding methods must seek to take back those centers of learning.Ultimately, Iran's activities indicate that its influence in the tribal areas of Pakistan has extended beyond religious solidarity to militant operations that are contributing to instability in Pakistan and the South and Central Asian region.
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