Yemen crisis deepening sectarian divides

ISLAMABAD - Less than four months back when civil and military leadership huddled together to formulate the National Action Plan (NAP) for combating terrorism, some of the key components of the anti-terror plan agreed upon now seems to be meeting failure in the wake of Yemen crisis.
The 20-point anti-terrorism plan included prosecution of elements spreading sectarian violence and subsequently succeeded to a large extent in stopping spreading of sectarian hatred on social media.
But as the government plans to join Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi Shias in Yemen, sectarian groups in the country have come into open with one favouring the government's resolve to protect land of the two Holy Mosques and the other warning bitter consequences in case Pakistan opted to send its troops to the foreign land.
According to security analysts and experts, the national resolve established against terrorism and extremism after the brutal attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16 last year, seems to be fading fast due to developments in Yemen and Pakistan's 'controversial' overtures to step into the Middle East turmoil.
One of the major components of NAP seeks stern action against religious extremism and sectarianism in the country, forbidding hate speech against any faith in a bid to purge the country of religious violence in all its forms and manifestations.
But things seem to be going in opposite direction since the violence erupted in Middle Eastern country Yemen and Pakistan flexing muscles to embark on its adventure in the war-torn country. As the government ponders over joining Saudi-led attacks on Houti rebels in Yemen, religious groups in the country have split further along sectarian lines to what experts said could balloon into a bigger turmoil at home.
Chief of Sunni sectarian outfit Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Ahmed Ludhyanvi will address a news conference in Islamabad today (Tuesday) wherein, he said, he would respond to threats of Shia Houthis in Yemen of unleashing suicide attacks in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He said rebel Houthis have threatened Pakistanis in Yemen with dire consequences and vowed that he would expose a (Shia extremist) group during his talk with press.
On the other hand, Shia political party Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) came up with a statement, saying a sectarian group (understandably ASWJ) in Pakistan was instigating emotions of people against Iran in wake of the crisis in Yemen. The statement issued here said that MWM leaders would address a press conference today (Tuesday) regarding the turmoil in Yemen and to create awareness among people about what exactly was happening in the Arab world.
This is for the first time that sectarian groups in the country have mobilised to this extent after the coming into action of the National Action Plan that called for complete curb on hate speech and sectarian politics.
"This kind of engagement by sectarian groups in country could prove lethal for internal security. Those on the helm of affairs should do soul searching before becoming part of other's wars," Dr Ijaz Ahmed, head of Department of International Relations (IR) at Peshawar University told The Nation Monday.
He said the government would fail its own action plan against terror by allowing sectarian elements to indulge in faith-based arguments in case the government steps into war in Yemen. "Pakistan's decision to be part of the war in Arab world will hit back at home. Going through the recent history of our participation in other's wars, our elites should be convinced that taking part in Yemen conflict would be disaster for the country," he asserted.
While the action plan against terrorism in wake of Peshawar tragedy included zero tolerance for spreading propaganda and hate speech on social media and the Internet, social media websites like Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with exchange of heated arguments on sectarian grounds.

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