File image of Mani Shankar Aiyar. (Image: Reuters)
New Delhi: The suicide attack at the famed Sufi shrine at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh is a defining moment and will give a fillip to Sindhi nationalism as the shrine is intrinsically linked to Sindhi identity, India’s first consul-general to Karachi Mani Shankar Aiyar told News18.
“Pakistan has been struggling ever since its birth on how to make religion bond with nationhood. As a result of this, while it is Islam that unites Pakistan, it has always been true that it is Islamisation that divides Pakistan because any process of Islamisation means choosing between different versions of Islam,” Shankar, who served as consul-general in Karachi from 1978 to 1982, said.
Over 100 people died when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the shrine in Sehwan in the outskirts of Hyderabad city in Sindh on Thursday during the dhaamal function. ISIS has taken credit for the attack that prompted Pakistan’s new Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to swear “revenge”.
The attack will be a defining moment in the evolution of Sindhi politics and Sindhi nationalism for several years to come, Aiyar said. “It has only shot up the significance of Sindhi identity and nationalism as Sehwan is not only the single most important religious shrine, but is also the symbol of Sindhi identity,” he said.
The Congress leader and former Union minister also said the attack will drive any “nascent Sindhi sympathy” for the ISIS out of the picture. “At the same time, I doubt that there was any significant Sindhi sympathy for ISIS and maybe that is why this is the kind of ISIS revenge on the Sindhi Muslim for not being particularly well-disposed towards them,” he said.
He felt it will certainly lead to a churning in the political life of Sindh. “The Sindhi will begin to say that once again the central government of Pakistan, which many perceive as a Punjabi government, has not provided the required protection and this is negligence on the part of the central government rather than viciousness on the part of the ISIS that has actually caused this terrible blast and damaged the shrine,” he said.
After the attack, Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the terrorist attack on the shrine in Sehwan was the worst form of terrorism aimed at ripping apart the Sufi fabric of unity and peace. “This was an attack on our culture, history and civilisation. Every single individual of this land will fight against the terrorists and uproot this menace.” The Bhuttos hail from Larkana, not far from Sehwan.
Aiyar said the blast was only a sign of things to come. “This is going to worsen as ISIS picks itself against the people who call themselves Muslims but who ISIS really thinks to betray the cause of Islam,” he said.