Education, Police Reform, and Personal Responsibility Necessary to Stop Sectarian Violence in Pakistan

Hassan Abbas, professor of international security studies at National Defense University; and Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom visited the South Asia Center on March 13, 2013 to discuss ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan.

At the discussion titled “Ending Ethnic and Sectarian Violence in Pakistan,” the speakers addressed the dire domestic security situation facing Pakistan in light of recent growing targeted killings and ethnic violence, and offered their advice to the country’s leaders and the international community. Expressing concern over an inadequate response by the government, Mr. Thames stated the need for more visible consequences for perpetrators and suggested international engagement with the provinces, beyond the federal level in Pakistan. Dr. Abbas, citing an unprecedented 34 attacks on Sufi shrines, underscored the widespread nature of this problem affecting everyday Pakistanis. He stated the two paths to change are education and police reform, and cautioned the US of favoring sides in sectarian conflict. In his opening remarks, Moderator and Director of the South Asia Center Shuja Nawaz challenged the common critique of the Pakistan government by stating, “if Pakistani society fails to protect its own, it is the failure of everyone, the State, the civil government , the military establishment, the civil society, and each and every Pakistani. Passing the buck will not solve this cancerous problem. Nor will simply citing the litany of loses caused by the mayhem.”