Militant group accuses Shi'ites, Iran of murder
By Zeeshan Haider
ISLAMABAD, Oct. 9 The successor to a radical Pakistani Sunni Muslim militant leader slain by gunmen this week blamed rival Shi'ite leaders and Iran for his death and vowed to campaign against the country's minority Shi'ite community.
Maulana Azam Tariq, head of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), was killed in a hail of bullets on Monday on the outskirts of Islamabad, stoking fears that a new wave of sectarian violence could erupt.
The murder followed a recent wave of sectarian killings in the country, including a shooting spree by suspected Sunni extremists on a Shi'ite mosque in the city of Quetta in July in which more than 50 people died.
''We have evidence that these Shi'ite leaders and an Iranian official have conspired to kill Azam Tariq,'' said Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi on Wednesday.
''From the day our organisation was founded, we have been demanding that Shi'ites should be declared non-Muslims,'' Ludhianvi, who was elected Tariq's successor on Tuesday, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He said Tariq's supporters had filed a case against three senior Shi'ite Muslim leaders and an Iranian official in Pakistan, giving no further details.
Only around 15 percent of Pakistan's 149 million people are Shi'ite, and religious parties and militant groups in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim state are suspicious of Shi'ite Iran's involvement in sectarian violence.
SSP, which exists under the new name of Millat-e-Islamia despite being outlawed by President Pervez Musharraf in his crackdown on extremism, is accused of sectarian killings and had close links with the ousted Taliban militia in Afghanistan.
Ludhianvi denied his followers were involved in sectarian strife in Pakistan.
''We never believed in terrorism before, nor will we do in future,'' he said.
He added that SSP was ready to negotiate with rival Shi'ites, despite declaring them non-Muslims.
Millat-e-Islamia has called for countrywide protests on Friday over Tariq's assassination, which triggered two days of rioting and angry demonstrations in several Pakistani cities.
Tens of thousands of supporters attended Tariq's burial in his stronghold of Jhang, a city some 300 km (190 miles) south of Islamabad.
Thousands of people have been killed in sectarian violence in Pakistan. The Quetta mosque raid was followed last week by an attack on a bus in the southern port city of Karachi in which six Shi'ites were killed.
Differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites date back to early days of Islam when controversy erupted over the succession of the Prophet Mohammad.
Sunnis believe Mohammad's companion and father-in-law Abu Bakr was the legitimate successor while Shi'ites follow the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali.
Most of Pakistan's Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims live at peace with each other and the violence is mainly restricted to militants from both sides. http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters10-09-053954.asp?reg=ASIA
The sectarian violence in Pakistan between Shi'ite and Sunnis has killed many people in Pakistan since the division of India and Pakistan.
It did not start in 1979, although it increased in strength in the 80s. Ufortunately, the last years the Sunni extremist has mainly targeted Shia doctors in Pakistan causing more problems for the Shi'ite minority.
This situation in Pakistan, goes largely unreported in mainstream media.
It seems President Musharraf is barely holding things together, and his life is under constant threat.
I hope he is getting the help he needs.
Without him, the U.S. will have serious problems
with Pakistan. (IMO)