• Article // Dec 11, 2014
    Arif Rafiq
    In both general and more informed discussions in Pakistan and beyond, sectarian violence in Pakistan between Sunni and Shi‘i groups is almost without exception referred to simply as Sunni-Shi‘i violence. But such a characterization is a misnomer. Two of Pakistan’s three major Sunni subsects, the Ahl-e-Hadis, and to a lesser extent, the Barelvis, may have antipathy toward the Shi‘a, but rarely express such sentiments through violent activity. Instead, since the 1980s, it is segments of the Sunni Deobandi community and Ithna Ashari Shi‘a (or Twelvers) that have been at war with one another and have developed an infrastructure and discourse—aided by governmental forces in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—that is designed to combat the other side. Smaller Shi‘i sects, such as the Dawoodi Bohras and Imami Ismailis, have been victims of Sunni Deobandi violence, but have no significant involvement in militant activity.