ASTORE/GILGIT/ISLAMABAD: Leaders and scholars of the Shia (Ithna Ashri) and Sunni (Ahl-s-Sunnt wal Jamat) sects have agreed on an important code-of-conduct in Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s northern mountainous region.
The leaders of the two communities had gathered to discuss issues peace and harmony in the region, after some controversial social media posts created a law-and-order situation in the region.
Leaders of the two sects, after deliberations and discussions, penned down a 17-point agreement with the vision of creating sustainable peace and promoting peaceful co-existence in the region.
The two groups of leaders and scholars, aided by the district administration and political leadership, have agreed that Shias and Sunnis are legitimate sects of Islam and any statement to the contrary will not be encouraged of appreciated by either side. This agreement, which can also be seen as a code of conduct for preachers and clerics, puts a stop to the issue of Takfir, or calling follower of a Muslim sect an infidel.
The agreement also asks clerics to stop badmouthing individuals considered sacred by the other sect. Statements deemed to be ‘blasphemous’ have been a bone of contention between the communities, from which the clerics have agreed to abstain.
Under the code-of-conduct, clerics from both sides will abstain from protecting or abetting criminals and miscreants, terrorists, based on their communal affiliation.
The two sides have also decided to reject and condemn harm to followers of all sects and sub-sects, including Shias, Sunnis, Ismailis and Noor Bakhshis, and support their right of protection and dignity.
Loudspeakers in Astore will only be used for Azan, the Muslim call to prayers, while the volumes will be kept low, limited to the audience, during other religious ceremonies.
Clerics from both sides will abstain from backing and supporting government officials, based on their communal affiliations, only merit will be supported in appointments, transfers.
Other points in the agreement/code-of-conduct relate to maintenance of peace, following only approved routes for procession, abstaining from statements against Law Enforcement Agencies and other security forces, and meeting periodically to discuss issues related to peace, harmony, and other constructive social engagements.
The code-of-conduct was signed by ten influential individuals from each sect, as members of a peace committee, along with dozens of prayer leaders, notables and other dignitaries representing the two sects.
Details of the accord were shared during a press conference held in Astore, in the presence of the notables and leaders, and the Commissioner of Astore-Diamer Division.
During the press conference, it was also said that a similar agreement had been reached many years ago, but due to lack of coordination, it could not be implemented effectively. They vowed to coordinate more to ensure implementation of the code-of-conduct.