Posts Tagged ‘Hazara Genocide’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in the Express Tribune on February 18, 2015. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from the Express Tribune without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Ibtihaj and Rida

It’s been more than a year since the pictures of a pretty little girl with her cute younger brother went viral on the social media. In one of the pictures, they could be seen sitting on each side of a snowman with their faces beaming with happiness and innocence; in another they could be seen in their school uniform with their tongues sticking out in a playful gesture. The tale behind these pictures was shockingly heartrending. These pictures were of 11-year-old Muhammad Ibtihaj and his 12-year-old sister Rida Fatima. Ibtihaj and his family members were returning home from the Iranian city of Taftan after a pilgrimage when a powerful explosion ripped through their bus – carrying 51 pilgrims – when it reached the Dringarh area of the Mastung district. Ibtihaj was injured in the attack but this was not the worst. In the blink of an eye, his entire world had come crashing down. His sister Umm-e-Farwa, 19, his mother and grandmother had been killed in the attack along with 25 other pilgrims by the murderous sectarian group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), also known as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ). His beloved sister and best friend Rida was lying lifeless in a pool of blood. After a 48-hour-long sit-in, in the wake of government assurances that the elements behind the attack would be brought to book, the victims were laid to rest in the Bahisht-e-Zehra graveyard that is running out of space faster than the other cemeteries in Quetta.

 

Ibtihaj & Rida

Ibtihaj and Rida

 

Ibtihaj is now 12. He has recovered from his injuries but not from the loss of his loved ones. At this tender age, he has been led to worry about issues which children of his age normally don’t have to. He is concerned about his security. He is worried about his future in a city, Quetta, where being a Hazara makes one the softest target of Pakistan’s homegrown terrorist group, the LeJ/ASWJ. He wonders why the state has so miserably failed to combat the group that killed hundreds of Hazara community members with impunity for the last so many years. He mulls over the question of why the government does not act against a group that has carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks. He says that he has rested his case against those who have been patronising the terrorist group that killed his sisters, mother, grandmother and hundreds of his community members.

The ongoing spate of targeted terrorist attacks in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta, was led by Usman Saifullah Kurd, who was recently killed in a clash with paramilitary troops. He was the operational commander of the Balochistan chapter of the LeJ/ASWJ. While Kurd had head money of Rs2.5 million on him, his deputy, Dawood Badini, carries head money of Rs2 million.  Both Kurd and Badini were sentenced to death for masterminding two terrorist attacks in Quetta which killed 65 people, predominantly Hazaras.

After Kurd and Badini were arrested some years ago, sectarian attacks had almost come to a halt in Quetta. But, in 2008, under darkly mysterious circumstances, both the convicted terrorists managed to break away from the jail located in Quetta cantonment’s high-security zone, where no one can even enter without prior permission. According to a report, 758 Shias have been killed in 478 terrorist attacks. Of these, 338 belonged to the Hazara community while 420 belonged to other ethnicities. A Human Rights Watch report, released in 2013, said the LeJ operated with “virtual impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks”.

Things have turned worse for Ibtihaj’s father after the deadly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. He feels that his son is exposed to greater danger, particularly in a city where they live in fear 24 hours a day. He now fears the consequences if someone entered his son’s school. “Ibtihaj is a Hazara boy. If anyone came to attack the students, the Hazaras would be killed first,” he says. He is concerned about his son’s future. He says that even if the government would give Ibtihaj a scholarship to study at a university here in Quetta, the institution would be located in a no-go area for Hazaras, an area where they will be identified from miles away and shot dead.

Mehrin

Mehrin Kausar

Among the Mastung blast injured, who were admitted to a hospital in Karachi, Mehrin Kauser, a zoology student at the Women University Quetta, could have come back to her university by now had the university management not terminated the pick-and-drop facility that was available to her prior to the attack. A clearly dejected Mehrin, who refused to see herself as a victim of that brazen attack in which she lost her sister and mother, told me that she had to discontinue her education because going to university poses a serious threat to her life. If it was the ghastly bombing that took her mother and sister away, it was the state of Pakistan that denied her the right to educate herself. Mehrin is the face of quite a few Hazara students who had to discontinue their studies due to the precarious security situation in a city where their distinct features mark them out as easy targets. This very fact is symptomatic of the state and society’s broader failure. Both the civilian and military leaderships and each and every person holding key positions in the state and security apparatus at least owe an apology to Mehrin and dozens of other students who had to discontinue their education because the authorities have failed to provide them with a conducive security environment.

Each and every terrorist act brings with it a feeling of deja vu. TV channels run tickers showcasing the statements from different individuals/groups condemning the terrorist act as well as highlighting their concerns over the agonising trend of the inexorable march of terrorism penetrating our society. Government officials burst on television screens with false promises of apprehending those behind such acts of brutality. An inquiry is promptly ordered to probe the incident and this is where the case is closed effectively. The more the number of casualties swells in such an attack, the more air time it gets on media and then the incident sinks into oblivion. We have fast turned into an insensitive crowd that is immune to human tragedies. We have forgotten about the victims of the countless terrorist attacks our country has had to face and, as I conclude this column, I learn that not only are they forgotten; they are being abandoned as well.

Source: Forgotten and abandoned

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Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times in two parts. The first part was published on June, 26, 2012 and the second part was published on June 27, 2012. For convenience of the readers I’m pleased to cross-post both the parts together on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Peace is fast becoming a distant dream amidst the aberrant state of affairs in Pakistan; almost everyday people are killed in the name of religion, ethnicity, enmity and honor. The state institutions have shown little or no interest in putting an end to these killings, especially the ones being committed in the name of religion. Instead of persecuting the militants carrying out these terrorist activities, government is found pandering to the militants behind such killings, hence emboldening the killers and instilling terror and insecurity in all religious minorities. On the other hand, the superior judiciary of the country that, otherwise, sounds keen to nip every evil in the bud, remains apathetic to the carnage that poses an imminent threat of inflicting a civil war in the country. Shia populace, by far, has been the most affected community at the hands of these incessant killings in a bid to establish shari’ah in the region. Despite several protests against the relentless Shia killings and countless appeals, the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan who is otherwise, known for his judicial activism and the knack of taking suo motu notices fervently, has apparently refused to move. This is despite the gravity of the deteriorating situation of law and order pertaining to the minorities’ persecution in general and Shia killings in particular. This shows apathy from the superior judiciary, which has strengthened the exceedingly growing perception among the Shia community that the state institutions, including the superior judiciary, are shielding the militants who have had pyromania against the belief and community of Shias in Pakistan. The negative reactions of those who have been silent upon the genocide of the innocuous community of Shias in Pakistan have vandalised the ethos of national integrity. Terming the ongoing Shia killings as a ‘sensitive’ issue, thus impermissible to be discussed, the mainstream electronic and print media have also turned a blind eye to the frequency and ferocity of these events. In the latest episode of Shia genocide, five more Shia students have been killed and another 70 are injured, as unknown yet ‘well-known’ terrorists detonated a remote-controlled bomb, planted in a jeep parked along a road, when a bus carrying 75 Shia students, from Hazara community, of Balochistan Information Technology University drove past.

Plagued by the aforementioned mayhem of law and order, members of Shia community have been inexorably massacred in Pakistan since the late 1980s by a group of terrorists, now known as Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. It is the latest incarnation of the outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) that was established in 1985 by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, another explosive product of the Islamic seminaries functioning in Pakistan, on the behest of the then President of Pakistan Ziaul Haq. That was for the sake of spearheading Zia’s strategy ‘to teach Pakistani Shias a lesson’ after they had refused to pay zakat to his regime. Assisted by the perusal assiduity of a similar school of thought in Pakistan’s security infrastructure, the militant organisation manifestly targeted high profile Shias, holding important offices, aside from indiscriminate bloodshed of common peole belonging to the Shia community in Pakistan. From 1987 to 2011, as many as 5,000 Shias are estimated to have been killed in order to establish ‘real’ shari’ah in the land of pure by the hotheaded Islamists. The terrorist outfit Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, currently led by Ahmad Ludhianvi, epitomises the self-righteous mentality of the hardcore religious fanatics who are on a mission to enforce their version of Islam on others at gunpoint. To top it all, this mindset has been incessantly nurtured by a number of seminaries fanatically working in different parts of the country, bereft of any regulation by the authorities whatsoever. It is an indoctrination of vulnerable minds with hatred and ‘holy’ violence, thus perpetrating a fresh breed of militants, intoxicated by absolute intolerance for those who dare to differ with their ideology. Heaps of decrees released by radical clerics at different times, declaring Shias as ‘infidels’ and thus liable to be killed, have only added fuel to flames. Forlorn, there is either no political will to eliminate militancy or the will is preposterously bemused and fragmented. Plausible deniability of the existence of a number of sanctuaries for terrorists in Southern Punjab has played its own role to facilitate the religious fanaticism penetrating deeper in our society.

A couple of months ago, the media cell of the SSP/LeJ released a video footage of the Balochistan’s Mastung massacre in which 27 Shia pilgrims, hailing from the Hazara tribe, were forced off a bus and subsequently shot dead in cold blood by LeJ’s militants in September 2011. The video, posted on internet, puts on show some incredibly horrific scenes of the callous carnage, inculcating the real terror, in the minds of the audience, emanating from the unperturbed and unhurried comportment of the killers. The helpless pilgrims are hauled off a bus by ruthless terrorists and forced to assemble on the ground. As a jihadi anthem, extolling the militants’ inalienable commitment to the mission of exterminating ‘infidels’, blares in the backdrop of the footage, the militants open indiscriminate fire on the besieged pilgrims with automatic firearms at a point blank range. The video then goes on to show a young boy, most likely a teenager, clasping his hands in despair and pleading for some mercy. One of the terrorists responds to the boy by gunning him down. Another terrorist is then seen walking around the bullet-riddled bodies of the slain pilgrims, unhurriedly but deliberately firing into them, to guarantee that no one gets away alive. After graphically recording all the carnage, the camera points to the ground, showing the shadow of a terrorist pumping his fist in the air in delight.

Just like the massacre itself, the released video of the carnage managed to evade successfully the attention of the law enforcing agencies as well as the free and the hyperactive judiciary. Albeit the Chief Justice of Baluchistan High Court (BHC), Qazi Faez Isa, in an unprecedented move took a suo motu notice of the Mastung massacre, but without disturbing the militants or their ‘mentors’. For that matter, the case seems to have already passed into oblivion, thanks to the ‘memogate’ commission headed by BHC’s Chief Justice Isa snubbing any chance of the Mastung incident to be heard in the court, thus incarnating the legal maxim of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. The memogate commission consumed almost six months in an attempt to resolve the ‘mystery; surrounding a piece of paper that apparently has no locus standi. The nihility of any efficacious action by the state has inevitably encouraged terrorist groups to continue wrecking havoc on the Shia community.

One cannot and should not see any incident involving Shia killings in isolation. It has to be analysed in line with all such attacks resulting in scores of Shias being killed throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan. Be it Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Parachinar, Gilgit, southern Punjab, Kohistan or Chilas, Shia killings have turned into a well-thought out genocide of the Shia community in Pakistan. As per the official data released in 2010, more than 12,500 seminaries (almost 65 percent of the total seminaries running in Pakistan) are located in Punjab. A breakdown of those located in Punjab clearly ascertains a preponderant cluster of more than 7,000 seminaries operating in southern Punjab, providing the felicitous recruiting grounds for the terrorist and militant organisations. It took more than four long years for the Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif to accept the reality that the volatile southern belt of his province is a ‘breeding ground’ for militants. Nevertheless, whether the chief minister, who is also Punjab’s home minister, is ready to take on the sectarian and jihadist outfits concentrated in and operating from southern Punjab as well as other quarters of the province remains a big question. Whilst sitting on the top of a volcano that is very much alive, we are hoping against hope that it will never erupt, hoodwinking nobody but ourselves. Living in a delusional world at the cost of your life is never a good idea.

Apart from massacring members of the Shia community and other religious minorities, these self- righteous militant groups have been actively involved in publishing and distributing literature spewing venom against any group or individual who dares to challenge their ideology. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and the slain federal minister for minorities’ affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti are the prominent public figures to fall prey to the same mindset that is dealing some serious blows to the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. The road to peace in Pakistan, unquestionably, does not offer a smooth drive. With our tribal areas falling to the militants and our society, at large, having the perilous proclivity of favouring the militancy by using a variety of lame excuses, the dream of seeing peace prevailing in Pakistan sounds like a distant one. In dire straits, Pakistan needs to harmonise its political response originating from a productive stratagem of showing zero tolerance to miscreants and their sanctuaries. The state institutions need to come out of their coma and should formulate an efficacious strategy to go all out in order to combat the fierce menace of terrorism. Our security infrastructure desperately necessitates an unprecedented purge to get rid of the personnel and policies facilitating the militants in any way using any cover. Eliminating seminaries that provide the recruiting grounds for the terrorist and militant organisations is indeed indispensable for any chance of eradicating the cancer of extremism from Pakistan.

Pakistan direly needs a democratic system with the basic principles of having laws for minorities and an attitude of tolerance towards the oppressed. Laws originate from the ‘constitutional’ tenets of a democratic country and tolerance comes from the psychological mindset of its inhabitants. To reinstate democracy to its fullest authority and governance, one has to separate state-related affairs from religious ones. The state should have no business in deciding the credibility of one’s religion as long as one is not imperilling the lives of fellow citizens in the name of one’s beliefs. The amalgamation of political ideologies with religious ideologies has already made a nexus of chaotic perceptions in Pakistan in particular and worldwide in general. Any elected government has to follow denominations of ‘constitutional democracy’, ‘human rights’ and ‘law and order’ at any cost. On the other hand, the army should be in the defence wing of the country and not in the administrative parameters. Regimes like General Zia’s catapulted political and religious matters, making them akin, but in return, made them ever so abysmal, consequently increasing the wedge between radical elements and the moderate population of Pakistan. Home affairs (law and order, minority rights, justice) should come first rather than religious/vote bank appeasement of a few minds who flout peace of the entire nation. Mainstream political parties, specially the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf should shun them rather than give them a pedestal. Being a democratic country, Pakistan must stop all kinds of intervention in its internal matters keeping its sovereignty in mind. The religious persecution of Shias and their relentless killings at a rampant rate by declaring them as infidels, has come from Saudi Arabia and the likeminded states in the Gulf. Pakistan will have to realise that religious introspection is more vital than religious intervention. The bottom line is that the current frenzied situation demands something huge to be done on an emergency basis, and that too now. It has already become a matter of now or never.

Source:

Daily Times – VIEW : Shia community agglomerated by a corps de ballet of survival — I — Ali Salman Alvi 

Daily Times – VIEW : Shia community agglomerated by a corps de ballet of survival — II — Ali Salman Alvi


The general perception in Pakistan among many intelligencia is that Afghan Taliban are an ideological group of fighters fighting against outside oppression of, first the Soviets and now the NATO and ISAF. They started off as a mercenary group in 1991, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force. Mullah Omar started his movement with fewer than 50 armed madrassah students in his hometown of Kandahar. The most often-repeated story and the Taliban’s own story of how Mullah Omar first mobilized his followers is that in the spring of 1994, neighbors in Singesar told him that the local governor had abducted two teenage girls, shaved their heads, and taken them to a camp where they were raped. Less than 50 Taliban freed the girls, and hanged the governor to death. Later that year, two militia commanders killed civilians while fighting for the right to sodomize a young boy. This indeed was a good start. Justice should be swift.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is a group of people fighting to disrupt Pakistan’s infrastructure. Well to admit most part of the perception might even be true but difference of opinion is the right of the people.
They have one important thing in common and that is sharing the same idea about any other sect and religion contrary to theirs. They have their own interpretation of the Holy Quran and they do not want it to be questioned. They believe that any other human does not have the right to live if he/she has a view point contrary to theirs. The focus here will be on the Afghan Taliban.

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A breath-taking view of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Its most evident examples came when the Massacre at Mazar-Sharif took place in August of 1998. Name it whatever you like it. But it was indeed cold blooded murder of the people of the city having contrary beliefs to them, the “Shia” Belief. Even the shrine present in the city was targeted. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban’s capture of the city in August 1998 marked “one of the single worst examples of the killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s 20-year war”.  Witnesses described the first day of the occupation of Mazar-e-Sharif as a “killing frenzy” as the Taliban “shot at anything that moved”, killing hundreds of civilians. The killing of the civilians is never justified. The Taliban instigated a house-to-house search to round up male Hazara’s, a Persian-speaking Shia Muslim minority, for summary execution, Human Rights Watch says. According to statistics the Hazara population of the Afghanistan account for 10% of total population. Within days, the city’s new governor, Mullah Manon Niazi, reportedly made speeches in Mazar-Sharif’s mosques describing Hazaras as “infidels” and calling them to convert to the Sunni Muslim faith or be killed. Apart from the executions, men taken prisoner by the Taliban died of suffocation or heat exhaustion inside metal lorry containers. The US-based rights organisation added that farmers from the Sunni Muslim Pashtun community and nomads were allowed to take land around Mazar-Sharif that had belonged to the communities persecuted by the Taliban. In a few days more civilians were killed – and murdered and raped – than at any time in the previous 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Taking Mazar-Sharif gave the Taliban control of every major city and important territory in northern and central Afghanistan. Taliban soldiers killed 4,000 people, many of them found in house-to-house searches. Others were cut down indiscriminately on the streets and at markets. Taliban soldiers sought out male members of the ethnic Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek communities. The Persian-speaking, Shia Hazaras were the prime targets, as the Taliban consider Hazaras infidels. Soldiers and civilians were killed, their bodies dropped in wells. Others were loaded into container trucks, driven to the desert and left to die in the sun.

As Ahmad Rashid writes in Taliban, the best book on the subject: “What followed was another brutal massacre, genocidal in its ferocity, as the Taliban took revenge on their losses the previous year. A Taliban commander later said that Mullah Omar had given them permission to kill for two hours, but they had killed for two days. The Taliban went on a killing frenzy, driving their pick-ups up and down the narrow streets of Mazar-Sharif shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved — shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys. Contrary to all injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, bodies were left to rot on the streets. ‘They were shooting without warning at everybody who happened to be on the street, without discriminating between men, women and children. Soon the streets were covered with dead bodies and blood. No one was allowed to bury the corpses for the first six days. Dogs were eating human flesh and going mad and soon the smell became intolerable,’ said a male Tajik who managed to escape the massacre.”

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A heart wrenching site: Cemetery of Martyrs of Mazar Sharif

The capture of the city also included 10 Iranian Diplomats. Iran assumed the Taliban had murdered them, and mobilized its army, deploying men along the border with Afghanistan. By the middle of September there were 250,000 Iranian personal ready to fight on the border. Pakistan mediated and the bodies were returned to Tehran towards the end of the month. The killings of the Diplomats had been allegedly carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Pakistani Sunni group, famous for its anti-Shia sentiments. Moreover late in the 2011, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Taliban’s former Ambassador to Pakistan, showing no regret whatsoever, said that cruel behaviour under and by the Taliban had been “necessary”.

People may say that they did some things right and this is only half of the picture. Yes this is the other half of the picture. Killing innocent civilians only because they do not agree to your version of Islam, these have never been the teachings of Islam. The Talibans knew only one way to gain control of the power in a diverse sectarian and multicultural state and that was by force, killing everything that opposes them or stands against them. Islam is and always will be a religion of tolerance. Even the Holy Quran states that there is no compulsion in the religion and the choice of the religion. But this does not mean that one is allowed to change the contexts, contents and interpret the religion according to one’s own will. The religion is complete and a complete code of conduct for the Muslims all over the world. There is no room for anyone to devise their own meanings into the religion.

The Afghani Taliban are hence no saints and should not be thought of as liberation fighters. They are pursuing their own agenda and that is to take control of Afghanistan by HOOK or by CROOK, from foreign oppression or internal aggression.

Written by Muhammad Ajwad Ali

The writer is a telecommunication engineer by profession. He tweets @m_ajwad and can be reached at majwad@gmail.com