Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community in the world after Iran in terms of the community’s population. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 50 million to as high as 60 million according to Vali Nasr, a leading expert on Middle East and Islamic world. Despite being such a gigantic populace with significance it’s a distressing veracity that Shias living in Pakistan are deprived of a genuine leadership that can protect their political interests and raise the issues faced by this beleaguered community in Pakistan at the uppermost levels. Needless to say that Pakistan is becoming increasingly subjugated under the clutches of religious intolerance and extremism encouraged by the local religious fanatics and extremists from all over the world for their vested interests who in their turn have made religion a salable commodity under vile ostentatious dogmatic rituals. Amidst this gloomy state of affairs the so called Shia leadership, which can be aptly ascribed as inefficacious and incompetent, is making the situation even worse for the already troubled Shia community.
The crisis of leadership in Pakistani Shia’s is primarily that of identity, belief and political organization. It goes without saying that the religious clerics from the Shia community have been trying their best to lead Shias in the political battlegrounds as well albeit they have miserably failed to put up a momentous effort in this regard. Majority of these religious clerics get their graduation degrees from different seminary schools located in Iran especially in the Iranian city of Qom. After returning to Pakistan they sound keen on preaching the greatness of Iran, their cultural values and traditions for the rest of their lives notwithstanding the palpable socio-political differences between the Shia communities living on either side of the Pak-Iran border. Advertently or inadvertently they fail to understand that the issues of Iran are eminently incommensurable to the issues of Pakistan, political paradigm shift takes place for the betterment but there can’t be a religious paradigm shift because it’s about believes. Shias living in Iran are relishing the luxury of being a majority populace whilst Shias living in Pakistan are suffering systematic political, social, cultural as well as religious discrimination. Pakistani Shias have a culture of their own that is quite different from their Iranian counterparts. The traditions followed by Pakistani Shias in their day to day lives are not similar to Iranian traditions and culture either. Despite all these differences these religious clerics vociferously advocate the Pakistani Shias to toe the line of those in Iran & calling upon the masses to look forward to Iran in each and every matter. Meanwhile the persecution of Shias by the outlawed terrorists groups, aided by the deep state elements and sponsored by ‘Halal’ funding, continues at a mass rampant rate in the country. The latest assaults on Shias have claimed twenty more lives in Chilas and Quetta in separate incidents. The hard liner Salafi/Wahabi terrorists stopped six buses going to Gilgit from Rawalpindi. Seventeen passengers, after being identified as Shias, were hauled off buses and then shot dead in cold blood from point blank range. In another incident two more Shias, from Hazara tribe, were target killed in Quetta. Assailants barged into a medical store and shoe shop and opened fire on the victims. From 1987 to 2011, as many as 5,000 Shias are estimated to have been massacred in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the organized killing of the members of Shia community dates back to 1980’s. It’s immensely pertinent to find out what else was going on in the country at that very time to comprehend the reasons behind the Shia killings that has now spread throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan — A country that is becoming an exceedingly hostile land for the Shias and other minorities inhabiting here. Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Jhang, Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Hangu, Parachinar, Gilgit, Southern Punjab, Kohistan and now Chilas — this is increasingly becoming a well thought-out genocide of Shias in Pakistan that has claimed thousands of innocent human lives including the lives of women and children. It wouldn’t take much of an exertion to recollect the events which took place in 1980’s. Remember? Zia ul Haq had come into power prior to subverting the Constitution of Pakistan and overthrowing the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a military coup on July 5, 1977. His reign (1977 – 1988) is categorically regarded as an era of mass military repression in which hundreds of thousands of political rivals, minorities, and journalists were executed or tormented across Pakistan. Afghan Jihad — sponsored by CIA and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — executed by Pakistan — errs… Pakistan’s ISI and the thousands of Jihadists recruited by these powers. During the same period the land of pure was littered with a number of sectarian outfits, belligerent in spewing venom against the “infidel” states of India, Israel and Soviet Union. Consequently the tribal belt astride Pak-Afghan border, also known as the Durand Line, became the safe haven for the extremists who were imported from all over the world in the name of Jihad. On the other hand the mantra of hoisting Pakistan’s flag on the Delhi’s Red Fort (Laal Qil’ah) and the slogans of crashing India into bits and pieces laid down the perfect platform for you know who!
From 1980’s to the circa of 2000-2010 — The world in general and Pakistan in particular had entered in another era widely known as post 9/11 in the aftermath of a series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. areas on September 11, 2001. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks. Three days later the United States Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing US Presidents to fight terrorists and the nations that harbor them. On October 7, 2001 and less than a month after the Twin Towers were razed in New York, the U.S., aided by the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries including several from the NATO alliance, launched a consolidated military action, bombing Taliban and Al-Qaeda-related camps in Afghanistan. The stated objectives of this military operation were to remove the Taliban from power, and prevent the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations. Pakistan, which had remained the frontline state against communism, re-acquired the tag and emerged as an imperative ally of the U.S.
American assault on Afghanistan triggered fury among the Taliban, supporters of Taliban and hardcore Islamists living in Pakistan. All these elements vowed to wage a holy war but this time it was against the United States unlike the previous Afghan Jihad which was funded by the United States against the Soviet Union. Among many other groups Malakand Taliban, a militant outfit, led by Sufi Muhammad, the founder of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and his son in law Molvi Fazalullah recruited a number of Jihadists to battle to fight the U.S.-led invasion in Afghanistan. Sufi Muhammad was later jailed for sending thousands of volunteers to Afghanistan; however he was set free in 2008 after he presumably renounced violence. To fortify their control which already had been in Dir, Swat & Malakand districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, apart from Waziristan, Taliban instigated bombing schools, hotels, Police stations, and shrines to spread terror and fear among the local inhabitants. So much so that they target killed their opponents in the region and hung their beheaded corpses upside down in a square in Mingora (a city of Swat district) that was named as “Khooni Chowk” (Bloody Square) by Taliban. Swat valley once known as “Switzerland of South Asia”, for its great natural beauty and popularity among the local and foreign tourists, had become a valley of carnage at the helm of Taliban.
Stooping down to the might of terror campaign the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa made an agreement with Sufi Muhammad for establishing a system in the region known as “Nizam e Adal” (The system of Justice) which was demanded by Sufi Muhammad to officially establish a system introduced and endorsed by Taliban that would allow them to publicly behead, amputate and flog the people if they are found guilty by the “Qazi” (An Arabic/Urdu title referring to a Judge). This system was palpably in parallel to the judicial system established in the rest of the country in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan. To get the Government’s approval on the “Nizam e Adal” Sufi Muhammad called for a temporary ceasefire in the Malakand region. The provincial government agreed to allow the implementation of Nizam e Adal in the region once violence had stopped. Muhammad traveled to Swat to discuss the deal with Maulvi Fazlullah and his followers, who agreed to observe the ceasefire. Showing complete camaraderie with Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah, a spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Muslim Khan publicly announced that his group would observe an indefinite ceasefire. Facing the escalating political pressure to reach a settlement, President Zardari signed the controversial regulation into law on April 13, 2009 after a National Assembly resolution approved of the measure. The resolution was supported by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, the Awami National Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and generally pro-government FATA officials. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) opposed the motion but abstained from voting. In a show of rare defiance, only one MNA Ayaz Amir stood up and opposed the regulation valorously despite the grave coercions by Taliban’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, carried by all the daily newspapers in the morning.
As feared the militants took advantage of the peace deal and expanded their territory into other districts and within few days they took control of Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla. Given a free hand to the deo-bandi hard liners, it was evidently understood that the Shia community would suffer the most since Taliban and their supporters firmly believe that Shias are apostates/infidels. Much to the bewilderment of many readers the so called Shia leadership (understandably constituted of religious clerics) gathered in a well known seminary “Jamia tul Muntazir”, located in Model Town Lahore, and fervently endorsed highly controversial Nizam e Adal regulation proposed by Sufi Muhammad vide an announcement letter despite facing such a palpable threat to the community. The letter claimed to have been released with the consent of Sajid Ali Naqvi and it held the support for the regulation as a religious obligation on all the seminaries affiliated with Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Shia Pakistan as well as all the Shias living in Pakistan. It goes without saying that the much extolled Niazm e Adal regulation later yielded in horrific repercussions.
Shia community in Pakistan, bearing in mind that there is no time to lose, will have to find a way out of this absurd state of affairs. Instead of following those who never miss an opportunity to stab in the back, Shias should endeavor to bring forth a leadership that can safeguard their interests and not of those who aren’t anywhere in the picture. Otherwise living peacefully in Pakistan would become a distant dream not only for Shias but for other minorities including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis considering the sense of insecurity ripping through a commoner’s mind. No doubt the Salafi/Wahabi regimes have been financially supporting terrorist organizations in Pakistan but why have the people of Pakistan swayed into fanatic charm of Saudi Arabia to destroy peace in Pakistan? World perceives Pakistan as a safe haven to terrorism, Saudi Arabia enjoys the dominance of the rich oil wealth, who stands as the beneficiary of trust deficit in the world? Who is at the receiving end of all these troublesome realities? It won’t take much of a labor to find out the answer. Somewhere to a large extent the peoples psyche has been swayed. To get things in order all of us will have to strive together; let’s safeguard our society and our rich cultural values of tolerance, hospitality and equanimity. Let’s defy hatred, bigotry and intolerance with all the available resources — let’s shield our next generations from the wrath of intolerance, extremism and barbarianism — let’s protect our beloved motherland — let’s save Pakistan.