Posts Tagged ‘Lashkar e Jhangvi’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in The Nation on March 11, 2015. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from The Nation without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Albert Einstein defined the word ‘insanity’ as doing something over and over again, while expecting a different result. Apparently more insane is the way the government has shied away from implementing Pakistan’s 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his televised speech in the wake of the brutal terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. While the plan looks good on paper, the situation on the ground remains worryingly dire and unchanged. The plan talks about countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations, ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations, taking effective steps against religious persecution and dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists. The point number 3 of the plan emphasizes on the commitment to ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country while points 10 and 11 talk about registration and regulation of religious seminaries and ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media.

Banned outfits are not only operating under new names but their leaders and sympathisers are being given widespread coverage on both print and electronic media with due gratitude and reverence. Soon after the plan was announced the religious and politico-religious parties started giving the impression that religion was being targeted by the national action plan. Crumbling under the pressure, the government started issuing statements in flagrant contradiction to the plan. While General Secretary Wafaqul Madaris Alarbia Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhri vowed to defend ‘sovereignty, freedom and the Islamic education system’ of religious seminaries at any cost, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was quick to assure him that the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government has no plan of taking action against religious seminaries and apprehensions in this regard are baseless. The federation of the religious seminaries is considered the biggest board of Deobandi school of thought having more than 18,000 religious seminaries. Thus the usefulness of the plan aimed at countering terrorism may well be summed up as doing something over and over again just for the sake of it and not even bothering about the result. Whom are we fooling? Do the authorities even realise that this ostrich-like strategy to counter terrorism is delusional, futile and ridiculously absurd.

Ironically, the government has, for the first time, admitted that close to 80 seminaries operating in Pakistan are receiving financial support from a dozen countries. The seminaries received funds of worth Rs300 million during 2013-14. In a supplementary report submitted to Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges, Punjab police is said to have disclosed that over 950 seminaries in Punjab only are receiving hundreds of millions of rupees from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and some 14 other Muslim and non-Muslim countries. According to a newspaper report, citing Wikileaks, published in 2011, charities from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates financed a network in Pakistan that recruited children as young as eight to wage “holy war”. A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks said financial support estimated at $100 million a year was making its way from those Gulf Arab states to an extremist recruitment network in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Imamia Masjid Peshawar

Imamia Masjid Peshawar

Aside from the “routine” targeted killings, Pakistan has witnessed five major terrorist attacks after the ghastly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that left 148 people, including more than 100 children, dead. Pakistan’s beleaguered Shia community was the target of four out of the five attacks. A powerful blast rattled an Imambargah, in a densely populated area of Rawalpindi on January 9, killing at least eight people and wounding at least 16 others. At the time of the blast, an Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH) congregation was being observed at the Imambargah. On January 30, at least 62 Shias were killed and 55 others wounded in an explosion during Friday prayers at a packed Shia mosque in Sindh province’s Shikarpur district; the deadliest sectarian attack to hit the country in recent times. While in the 3rd attack 22 Shias were martyred when the Taliban stormed a Shia mosque in the Hayatabad area of Peshawar on February 13. And only a day after a deadly attack outside the Police Lines in Lahore, a lone suicide bomber killed three persons at an Imambargah in Islamabad but failed to enter the main prayer hall or detonate his explosive vest thanks to the fact that the suicide vest partially exploded or else there would have been many more casualties. Each of these devastating terrorist attacks was followed by the same old hollow promises of not sparing those involved in the ghastly attack, tall claims of weeding out terrorism and good-for-nothing statements like ‘terrorists can’t weaken the government’s resolve to combat terrorism by such cowardly attacks’. Needless to say that none of the aforementioned responses, repeated for the umpteenth time, ever translated into something meaningful and thus the systematic killing of the members of Pakistan’s Shia community continues with absolute impunity.

Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah, Shikarpur

Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah, Shikarpur

While the blast in Rawalpindi was followed by equivocal statements condemning the attack and hollow promises by the government officials to get the killers, the aftermath of the Shikarpur blast took a relatively different turn when civil society members including women and children staged a sit-in outside the Chief Minister House in Karachi to press the authorities to take action against banned organizations. The protesters called upon the government for the immediate implementation of their four key demands: List and name all the banned organisations on media, close the offices of all these banned organisations, remove their flags and their graffiti, take action against the Karachi head of the ASWJ, formerly known as Sipah e Sahaba, Aurangzeb Farooqi and take away his police protocol and lastly, those injured in the Shikarpur blast be transferred from Larkana and Shikarpur to Karachi for further treatment at the government’s expense.

Civil Scoiety Sit-In

Civil Society Sit-In

It’s quite absurd that while CM Sindh was chairing the meetings to review progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan, a group of civil society members had to stage a sit-in outside his residence to demand precisely what the very same plan talks about since the aforementioned demands are in absolute harmony with the points 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 18 of the National Action Plan. Quite preposterously, the peaceful protesters and members of the civil society ended up behind the bars while the goons of the outlawed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) were allowed to hold a public rally.
The ongoing spate of targeted terrorist attacks is an indictment of years of flawed policies, opportunist patronage politics and strategic frivolity. And quite deplorably I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We are reaping a harvest of blood as the bodies of our loved ones keep piling up around us. Things look grim and gloomy to me. The PML-N government’s lack of seriousness about curbing religious persecution can be gauged from the fact that on the recommendation of the Punjab Police, Punjab Government recently issued stipend of worth Rs75000 to Malik Ishaq who had told an Urdu daily in 1997 that he was involved in the killing of 102 Shias.

The state of Pakistan still lacks clarity on extremism and the capacity to fight it. Let alone combating terrorism, the authorities are not even showing any intent to fight this menace. The government needs to realise that no plan is any good if you do not have the nerve to carry out the plan. Instead of hiding behind flimsy excuses, the civil and military leadership needs to set its priorities straight and clarify if they really want to combat the existential threat to Pakistan posed by extremists, before these ruthless terrorists impose their own partisan, barbaric, draconian and un-Islamic views on all of us.

In the longer run, the state needs to protect not only the communities’ physical spaces but also combat the extremists on the intellectual front. Although the proliferation of extremists is an immediate threat, there is also a pressing need to establish an anti-extremism and anti-terrorism narrative. Those at the helm of affairs will have to ensure that there is no discrimination between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban and the war against terrorism will continue till the last terrorist is eliminated. If the authorities are serious about eliminating terrorism, this is the time they will have to walk the talk. And if they don’t, the much publicised ‘National Action Plan’ (NAP) for countering terrorism and extremism will go down as ‘No Action Plan’ in the history of this country which, according to a report by Global Terrorism Index, currently ranks third in the most terrorism affected countries of the world.

Source: Recapitulating ‘No Action Plan

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times in three parts. The first part was published on September 30, 2013, the second part on October 1, 2013 and the last part was carried by Pakistan Daily Times on October 2, 2013. For convenience of the readers I’ve cross-posted all the three parts together, on my blog, from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Pakistan is fast plunging into the hands of extremist and radical elements. The Taliban hold sway in the lawless territory of Waziristan and the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The situation has deteriorated so much that we now have a state-within-the-state of Pakistan: the ‘Islamic Emirate of Waziristan’, a terrorist safe haven. In a report titled, “As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan” released in 2010, the human rights group Amnesty International claimed that nearly four million people were effectively living under the Taliban rule in the north-western tribal belt and were abandoned by the Pakistani government.

On another note, the Taliban are now infiltrating major cities of Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular. During the Supreme Court hearings last year, judges had ordered the authorities to investigate reports that as many as 8,000 Taliban members were in Pakistan’s largest city and economic epicentre. In short, the writing on the wall is very clear for all those who have not turned a blind eye to it. The Pakistani Taliban are turning out to be more and more daring, making unprecedented inroads into the sovereignty of our homeland. On the other hand, the response of our nation to the Taliban’s aggression has been disoriented, indecisive and dishonest at large, thanks to two mainstream political parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, and right-wing religio-political parties. While the aforementioned parties have acted as kind of a moderate mouthpiece for the Taliban, advocating their case in a bid to appease them, the right-wing religio-political parties portrayed the Taliban as righteous Muslims striving to establish ‘Shariah’ rule in the land of the pure. Consequently, the state of Pakistan, reeling from the relentless terrorist attacks, looks all set to bow down to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) onslaught that has killed more than 49,000 Pakistanis in the last 12 years or so. From 2001 to 2008, more than 24,000 people — both civilians and military — were killed in terrorist attacks carried out by the TTP and company. The last five years turned out to be even more ruinous in terms of the loss of human lives. Since 2008, the TTP’s campaign of terror has killed well over 25,000 people and counting.

Burnt rooms inside a prison are seen following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Burnt rooms inside a prison are seen following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mass killings aside, the TTP has been incredibly successful in breaking jails at will and getting its operatives free without even a shred of resistance from the security forces. The Dera Ismail Khan (D I Khan) jailbreak is one of the most violent attacks in recent times. Well over 100 Taliban fighters, armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, freed 248 prisoners, including more than 49 hardcore militants belonging to the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Not only did the militants manage to free their accomplices, but they also killed six policemen and two civilians. The terrorists had so much of inside information that they killed six Shia inmates after segregating them from other prisoners during the three hour-long attack. One of the Shia inmates was beheaded. Many of the high-profile inmates who fled from the jail belong to the LeJ, which signifies a strong bond between the Taliban and Haq Nawaz Jhangvi’s disciples.

In a blatant show of apathy, not a single quantum of armed reinforcements was sent to the scene though the attackers remained in the jail for a good three to four hours. Military helicopters remained firmly grounded. A large caravan of the Taliban sailed through dozens of army check posts, set up on the road leading to North Waziristan from D I Khan. Those responsible for the internal and external security of Pakistan did not even move or probably they did not bother to.

In a usual turn of affairs, the TTP claimed the responsibility for the devastating attack on DI Khan Central Jail. Six days later, a senior TTP commander revealed the details of the brazen siege, adding that all the freed TTP men were in safe locations and would resume their “routine responsibilities”. According to him, a total of 125 militants took part in the operation that was launched by three groups (the Punjabi Taliban, Halqa-e-Mehsud and a group from the Mohmand Agency). While the latter two groups are unheard of, the first one sounds quite familiar.

Who are the Punjabi Taliban? The term was first coined in 2011 by the then interior minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, which received heavy criticism from the then Punjab chief minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif. He ‘warned’ Malik to avoid using the term because he was of the view that the term would tarnish the PML-N’s image. “It minimises our chances of coming into power because the Punjab province is being run by the PML-N,” said Sharif who was clearly more worried about the term than the growing militant threat in his province, especially southern Punjab.

That was not the only show of ‘parochial’ politics from the chief minister. This statement was equally bad as the well-known plea he made to the Taliban in March 2010. Speaking at a seminar held at the Jamia Naeemia mosque in Lahore, the Punjab chief minister had requested the Taliban to spare his province Punjab from terror attacks because his party shared a common cause with the Taliban.

The Punjabi Taliban is an umbrella organisation of different banned militant groups largely based in the southernmost region of Punjab. Major factions of the Punjabi Taliban compris members of outlawed terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), long protected and patronised by Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence establishment.

Formed in 1996 by Riaz Basra of the SSP, the LeJ today has deep links with al Qaeda and the Taliban. The group is believed to be the most violent anti-Shia group operating in Pakistan. Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion, LeJ and SSP are not two separate outfits. The two groups are two sides of the same coin although both the SSP and LeJ maintain that they are not affiliated to each other. As they say, actions speak louder than words; the SSP leadership has never criticised the LeJ because the two groups share the same agenda of turning Pakistan into a Deobandi republic. Both the groups draw their inspiration from the same man: Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. Their cadres come from the same religious seminaries. I strongly believe that the gimmick of portraying SSP and LeJ as two separate entities — ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Jhangvis — is embellished by the very same mindset that coined the theory of the Good and Bad Taliban.

SSP, now known as the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, draws support, inspiration and reinforcement from various religio-political parties, largely the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI). A large number of religious seminaries, being run by the JUI, provide recruiting grounds for the LeJ, Jundullah, Punjabi Taliban, TTP and even al Qaeda. It may be surprising news to some of my readers that the current head of the TTP, Hakeemullah Mehsud, found his way into militancy through the SSP. Later, he was ‘elevated’ to the Taliban, yet another evidence of the increasing collaboration between Deobandi militant groups in Pakistan. JeM supported the insurgency against India in Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking at a jihad conference in October 2000, the JeM chief, Masood Azhar said, “…Now we go hand-in-hand, and Sipah-e-Sahaba stands shoulder to shoulder with Jaish-e-Muhammad in Jihad.”

Over time the Punjabi Taliban developed strong connections with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and various other militant groups based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. The group increasingly provided the footsloggers to the TTP and al Qaeda for terrorist acts and has played an instrumental role in attacking Shia, Sufi, Ahmadi and other civilian targets across Pakistan.

The TTP dealt an extraordinarily pernicious blow soon after the PML-N government took charge after the May 11 elections. The terrorists stormed into a base camp at the foot of Pakistan’s second-highest peak, Nanga Parbat, highlighting the growing reach of terrorists in even the remotest areas as 10 foreign mountaineers — part of an expedition — were dragged out of their camps, tied, lined up and shot dead. Among the dead, however, there was only one Pakistani, Ali Hussain, a high altitude porter but a Shia Muslim by faith, who was targeted because of his denomination. The then spokesperson for the TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, claimed that the group’s faction named Junood-e-Hafsa carried out the attack to avenge the killing of a Taliban commander, Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan. Junood-e-Hafsa is a new group formed by the TTP headed by Punjabi Taliban chief, Asmatullah Muawiya.

Letter to the PML-N Govt by the Punjabi Taliban

Letter to the PML-N Govt by the Punjabi Taliban

After coming into power, the PML-N government decided to abolish a five-year moratorium on capital punishment and execute hardcore terrorists on death row. The decision met with a hostile reception from the Punjabi Taliban as their chief, Muawiya, warned against hanging their men or else the executions would compel them to wage a war against the PML-N government. The statement, signed by Muawiya, urged the PML-N to bear in mind the fate of the Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP was relentlessly targeted during the May 11 election campaign. At the time the Punjabi Taliban issued this statement, the authorities were making final arrangements to execute the mastermind of the GHQ attack, Aqeel alias Dr Usman, and two other LeJ operatives in Faisalabad and Sukkur jails respectively.

The aforementioned statement was followed by another intimidating statement. The TTP threatened that it would immediately target two prominent leaders of the ruling party if Aqeel was executed on August 23, 2013, as scheduled. “Aqeel alias Dr Usman is our ‘Mujahid’ and we would never let the government hang our Mujahid,” said the statement released by a TTP spokesperson. It is pertinent to note here that at the time the five-year moratorium lapsed, the government ignored the concerns of national and international human rights groups saying that it will go ahead with executions to take on festering militancy in the country.

The threats worked and the TTP coerced the PML-N government into extending the moratorium on the death penalty. Muawiya was quick to appreciate the government’s decision to halt all state executions. The Punjabi Taliban reciprocated the PML-N’s favour by welcoming the offer made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his maiden televised address to the nation, to hold peace talks with all the terrorist groups operating in the country. In a statement, Muawiya praised the prime minister for demonstrating “political maturity” by reiterating his offer to hold a dialogue. However, this lovey-dovey liaison of the PML-N government and the Punjabi Taliban didn’t go down well with the TTP. The terrorist organisation dismissed Muawiya for giving the aforementioned statements without prior approval from the TTP’s central leadership. Muawiya, however, refused to accept the TTP’s dismissal, claiming that the TTP had no authority to sack him. He said that the Punjabi Taliban has its own identity as well as its ‘Shura’ (executive council) to take such decisions.

The All Parties Conference (APC) held on September 9 came up with an ‘ostrich-like’ response to tackle the existential threat faced by our country today. The APC resolution — signed by all parties participating — is a pusillanimous document of national shame and unconditional surrender to the terrorists termed as ‘our own people’ in the declaration. The blood of thousands of Pakistanis was sold and it was sold for free. Terms like Taliban, TTP, terrorists were not even mentioned in the resolution, drafted with utmost care, just like in some families, a newlywed bride would not address her husband by his name. The Taliban — who do not recognise the constitution of Pakistan, our way of life, our institutions, our education system, and religious belief systems — were not only forgiven, they were accredited with the status of rightful stakeholders of Pakistan.

Four days later, a triumphant Imran Khan declared the APC successful while boasting about his 12-year-old stance on the issue finally being supported by all participants of the APC. The PTI chief declared the APC resolution a vindication of the PTI’s stance to tackle growing terrorism through unconditional dialogue. Quite interestingly, the TTP chief, Hakeemullah Mehsud, had declared the same a triumph of his group. “We have succeeded politically after we were asked to negotiate by the government,” said Mehsud in a letter he wrote to the media in April this year. Congratulations, Mr Khan. Now when we have washed our hands of our slain countrymen, who were killed in the last 12 years or so, will you please care to tell us how you will convince ‘your own people’ to refrain from killing non-Muslims and ‘lesser’ Muslims, especially Shias, in the name of Allah?

Two days later, the TTP tried to put the brakes on Mr Khan’s bragging as they killed GOC Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan, along with a lieutenant colonel and another soldier, in a roadside bomb attack. The attack on the military convoy was followed by the deadliest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan. More than 80 Christians were butchered as a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the All Saints Church in Peshawar. A faction of the TTP, Junood-ul-Hifsa, claimed responsibility within hours of the attack. A spokesman for the group, Ahmadullah, justified the attack by arguing that their children and women too were being killed in US drone strikes and in military operations in the tribal areas.

Coffins of the victims of Hazara Town Blast

Coffins of the victims of Hazara Town Blast

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, speaking at a press conference in Peshawar, Imran Khan condemned those who “were painting the attack in a political light” but, not so surprisingly, could not condemn the Taliban who carried out the attack. He termed the attack as a conspiracy to sabotage peace talks with the Taliban. Pointing towards the conspiracy, he questioned why such attacks occurred whenever any talk of dialogue progressed. One might ask him if the attack on All Saints Church was a conspiracy to derail the dialogue process, what on earth did the attacks on Alamdaar Road, Hazara Town, Abbas Town, Parachinar market, Nanga Parbat Base Camp derail? But, of course, asking such a question will barely be a popular course of action.

Lo and behold! ‘Our own people’ have refused a ceasefire and, in addition, they have set preconditions for a dialogue with the government of Pakistan. “No one has contacted us for peace talks, not even a tribal jirga has approached us. If they (government) want to end this war, they will have to announce a ceasefire,” says a spokesperson for our own people — the TTP. The tone of the Taliban clearly suggests that they are talking from a position of strength and the government of Pakistan from a position of weakness.

Those who vehemently advocate talks with the Taliban argue that since we could not defeat them in the last eight years, therefore, we must talk to them. The argument sounds like since we failed to defeat the Taliban, therefore, we must kneel down, fold our hands, and maybe seek a congregational apology from the TTP and if we aren’t forgiven, we are dying to forgive them the blood of more than 49,000 Pakistanis without bothering about the heirs of those killed. Interestingly, the same mindset that is hell bent on forgiving the Taliban for their crimes against humanity, in the name of Allah, is not even ready to accept the existence of the TTP.

Peace deals with the TTP have repeatedly failed over the years and even when they succeeded, agreements were violated quite quickly. The state handed over Swat Valley and its surrounding areas to the Taliban in 2009. Under the peace agreement, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the Malakand division in hopes that the Taliban would lay down their arms. But the peace deal only ended up in emboldening them. The Taliban did not keep their end of the agreement and soon entered the adjacent Buner district to impose their brand of Islam. The peace deal that did not last for more than a month collapsed after the Taliban attacked an army convoy in Swat Valley. A day before the attack, which killed one soldier, the Taliban beheaded two government officials, in ‘gross violation’ of the deal.

As the wise old adage says, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Ironically, we are being fooled for the nth time. The only way to restore peace in Pakistan is to nip the evil in the bud. Stop the funding coming from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states for different religious seminaries. A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks revealed that financial support estimated at $ 100 million a year was making its way from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to an extremists’ network in Punjab province, which recruits children as young as eight to wage the ‘holy war’. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the activities in which these brainwashed young militants are used.

When you are in a war, time is of the essence. Whilst the state is wasting its precious time in appeasing and convincing the TTP for a dialogue, the TTP is using it to regroup, reorganise and to hit back harder. We need to tackle the Taliban and their affiliates with an iron fist. It’s better to go down fighting than to be killed like sitting ducks. As Elizabeth Kenny said, “It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.” It’s time to choose one of the two options: Pakistan or the Taliban.

Source:

VIEW : Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — I — Ali Salman Alvi

VIEW : Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — II — Ali Salman Alvi

VIEW: Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — III —Ali Salman Alvi

Coffins of Dr Haider and his son Murtaza.

Coffins of Dr Haider and his son Murtaza Haider.

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in Daily Times on July 25, 2013. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

A nation’s holistic building is not confined to parliament and constitution but the people of a country at large, for whom the constitution is made, parliament functions and lays the foundations of a nation. In other words, the citizens, majority as well as minority, form the very basis of a nation and then comes the judiciary, legislature and executive, which function juxtaposing all cohesively, and most importantly, to safeguard the fundamental rights of the people. The first and foremost priority of a state, where democracy is given an opportunity to flourish, should be to provide security to its own citizens. Religious, gender and linguistic differences need to be dealt with with tolerance and such differences should not be pandered to by the state, be it a secular or a theocratic state in nature. Pakistan being a theocratic state and Islam being the state religion, differences of faith and religious school of thought should not be encouraged as a weapon to fanatics to enable fanaticism further to wage war over tolerance and sanity prevailing amongst most of the countrymen.

Demarcation of religious lines cannot and should not infringe upon the security of the nationals. Shias in Pakistan have to face the purge of a religious demarcation that is ethically illogical and irrational by all means and ends attached to it. Such religious demarcations emanate from the school of thought that considers all those who do not adhere to them as infidels. Who is an infidel is a question that is hard to answer by mortals who interpret religious teachings keeping their ideology closest to being pious. Dr Ali Haider was one, according to the ‘Takfiri’ terrorists who cannot stand anyone apart from the ones following their ideology.

Pakistan lost an efficient surgeon who used to give away free contact lenses worth millions of rupees in eye camps every year. Pakistan lost a credible medical practitioner who made his name because his superior skills, unparallelled experience and humane hands had restored the sight of countless eyes. The killers did not just kill him. The12-year-old Murtaza, full of innocence and smiles, was shot too for being the son of a Shia doctor. They were killed to accomplish the Takfiri mission of ‘eliminating’ the Shia community from Pakistan. The country faced a bigger loss by losing a serviceman of humanity who treated many Pakistanis irrespective of their faith, but he was killed because of his faith.

IMG-20130219-00226

It has been over five months when four unidentified gunmen, riding on two motorcycles, sprayed the vehicle of Dr Haider with gunfire near Forman Christian College while he was en route to drop his son to his school. Dr Haider escaped the first hail of bullets as he accelerated his vehicle. The attackers, however, chased him down at a traffic signal on Canal Bank Road and opened fire at his car, killing him and his son. While the Punjab Police and some other officials tried their best to cast doubts on the motives of Dr Haider’s murderers, his elderly father Dr Zafar Haider knew why his son and grandson were butchered. “My son has been killed for being a Shia and a dedicated follower of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the grieving doctor told the media.

At the funeral of Dr Haider when I embraced his father, who was visibly doddering due to old age, I could not find a single word to offer my condolences to him. While Dr Haider and his son were being laid to rest, amid echoes of mournful cries, tears and people still in a state of shock, Dr Zafar was lost in deep thoughts sitting next to their graves. Tough to say what was going through his mind but I think he must have been thinking if this was the reward of serving humanity for two generations. The story of Dr Ali Haider and his son might have been over for most of us but definitely not for his bereaved family and it never will be. As the sun sets and sadness rages in Dr Haider’s widow’s heart, she screams out the same question every evening, “What wrong did we do to anyone?” I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the woman who lost her husband and her son in the blink of an eye.

Five days later the Sharif brothers ordered the arrest of the killers of Dr Haider and his son while addressing the media outside the slain doctor’s residence. Nawaz Sharif assured the media that Shahbaz Sharif was personally monitoring the case and was being kept up to date by the police force. He added that instructions had been given to the police to find those responsible immediately. But to no one’s surprise, the killers are still at large.

The four men who opened fire on Dr Haider’s vehicle are not the only killers of the renowned surgeon and his son. It is a mindset that produces hundreds of such killers in religious seminaries where they are taught that killing an infidel, read a Shia, will lead them to paradise. The irony is that it is no secret and yet the authorities have turned a blind eye to these hate-mongers wreaking havoc and killing off entire Shia families.

On the 30th of last month it was déjà vu in Hazara Town. At least 28 Shia from the Hazara community lost their lives while over 60 others sustained wounds when a suicide bomber blew himself up near an Imambargah in Aliabad area of Hazara Town, a Shia Hazara neighbourhood of Quetta. In another ghastly attack in February this year, a massive bomb ripped though a busy market in the same town, killing at least 90 people and injuring nearly 200. Having ignored the Alamdar Road tragedy in January and other various incidents of Shia killings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the Hazara Town massacre in February which, unlike other cases, sank into oblivion in no time. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed the aforementioned attacks but to date no action has been taken against the outfit that has blatantly taken responsibility for the mass killings of Shias in Balochistan and elsewhere. Let alone a crackdown on the LeJ, the PML-N government seems too reluctant to express its will to act against Ludhianvi and company. Thus, government only has token condemnations to offer after such massacres.

In the May 11 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had prohibited candidates from seeking votes in the name of religion or sects but it miserably failed to get its own directives implemented as candidates of the MDM, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam flouted the directives. No action, however, was taken by the ECP against the said outfits. People like ASWJ chief Ahmad Ludhianvi and ASWJ Karachi chief Aurangzeb Farooqi not only contested elections but also spoke publicly about their intentions to make life miserable for the Shia community.

As long as the funding of organisations like SSP/ASWJ, spreading hatred against other sects, is not curbed and the deep state does not stop pandering to such elements, the carnage will continue. The Pakistan army, LEAs, civil authorities and intelligence agencies need to come clean on this very sensitive issue. The see-no-evil policy about Shia killings in Pakistan can yield horrific consequences. And to begin with a zero tolerance crackdown on outfits like LeJ would suffice — no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Source: VIEW : Remembering Dr Haider — Ali Salman Alvi

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on December 17, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Any government can remain in check if the opposition played its role vigilantly and the ruling party’s lapses are reported by the media. However, when media fails to report on sensitive but rampant cases, and the opposition is no better when they come in power but do only lip service to make their position look intact to voters and justified to their critics, it is the responsibility of society to make a note of the ongoing political, social and economic atrocities. For instance, more than 475 Shias have been killed this year in Pakistan to date, with this number increasing every day. The opposition is nowhere to be seen and the indifference of mainstream media to the gravity of the issue is making matters worse. Whilst I hold the federal government responsible for the law and order situation in Pakistan, I cannot give a clean chit to the provincial governments, which ought to provide security to their citizens.

A few days ago, my friend Raza Rumi wrote an op-ed titled, ‘Shahbaz Sharif and his admirable running of Punjab’ that was printed in a national daily. Apart from admiring Mr Sharif for the good things done by his government, he expressed his concern about the rise of extremism and militancy owing to the fragile implementation of law in the province in the following words: “There is a perception that the PML-N is soft on extremist and sectarian groups, due to reasons of electoral adjustment and perhaps, ideology as well. This is a serious omission, which might haunt the party if it comes to power in the next election, as there will be no excuse of a ‘hostile’ federal government and its failures to curb terrorism.” I, strongly but respectfully, disagree with the notion that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) leniency towards groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (now working under the label of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat [ASWJ]) is a mere perception.

The ‘lovey-dovey’ liaison of the PML-N and ASWJ/SSP is nothing new. The PML-N has time and again sought the SSP’s support to contest elections and the latter has rarely disappointed the former. In the recently concluded by-elections in which Punjab saw a thumping win for the PML-N, the ASWJ announced to support the PML-N’s candidate, Haji Nawaz Chohan, in Gujranwala’s constituency PP-129. The announcement came from the ASWJ’s district president Arshad Hameedi at a religious seminary as the latest display of public affection between the two parties. Electoral alliances are not aimed at charity; these alliances are established as a trade-off between two parties and they are motivated by a shared ideology. In February 2010, the provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, visited Jhang on a by-election campaign for a provincial assembly seat. He was seen interacting with Ahmad Ludhianvi of the ASWJ as he took the hardliner cleric to a drive in his open top jeep with official patronage. Is it appropriate for a provincial law minister to take a radical cleric with him on an election campaign? Did Mr Sharif take any action against his law minister for giving an unprecedented protocol to the head of an organisation that considers Shias as infidels?

In an interview expressing his biggest concern, the slain former Punjab governor, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer said, “I worry about terrorism. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)‚ which is in government in the Punjab‚ has old linkages with and a natural affinity for extremist organisations like Sipah-e-Sahaba‚ Lashkar-e-Jhangvi… Let’s face it: terrorists need logistical support from within — somebody funds them‚ somebody guides them‚ and somebody looks after them — and that support is coming from the Punjab… You can’t have your law minister [Rana Sanaullah] going around in police jeeps with [outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba’s] Ahmed Ludhianvi‚ whose agenda is to declare Shias infidels and close down their places of worship‚ and then say you want harmony in this province. You can’t have the chief minister [Shahbaz Sharif] who is also the home minister‚ standing at Jamia Naeemia pleading with the Taliban to please not launch attacks in the Punjab because he shares the same thinking against the US as they do. What message does this send out to the local magistrate and police officer?”

As per the report, ‘Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge’ by the International Crisis Group published in 2009, “The recent upsurge of jihadi violence in Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, demonstrates the threat extremist Sunni-Deobandi groups pose to the Pakistani citizen and state. These radical Sunni groups are simultaneously fighting internal sectarian jihads, regional jihads in Afghanistan and India and a global jihad against the West… The Pakistani Taliban, which increasingly controls large swathes of FATA and parts of the NWFP, comprises a number of militant groups loosely united under the Deobandi Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that have attacked not just state and western targets, but Shias as well. Their expanding influence is due to support from long-established Sunni extremist networks, based primarily in Punjab, which have served as the army’s jihadi proxies in Afghanistan and India since the 1980s. Punjab-based radical Deobandi groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and its offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) provide weapons, recruits, finances and other resources to Pakistani Taliban groups…The SSP and LJ are also al Qaeda’s principal allies in the region.”

Mr Sharif’s government needs to see the writing on the wall. Promoting, appeasing and pandering to such extremist outfits can win the PML-N an extra seat or two in the next elections but in the long run, it will be devastating for the fabric of our society and the law and order situation in the province. According to another media report, the PML-N and ASWJ has struck a deal on electoral adjustments in the provincial and National assemblies in the upcoming general elections. It is just a matter of time before the two parties end up contesting elections together. I agree that the good things being done by the government must be appreciated but at the same time, we must not condone government officials festering extremism this or that way.

On the other hand, in February this year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan expressed its resentment over the performance of the Punjab government when the court was told that several water filtration plants had not yet been completed in the province despite being started many years ago. Non-existent or insufficient infrastructure for clean water and sanitation poses serious health risks. In countries like ours, up to 80 percent of all environmental diseases are because of lack of clean and safe drinking water. Less than 50 percent of Pakistan’s most populous province Punjab has access to piped drinking water. Less than 30 percent of the rural population has access to safe drinking water. Assisting the apex court on polio and hepatitis, Professor Dr Faisal Masood and Professor Dr Javed Raza Gardezi informed the court that the poor and unprivileged class is bound to drink contaminated water because this is all they are being offered. The absence of clean drinking water is resulting in increased infectious diseases like polio and diarrhea.

Punjab government is far from being an admirable one. CM Shahbaz Sharif and his running of Punjab can be best described as the old adage goes “Among the blind, the squinter rules.” Instead of dumping billions of rupees running a parallel education system (Danish Schools) Mr Sharif could have made the existing system more viable. We must appreciate the positive steps being taken by the incumbent government but we should avoid going over the top in praise of a government that has many serious questions to answer.

Source: VIEW : Tintinnabulations of a vandalised future — Ali Salman Alvi

After the 2011 Hazara Town shooting Lashkar e Jhangvi exclusively talked about Hazara Town shooting in one of their night letters distributed in Quetta by LeJ Balochistan Unit. Please find the English translation of the letter as following.

Lashkar e Jhangvi Pakistan

Balochistan Unit.

All Shias are liable to be killed. We will rid Pakistan of [this] impure people. Pakistan means land of the pure, and the Shi’ites have no right to live here. We have the decrees and signatures of the revered clerics in which the Shias have been declared infidel (kaafir). Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan and buthchered them, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every town, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future].

We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we fly the flag of true Islam on this land. Our fighters and suicide bombers have [already] successfully operated in Parachinar, and are awaiting orders to operate across Pakistan. Jihad against the Shia-Hazaras has now become our duty. Our suicide bombers have successfully operated in Hazara Town on May 6, 2011 (referring to a massacre of Hazara people on May 6, 2011 in Hazara Town, Quetta city of Pakistan which left 8 dead and at least 15 wounded) and now our next target is your houses in Alamdar Road.

As long as our innocent friends aren’t freed [from incarceration], we will continue our operations.

The Chief,

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Pakistan

LeJ threat letter

Scanned copy of the threat letter distributed by Lashkar e Jhangvi Balochistan Unit

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