Posts Tagged ‘Shia Genocide’

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

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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

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 originally published in Daily Times on January 14, 2013. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

A progressive developing nation would cater to the rights of all its citizens, including the minorities. The UN charter for Citizens Rights also mentions the rights of minorities but the rights of the Shia community in Pakistan are presently at the mercy of the game being played by radicals, which is endorsed by political groups as that of ‘pious ones and infidels’. With this mindset, the radical groups are busy eliminating the Shia from Pakistan with vigour. The passing of the buck is the easiest action for those sitting in government to those holding the microphones on primetime programmes. The irony is that no one listens because we do not want to listen to the cries and appeals of the Shias. How can a common man with no power survive when the Quetta police itself is being issued stern warnings by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to keep its hands off its jihadists or else it will suffer dire consequences?
Amidst all this chaos, where does a common Shia visualise his future? Does he live under the psychosis of fear of following his faith or the schizophrenia of society that is considerate of the entire Muslim community but alienates itself from Shia killings, which go on unabashed? Where should a Shia go because the media remains silent and chooses to look at other trivial issues as ‘breaking news’? The Shias silently protesting for their safety have not been paid attention to by either government or media, as the burning issue of Shia killings remains orphaned at the hands of bigotry and the political tussle of extracting maximum voters by aligning with hardliners. For how long should the Shia community lament the bloodshed of its own, because once again the apathy of the government goes to the drone attack victims but not a word on the citizens being killed by the Takfiri ideology? Where does the blood of Shia martyrs go? Because of bigotry and deep-seated hatred for Shias, does their sacrifice become any less important? Now it seems that the killing of the members of the Shia community has definitely failed to arouse the forever-asleep government officials. What more is required for them to wake up?
The statistics found in a report released by the home department states that 758 members of the Shia community were killed in 478 incidents from 2008-2012 in the province of Balochistan. Of these 758 victims, 338 belonged to the Hazara community while the other 420 belong to other ethnicities. The figures clearly indicate that all these victims were killed for the same reason and that is the school of thought they chose to follow. A bloody 2012 ended on a sombre note for Pakistan’s besieged Shia community. The penultimate day of 2012 saw 20 Shia pilgrims butchered in a massive car bomb attack that targeted a convoy of buses carrying 180 Shia pilgrims to Iran. The year 2013 started in the worst possible way. Alamdar Road, the Shia-Hazara dominated area of Quetta, was targeted last week on Thursday. More than 85 people were butchered, in back to back blasts, and well over 150 were wounded, as members of the Shia community continue to be massacred in cold blood. After the barbaric attacks, the Lashkar-e- Jhangvi, as usual, claimed the responsibility for the attacks.
Quetta has seen a severe downward graph of Shia-Hazaras who have stopped attending schools/colleges/universities. Government employees either have taken leave or are being thrown out of service, a gross murder of the legitimate rights of this Shia minority but it does not move the power bigwigs. Shias from the Hazara community are a soft target since they are easily distinguishable from the other ethnic groups because of their features. In the last few years, scores of Shias from the Hazara community have moved to Australia and Canada. Some of the immigrants take grave risks, as dozens of them died of suffocation in containers. Some of them died while crossing borders while others lost the battle of their survival in shipwrecks. So desperate are people because of this barbarity and injustice that they think of only an exodus as a means of survival. They are willing to take every risk to get out of the land where they are being butchered relentlessly. When will the silence end? Will the others in majority wait until the Shia Hazaras are declared an extinct community from Pakistan? The Taliban have wiped off the Hazara community from the Bamiyan region and its affiliated missionaries have begun to face persecution at the hands of those who are distorting the demographical proportion of Pakistan.
The theory of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is nothing but a utopia, a fable story, for the think tanks to dwell upon and the world to believe that the ‘poor tribal’ people’s agitation has nothing to do with the people of Pakistan, whereas the same groups hit only those whom their version of Islam declares infidels without any challenge from any corner whatsoever and the result is the mass persecution of the Shias in the name of ‘Islam’. This month, a minister told an interviewer that associations of decades could not be washed away in a matter of months and we have to see the ground reality. The reality for the deep state, they say, is that the Taliban are a strategic asset.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is gaining new ground or is on its last legs, depends on who you are talking to. Interior Minister Rehman Malik insists that the TTP is on the verge of collapse given that its channel of funding is effectively being choked by the government. While the TTP remains apolitical, its off-shoots and allied parties are moving into mainstream politics but the other radical parties are increasing, resulting in a mass exodus of the Shias first from Quetta and now in Karachi, where every other day a Shia is killed. The media goes silent on the Shia killings but the audacity of the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi is that they have issued threats to the media houses to print their threatening statements. It is alarming, as its consequential and psychological effects are too abysmal with the passage of time. The population of the millions of Shias is searching their identity in a tide of radicalism. The psychosis of fear haunts, marking even women and children, like Mehzar and the four-year-old Suhana who was brutally killed, for no reason. But for some the reason is clear enough for them that being a Shia is equal to being an ‘infidel’. The Shias have had the biggest setback of having faced discrimination silently since the black era of Ziaul Haq, lingering to date, which is answered by peaceful protests from the Shia community.
Today it is the Shia community, tomorrow it will be some other, but the bottom line is concrete enough for the concerned authorities to act. It is ‘a Pakistani is killed’ but it should not be played down because that Pakistani is a Shia because as mentioned earlier a country’s first duty is to protect its citizens irrespective of their faith, religion, gender or language. Circa 2013, the country has seen bloodshed because of the political incapability of federal and provincial governments. The theory of vote bank politics stands tall in front of the mass Shia killings; therefore, the political parties remain silent whereas lip service of standardised comments follows for media bytes. Today, the Shias of Pakistan stand amidst blood splashed on the soil of the very country where their contribution stands tall.

Source: VIEW: Tholobate of silence on a volcano of violence —Ali Salman Alvi

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


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.

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Those who were martyred in Kohistan massacre.

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.

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Militants in Swat, Pakistan, destroyed 191 schools including 122 for girls.

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.

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Taliban flogging a girl publicly in Swat.

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.

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Announcement letter signed by various Shia clerics, at Jamia tul Muntazir Lahore, showing solidarity with Sufi Muhammad.

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.