Posts Tagged ‘Shia massacre’

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


Advertisements

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.