Posts Tagged ‘SSP’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:

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

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


Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on May 5, 2012.  It was my first ever write-up to have been featured in any newspaper. I’m pleased to cross-post that article from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

The syndrome of religious fanaticism, intolerance and so-called moral evangelism is eroding the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst we have been hijacked by the might of radicalism, as a nation we have refused to budge over the gravity of the situation using different covers to hide under, therefore turning a blind eye to the severity of the repercussions of such plausible deniability. It is a lack of veracity most of us suffer from; it is an incurable version of dementia and selective amnesia, and on top of that, we are consistently smothering our willpower to recover from such a horrible state of affairs. Without offering significant resistance, we are fast sliding into the depths of chauvinism, hatred and intolerance.

The seeds of militancy that were planted in the land of the pure in the name of jihad back in the 1980s are bearing their own ‘fruits’ on a full fledged scale now. It is indispensable to learn that terrorism in Pakistan did not emerge after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 attacks invigorated the terrorist groups in Pakistan, which at that time were exclusively engaged in persecuting Shias and other minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, apart from launching a hate campaign against the aforementioned communities as a germane mission. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the cancer of extremism and sympathy with the Taliban has penetrated so deep in our people that it requires a major surgery to stand any chance of recovering from the deteriorating condition that, if not controlled, may cause anarchy in the restive land. On top of all this, the undeniable presence of the militant mindset in the midst of the very security agencies intended to eradicate it is indeed terrifying.

One cannot repudiate sharing of inside intelligence information and some tactical assistance in the suicide attack on a Special Services Group mess in September 2007 to the unprecedented attack by militants on the Central Jail, Bannu to free their comrades a few days back. At least 20 commandos were killed and another 25 injured in a suicide blast at an army officers’ mess almost five years ago, whereas in what is being described as the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central jail in Bannu and freed 384 inmates. Heavily armed insurgents appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside. A militant commander who helped plan the assault on the Bannu jail said his group had inside information. “We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” said the commander, a senior member of the Taliban. Needless to say, the police arrived at the scene when the militants had escaped after completing their mission successfully.

The astonishing developments in the aforementioned brazen attacks signify to what extent the Taliban and their sympathisers have penetrated into our security agencies and the imminent threat that it poses for us. The murder of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer by one of his security guards, an elite force personnel, last year in January is yet another warning of the potential repercussions when those intended to extirpate terrorism or protect others from the wrath of the terrorists instead join hands with them.

It is acknowledged that since the 1980s, the extremist groups, conspicuously the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat (a Salafi/Wahabi militant group), backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, made a conscious effort to induce radical elements in the law enforcing agencies and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a significant degree. It is evident that the penetration by terrorists into our security and administrative infrastructure goes quite deep. The state of Pakistan needs to devise a plan to conduct a purge, single out these abominable elements and oust them from the heart of our law enforcing agencies and other institutions before they strike again sitting from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage. Such elements should be served with exemplary punishments so that the trend to help these militants in the name of Islam/Shariah can be prevented to good effect.

War against the enemy within is not going to be easy. It requires a strong intent and a firm belief that despite the horrendous state of affairs, we can still win this war. Unless we do not internalise that the major threat to the stability of Pakistan is from within, we would be helping the cause of anti-state elements inevitably. Forget about the rhetoric of blaming the RA&W, the CIA and other foreign agencies for the time being, and try to ponder where those with sympathies for the Taliban, and an eagerness to act on their behest, lurk. That said, I am not ruling out the involvement of some foreign forces to destabilise Pakistan. However, we have to realise that at the end of the day, it is a bunch of hardcore militants, belonging to different sects, inside Pakistan, combined for one common agenda, who are carrying out all these terrorist activities not only internally, but are involved in cross-border terrorism as well. Vehement finger pointing at others is always easy, but battling the enemy within is definitely not a walk in the park.

Source: Daily Times http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C05%5C05%5Cstory_5-5-2012_pg3_4