A people who are defenceless, innocent, out-powered and outgunned are being attacked and killed while the world watches. However, the world does not watch in silence. Worse, excuses are being made for the killers. The victim is being blamed. The murdered has brought it upon him. Can it be termed a war if only one side does all the killing? Nothing has been done to provoke the aggressor, yet it remains provoked, because it wants to be provoked, because it can. Innocent women and children murdered in cold blood. Even before the killing takes place, the apologists have the script ready. Sounds familiar, all of this, does it not? A state of affairs that is easy to condemn. It seems not.
One almost forgets what situation one is talking about. Gaza is a prison, where the inmates are killed for very little provocation, if any. They are being attacked for existing. That is enough provocation. It is not only the misery of a brutal death, but also dying in the knowledge that the world does not care, or perhaps, is with the aggressor. In recent days, the reaction of the Pakistani public, civil society and the media suggests that we are capable of the elementary task of condemnation of such brutality.
However, not always, not all cases of oppression are treated on a par. All conditions of systematic race murder are present right here at home. Shias are being killed through an orchestrated scheme. They are being killed for the reason of being Shia, for existing. The apologists are making excuses for the killing. Do not call it “genocide”. There are so many other people killed in Pakistan, Karachi everyday why do you focus exclusively on the Shias? Then there are apologies and excuses which come in the garb of pseudo-nationalism and inclusive rhetoric along the lines why do you insist on calling them “Shia” Muslim, let us just say Pakistanis/Muslims are being killed. Only a moral idiot would say that “Arabs” are being killed in the Israel-Palestine “conflict”. Only a moral idiot would say that “Germans” or “Europeans” were being killed in the Holocaust. Surely, it is too generic, too vague. Those in Gaza are killed because they are Palestinians and because they are Muslims. Those killed in the Holocaust were killed because they were Jewish. The “Shia” are being murdered in Pakistan because they are Shia. To ignore that is malicious or cowardly or both.
To call this “sectarian conflict or strife” is as accurate as calling the aggression of Israel on the Gaza strip as a “war”. I oppose the ideology, religious rhetoric and methods of Hamas and of all religiously motivated enterprises. However, when it comes to the people of Gaza, it is not a war; it is an assault. It is heartening to see our people recognise this basic principle in the Israel-Palestine situation. At the same time, it is disturbing and distressing to see their failure or worse, unwillingness to do so in the case of the Shias, right here. Let us start by condemning the murder and oppression at home and then move to the World. Or at the very least, do both simultaneously. The Shias of Pakistan need and deserve everyone’s sympathy, support and outrage more than everyone else.
In the recent past, there has been a lot of discussion and rightly so on the reluctance to name the enemy directly by political leadership. In case of the sectarian murderous organisations, the unwillingness and fear is even more palpable. How many times have you heard any mainstream political leader condemn the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), ASWJ or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) by name? How many times has the need of a crackdown on these terror outfits been publicly discussed by the media? Well, I say let us discuss it now. Let us do it now. The media, in many cases, does not even mention the sectarian affiliations of those murdered. The television channels give the leaders of these banned, sectarian outfits more time than to the victims. The point of view of the murderer is the dominant view, the only view.
The talk of courage by political parties sounds hollow, when there is complete silence on the issue of these sectarian militant organisations. There are reasons for that, they are afraid of the TTP, yet it is still distant (it should not be, but unfortunately that is the perception). Israeli forces are again far away and much bravado can be displayed. Whereas the SSP/ASWJ and LeJ are within us, political parties have affiliations, arrangements, there are votes to be gained and lost. Then there is also fear.
The Punjab government has a lot to answer for on this question. The Punjab law minister when questioned about publicly consorting with these outfits almost responded by saying everyone does it. Malik Ishaq was reportedly paid a stipend for the time he was in custody and later on acquitted by our independent judiciary, partially because of poor prosecution. The Punjab law minister has outdone himself now. When asked about the attacks on the recent procession in Rawalpindi, he advised Shias not to hold processions publicly because that makes them a target. He should be fired for making this vile statement. Strongly implied in the statement was that Shia Muslims provoke the ASWJ and the LeJ by mourning in public, by merely existing; not even a weak pretence of the home-made rockets fired on Tel Aviv.
The Israeli forces have rightly been reminded (not enough though) to ponder whether they are acting as true heirs of the Holocaust victims. Has some cruel irony of fate, swapped the roles of the Israeli forces today with those perpetrators of yesterday? You will read this on the Tenth of Muharram. The parallels of Karbala and Gaza are obvious. Equally obvious should be the parallels between Pakistan today and Karbala. The legacy of Imam Hussain (RA) and Karbala is of all humanity. We in Pakistan have to ask ourselves, whether we can today rightly claim ourselves as heirs of Imam Hussain (RA). No we cannot. We, today, have a Gaza Strip of our own. We today have a Karbala of our own.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2012.