Stop the genocide

Published: February 21, 2013

The writer is Director, Policy & Programmes Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views expressed are his own

After five years of inaction, and pursuing a play-it-safe policy, it seems that the civilian government has woken up to the horrific Shia genocide taking place in the country — be it professionals in Karachi and Lahore, young children, or the beleaguered, ghettoised Hazara community of Quetta. It is a measure of the unbecoming state of governance in the country that short of invoking every conspiracy theory under the land, the politicians and the unelected institutions have been scared even to name the militant groups involved.

A children’s library in Islamabad boasts a violent madrassa and it is supported by various organs of the state, but when it comes to pandering to militant forces, everyone unites in their cowardice. Similarly, a water tanker meant to fill in the gap for crumbling service delivery structures, is used as a vehicle to massacre an endangered minority.

Discourses to obfuscate the reality are found aplenty. It is said that foreign agencies want to destabilise Pakistan, or that Iran is fighting a proxy battle. Others say that Pakistan’s joining the US in the war of terror that has landed us into an abysmal state of violence and fear. Despite such conspiracy theories, should we not ask ourselves why we have allowed groups such as the SSP, LeJ and their new avatar, the ASWJ to operate with near complete abandon? Is it not a fact that the Supreme Court of Pakistan freed the head of the LeJ? Is it not a fact that the Punjab government was providing a stipend to the family of an accused? Is it not a fact that all witnesses against Malik Ishaq have been killed with police and intelligence agencies watching, in complicit silence? Is it not a fact that we nurture proxies to pursue our regional ambitions of controlling Afghanistan and liberating Kashmir?

What is even more worrying is how notionally banned sectarian outfits have entered into official partnerships with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda. There is incontrovertible evidence to suggest that the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are branches of the same movement, working under the broad banner of al Qaeda’s worldview. With thousands of soldiers lost in a war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, what prevents it from taking a clear policy position on these issues? How can we even become a regional power if we are not able to protect our citizens, create a secure environment for businesses to operate and ensure that basic rights of citizens are guaranteed?

Perhaps, there are no simple answers. The civil-military imbalance in Pakistan means that policy and strategic decision making is deeply split. There is a constitutionally legitimate government and an opposition, but they have little control over foreign and security policies. The military continues to pursue its ‘strategic’ goals, apparently with little input from society at large. If the top military leadership has identified the enemy within, then why is the all powerful intelligence apparatus not tracking down the activities, linkages and plans of the militant groups, purportedly in alliance with the “enemy”?

I can understand the anguish of the Hazara community in seeking protection from the army and wanting the city of Quetta to be controlled by them. In the absence of civilian law enforcement, what else can a group of people ask for? Army rule can only be a short-term solution. Unfortunately, it has never solved anything for Pakistan, except causing dissension and every military rule has left a bigger mess for ineffectual civilians to clean up.

In the present scenario, the parliamentary committees must summon the intelligence agencies and question their (lack of) effectiveness in preventing Shia massacres across the country. An operation that has been announced in Quetta must be taken to its logical conclusion. It cannot be limited to Balochistan, because the bases of sectarian outfits are located in Punjab. In the larger national interest, the PML-N will have to think beyond its forthcoming electoral gains and sacrifice a number of seats to enable an effective crackdown against the militants.

The PPP must not be on the back foot, for it has everything to lose if it abandons Shias, minorities and its other supporters. It must enter into an immediate dialogue with the Punjab government and the PML-N to put into place a medium-term plan for tackling sectarian killings. The civilians can no longer let the mayhem continue. By acting as silent spectators of death sport, they are going to ruin their long-term prospects of legitimacy. And if the civilians think they cannot control the khakis, then it is time for some honest confessions and they should take the people into confidence about how they are not in charge.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.

Reader Comments (17)

  • Tariq
    Feb 21, 2013 - 3:31AM

    Raza – Just give up! This country is doomed. Run before its too late.

    -tariq

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  • Atif Salahuddin
    Feb 21, 2013 - 3:53AM

    The author writes that “There is incontrovertible evidence to suggest that the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are branches of the same movement, working under the broad banner of al Qaeda’s worldview.” He then adds “An operation that has been announced in Quetta must be taken to its logical conclusion. It cannot be limited to Balochistan, because the bases of sectarian outfits are located in Punjab.”

    If the author has concluded that the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are the one and the same and a wide ranging military operation is required against them, then why is it that the purveyors of the War on Terror (WoT), namely the US and UK are actually sitting and talking to them in Qatar? Just less than 2 weeks ago British PM Cameron called upon the Taliban to join peace talks. So while the political masters of this WoT sit and talk to their enemy, it would seem further bloodshed and mayhem is to be prescribed for Pakistan.

    The truth is that the US has long wanted military operations conducted inside Pakistan to tie down the Pakistan army in a protracted guerrilla war which will actually lead to further long term bloodshed. If the US can hold talks to solve its problems with the Taliban, then so can Pakistan.

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  • Magnanimity
    Feb 21, 2013 - 4:49AM

    @ Raza Rumi
    **”After five years of inaction, and pursuing a play-it-safe policy, it seems that the civilian government has woken up
    Were you not the one who used to bash SC and Judges when they said similar things ?
    Aren’t you,today, going to take your words an attack on democracy and on your favourite inept PPP government?

    I would rather say “thank God after 5 years you have woken up and can see PPP government has been inactive and incompetent for past 5 years and haven’t done anything for a common man “

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  • Syed Raza Ali
    Feb 21, 2013 - 5:29AM

    Excellent piece! Without mincing words. Thank you Raza

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  • Yoghurt lover
    Feb 21, 2013 - 7:19AM

    Well written.

    Perhaps, Pakistan need to explore the sources of funding for these organizations and choke them.

    It’s quite well reported that these organizations collect funds from the ordinary people during the religious months. How can you stop that?

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  • RAW is WAR
    Feb 21, 2013 - 7:38AM

    very frank.

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  • Mehdi
    Feb 21, 2013 - 7:54AM

    @ atif – you seem to be delusional about terrorism. Why bring in US and UK into this. Implicitly you are supporting terrorism in the form of Taliban. Pakistan needs to eliminate them or somebody else would. My country USA can easily win against this evil people, obstacles are coming from Pakistan side.

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  • Arifq
    Feb 21, 2013 - 9:10AM

    All this pain can go away if we as a nation own our problems, sadly Rumi Sahib that is not to be as PMLN in Punjab continues to pander these extremist elements giving them official protocol. Same can be said for the PPP who lost their leader (Benazir Bhutto), Governor (Salman Taseer) and hundreds of supporters killed in Karachi when Benazir convoy was hit by suicide bombers. We as a society have chosen to hide behind religion for all our woes and the religious extremists are exploiting our obsession.

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  • shakeel
    Feb 21, 2013 - 11:33AM

    @Mehdi: yes, we know the glorious record of the US and the earlier iterations of invading armies in Afghanistan… I don’t think the detractors of this war had Pakistan on their minds when they advised against it’s launch.

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  • Rumiullah
    Feb 21, 2013 - 11:44AM

    it is so wordy,,, can you write more clearly… American newspapers even have more easy language,,,,

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  • MSS
    Feb 21, 2013 - 1:10PM

    Pakistan was founded on intolerance, false perceptions and with a dream that Islam will become a vehicle for excellence. It seems that the same mindset is gradually eating into the fabric of its society. Unless there is an obvious and urgent distraction, the country will continue to hurtle along this path leading to an implosion.

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  • WASIMZ
    Feb 21, 2013 - 1:20PM

    Bold and daring. The root cause of this is none other than the brotherly nations, we must denounce and discourage their existence. Enough!

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  • Atif Salahuddin
    Feb 21, 2013 - 7:13PM

    @Mehdi: You seem to be oblivious to the facts. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and brought its war to Pakistan which our feeble and mercurial leaders gratefully decided to join for a few dollars more in terms of US aid. There was no war in the tribal areas before this. We did not have Raymond Davis’s roaming around before.

    Second bear in mind your country, the US, along with the UK are ACTUALLY talking to the Taliban right now. So please when you question what the US and UK have to do with this, keep this is mind first.

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  • Syed
    Feb 22, 2013 - 12:11AM

    Raza Rumi and other authors are now writing what we Shias have been yelling out loud for long time. Unfortunately all of our political parties are extremely corrupt. They don’t care that minority is being butchered. Zia ul Haq spread so much hatred in his time that I don’t know how long before we have sincere people in our military and security agencies.

    Anyways I thought all of Pakistani population was dead but there are people like Raza Rumi and Ayesha Siddiqa and several others that still have a heart.

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  • Feb 22, 2013 - 3:36AM

    You are up to the marking in exposing the real scenario from the shia genocide..the devil lies with in us.. extremism is getting in its strong roots which is curse, the clash of ignorance in his way and our leadership still busy in understanding political gains.. fed up with givt adn military,,

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  • Feb 22, 2013 - 3:39AM

    The state organs are responsible for the protection and security of the people but with things have proved opposite.. they themselves are not in a position to protect their selves.. inefficiency of intelligence , security breach out and continuous shia genocide … where are u mr kayani , Dg isi , Mi ?

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 23, 2013 - 3:10AM

    @Tariq:
    A good advice and take your fellow travellers with you.

    Rex Minor

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