An unholy alliance

Published: February 25, 2013

The writer is a partner at Bhandari, Naqvi & Riaz and an advocate of the Supreme Court. He can be reached on Twitter @laalshah

Amir Mir is one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists and an authority on militancy and terrorism. He has written a number of books on the subject including the well-regarded “Talibanisation of Pakistan: From 9/11 to 26/11.” In 2006, he won the APNS award for the best investigative journalist.

Mr Mir’s credentials are worth noting because this past Friday, he authored a front-page article for The News which stated in blunt terms that: 1) the Federal Government wanted the Punjab Government to “launch a massive crackdown on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and the defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)”; 2) “Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is unlikely to oblige” the Federal Government by launching such an operation; and 3) the “main reason” why the Punjab Government is refusing to take action against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is because it has “a seat-to-seat adjustment deal between the PML-N and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) for the upcoming elections”.

In case the alphabet soup of parties has left you confused, let me explain.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a militant group which has explicitly taken responsibility for the mass killings of Shias in Balochistan and elsewhere. The LeJ has also expressly taken responsibility for last week’s murder of Dr Ali Haider and his 12-year-old son in Lahore.

The SSP is an organisation established in the early 1980s by Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi whose avowed intent was to turn Pakistan into a Sunni state. The SSP was banned in 2002 as a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. According to Mr Mir and others, the ASWJ is merely a rebranded version of the SSP. In any event, the ASWJ has also been declared to be a banned organisation.

Let me therefore repeat Mr Mir’s central contention in simpler words: the Government of Punjab is unwilling to act against the self-proclaimed killers of Shias because the PML-N has an electoral alliance with a banned organisation believed to support the killing of Shias.

Is Mr Mir’s assertion correct? Frankly, I don’t know. The PML-N has denied Mr Mir’s report as it had denied an earlier report to the same effect in The Express Tribune. Unlike the Tribune, Mr Mir has issued a response to the PML-N’s denial in which he has reasserted his contention. He has noted that he had filed his report after getting the PML-N’s version from a member of that party’s central executive committee, that the PML-N and the ASWJ had jointly contested a by-election on a Punjab Assembly seat for Jhang in March 2010, and that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had openly campaigned for a PML-N candidate in 2010 along with Maulana Ludhianvi (a leader of first the SSP and now the ASWJ). Mr Mir has also noted that the Government of Punjab has admitted paying a monthly stipend to the family of Malik Ishaq — the vice-president of the ASWJ, allegedly a founder of the LeJ, and an accused in at least 43 different cases for the murder of over 70 people. As noted by The Express Tribune and other newspapers, witnesses who appear against Mr Ishaq tend to die suddenly.

What does all of this mean? I do not know for sure. But I am certainly not reassured by what the PML-N hierarchy is saying.

Take, for example, this recent statement by Ahsan Iqbal:

 “We strongly condemn terrorist acts against Ahle Tashee …. These incidents have been happening for a while now. Who is behind these acts of terrorism? Why are these elements still at large?”

Seriously? The PML-N is the second largest political party in the country and, as the ruler of Punjab, directly responsible for governing half the population of Pakistan. The Shia population of Pakistan has been getting slaughtered at an increasingly rapid rate. How is it that the Deputy Secretary General of the PML-N can have no idea and no opinion as to the entity responsible for those killings, especially when the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has repeatedly, proudly and openly claimed responsibility?

Not convinced? Take a look at the statement of condemnation issued by Mian Nawaz Sharif after more than 80 people were massacred in Quetta. That statement is too long to reproduce here but is notable only for the blandness of its language and its refusal to blame any specific group (excluding, of course, the Federal Government).

Khurram Dastgir Khan of Gujranwala, my good and extraordinarily learned friend, represents the PML-N on Twitter. I specifically asked him to comment on Amir Mir’s report but got no reply. Instead, Mr Dastgir has linked to reports of Mian Shahbaz Sharif ordering action against LeJ after prefacing them with the slogan “action, not words”. If Mian Shahbaz Sharif is finally taking action against LeJ, that is a good thing. But it needs to be understood that words too are important.

I have criticised Imran Khan in the past for his desire to enter into negotiations with the Taliban and I stand by that criticism today. At the same time, Imran Khan deserves tremendous credit for being the only major opposition figure to openly denounce the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. I have yet to see any similar open and public condemnation of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi by the PML-N. And its absence is being increasingly noted by Pakistan’s Shias.

Let me state some simple figures. Shias make up anywhere from 15-25 per cent of Pakistan’s population which in turn means about 30 to 50 million people. Even the lower end of that range represents a very large number of people.

I mention these figures because the PML-N needs to understand that: 1) the Shias are watching; and, 2) irrespective of how many Shias get killed, the remainder will still outnumber those tempted to vote for the PML-N by its pussy-footing around with the likes of Maulana Ludhianvi.

I’m sure the Sharif brothers already know that killing Shias is immoral. But they may also wish to consider that buying votes with Shia blood is bad politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2013.

Reader Comments (36)

  • Milestogo
    Feb 25, 2013 - 10:17PM

    We all need to follow one true path for peace.

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  • Fahim Akhtar
    Feb 25, 2013 - 10:23PM

    Sectarian divide is causing termite effects in our national integration and is cause of disquiet for all. Every citizen irrespective of religious, linguistic or political association is equally vital and we expect a blissful living environment; particularly comfortable milieu for religious obligations. Those imposing their will or liking forcefully through agitation, brutal acts and immorality must be handled with iron hands by all stake holders. No party gets exemption from this- even if blame to PML N is factual, will hurt its place in political canvas.

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  • Faraz
    Feb 25, 2013 - 10:32PM

    if the killing is not happening in punjab or only 10% of the killing of shia has happened in Punjab then why are you blamming PML N for this .
    It is the duty of the police of each province to catch and file cases against the killers. If sindh and Baluchistan police is not catching the killers then why punjab has to be blame?

    It is like the statement every person in Pakistan gives against America that every thing is due to America .without correcting our own selves.

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  • Falcon
    Feb 25, 2013 - 10:39PM

    It can’t be true…it is all PTI propaganda against poor innocent PMLN :)

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  • Syed
    Feb 25, 2013 - 10:55PM

    Good job Feisal Naqvi. I am glad more and more people are writing about the alliance of PML N and LeJ aka ASWJ. I really like the last sentence that Shareef brothers must know that buying votes with shia blood is bad politics. I really hope this bad politics backfires. I know these brothers are also buddy buddy with Saudis. Saudis want to implement their kind of Islam. Unfortunately the biggest party PPP hardly cares about the victims here as they only want to increase their bank balances. Last hope is with Imran Khan. Pakistani shias should unite with peace loving Sunnis and bring someone in power that will say NO to Saudis.

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  • Karachities
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:22PM

    ASWJ is party of patriot people, it doesn’t has any link to lashkar-e-jhangvi.

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  • NO BS
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:34PM

    Shameful that blood of innocent Pakistanis is used by LEJ/ASWJ to get votes and mainstream parties like PMLN encourage them by building electoral alliances…….

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  • Feb 25, 2013 - 11:39PM

    Look the elder brother has shown mirror to the liberal PPP
    http://jang.com.pk/jang/feb2013-daily/25-02-2013/col2.htm

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  • naeem khan
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:40PM

    The author conveniently forgets that the great secular Salman Taseer also addressed a public meeting with the same LEJ ASWJ in 2010 in Punjab for the same by-elections Also the great Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in 1993 gave a dozen licences of AK47 to Maulana Azam Tariq in 1993 to get Farooq Leghari elected along with making Riaz Hashmat an MPA of SSP an advisor to Mian Manzoor Wattoo
    Also recently when when Malik Ishaq was arrested the weapons recovered from him were licenced by Sindh Federal and Balochistan government and sadly for the writer not by Punjab government
    these facts are presented by a very senior journalist hamid mir in his todays column in jang but as the writer considers it insulting to read an urdu newspaper so just to freshen up his memory i am quoting these in English for his pleasure

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  • Lord
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:48PM

    @Karachities:
    I wonder how uninformed you are. Go and take a look at LeJ history who were there first members.

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  • Parvez
    Feb 26, 2013 - 12:21AM

    Now that was as clear and as direct as one could hope for………….brave of you.
    My take on this is, the Sharif brothers are not really known for their far sightedness, they have made a political pact with these undesirables thinking that they will ‘ use them ‘, while the reality is that the undesirables are using the PML-N as a stepping stone to further their mischievous agenda. Let us hope better sense prevails in the PML-N camp.
    Sir, the silence of our security establishment on this sordid affair is deafening.

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  • Arifq
    Feb 26, 2013 - 12:53AM

    Mr. Sharif and his party ideologue represents Zia’s legacy, narrow minded religious fascism colored with hatred of others.

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  • Blithe
    Feb 26, 2013 - 1:11AM

    Pure conjecture and supposition …
    and shameful journalism…

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Feb 26, 2013 - 1:39AM

    The above article is pack of lies. First of all, ASWJ is a legal organization operating in all four provinces. If its a terrorist organizations, then whose job is to ban it and take legal action against its leaders? Recently ASWJ has held several processions and strikes in Sindh and Baluchistan. Why PPP provincial governments in Sindh and Baluchistan allowed to hold these demonstrations by a terrorist organization. In 1993, it was PPP, which brought SSP into limelight and appointed SSP leader as Minister in Nikai government. Seat adjustment in elections is a speculation but presently guns which ASWJ leaders carry in demonstrations are licensed by federal government.

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  • lums123
    Feb 26, 2013 - 2:51AM

    why does’t anyone file a case against Mian brothers in supreme court to prove their alliance with malik Ishaq? And why is malik Ishaq free despite of 43 cases against him? they detained him in Rahim yar khan just a few days ago. why dont they protect the witnesses ? what fuss?

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  • John the Baptist
    Feb 26, 2013 - 3:09AM

    Vote for PTI. Kick out this filth.

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  • The Truth
    Feb 26, 2013 - 3:20AM

    As for PML N not doing enough against LeJ well what exactly is PML N expected to do? On the basis of what evidence should any action against LeJ be taken? Because someone purportedly on behalf of LeJ claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta,Baluchistan? Malik Ishaq of LeJ has denied LeJ’s involvement in Quetta blasts. I am not suggesting he is telling the truth but any action against him would require proof and a strong case built up for which federal government and Baluchistan govt’s assistance is crucial (it will be absurd for Punjab govt officials to go to Quetta to collect evidence and build up a case). 

    Every week dozens die in Karachi and Quetta. It is PPP that has not been able to improve on the law and order situation in both the provinces. But who gets blamed? PML N! How convenient

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  • WB
    Feb 26, 2013 - 3:41AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad: The “action” should be taken by the Punjab gov. since this where these people operate from. PMLN is responsible; instead building metro buses they should go after these killers!

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  • Syed
    Feb 26, 2013 - 4:09AM

    @ch Allah dad, they keep changing name. SSP LeJ and now ASWJ are all the same. Read recent statement of Aurangzeb farooqi of ASWJ where he said we won’t have to kill Shias now as they will die themselves. I pray Allah opens up your eyes before its too late.

    This author might be Shia but read recent articles by other authors on this site like Kamran shafi, Ayesha siddiqa, raza rumi and others. They all blame shareef bros and these gangs for the unrest in pak

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  • shahid
    Feb 26, 2013 - 4:13AM

    @naeem khan:
    Waiting to see a response from the author? Unfortunately what PML-N and PPP have done with the sectarian groups is what you would expect from the politicos. Expecting any sane policy by these rulers – all in the center and provinces – is whistleing in the dark

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  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 26, 2013 - 4:57AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    Please note that the article states “…the ASWJ (rebranded SSP??) has also been declared to be a banned organization”!
    The fact that ASWJ openly holds rallies and demonstrations under the very noses of the local governments supports the authors position!
    As for the “licensed by the federal government” guns that the ASWJ leaders openly carry in demonstrations, I would wonder why the federal government has not rescinded those licenses, or does the ROT spread all the way up the bureaucratic ladder???

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  • Go Zardari Go!!
    Feb 26, 2013 - 5:40AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    Knew these Noora’s wouldn’t be able take their own medicine. Cry me a river. Vote for PTI the only party with actual solutions.

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  • Rehan
    Feb 26, 2013 - 6:00AM

    PPP is the only hope for Pakistan.

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  • Lt. Gen (R) Umar Janjua
    Feb 26, 2013 - 7:01AM

    Aptly put Mr. Feisal

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  • a&a
    Feb 26, 2013 - 8:25AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    Zia ul haq zindabad

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  • Karachite
    Feb 26, 2013 - 10:33AM

    Yes lets all blame PML N for all that is wrong in Pakistan!

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  • True Karachites
    Feb 26, 2013 - 12:47PM

    @Karachities: With this mentality, you should not use this name (karachities) for yourself

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  • saqib ali rana
    Feb 26, 2013 - 2:46PM

    @Ch Allah dad
    you are found on every page to support N league’s follies. plz be rational, instead of blind following

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Feb 26, 2013 - 2:55PM

    @Milestogo:
    A more bland and irrelevant comment is not possible under the circumstances.
    The article is about political goals / compulsions obstructing decisive action against these religiously motivated barbarians and all you can come with is one line inane comment.
    By the way that’s exactly what these militants preach i.e Follow Sirat-e-Mustaqeem (as defined by us) and death for all otherwise. Are you one of them?Recommend

  • abcde
    Feb 26, 2013 - 4:32PM

    Considering past experience, it would be very surprising if the PMLN didn’t have an arrangement in place with the LeJ. However, that doesn’t exactly distinguish them from other parties. As mentioned above, the PPP also campaigned with Ludhianvi in the by-elections, and the PTI sent their people to the DPC rally, which they initially denied, but had to concede after being confronted with video evidence. The same DPC whose main member is one mr. Hafiz Saeed. So really, everybody’s the same.

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  • MilesTogo
    Feb 26, 2013 - 10:35PM

    @Hasan Mehmood:

    We need to get together and follow one path. There can be only one true path or else the violence will continue.

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  • Salman Khan
    Feb 27, 2013 - 12:36AM

    Shame on PML-N. Shame on it.

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  • Mumtaz.Rizvi
    Feb 28, 2013 - 12:06AM

    @Faraz:
    simply rubbish. you said this because you havent lost any loved one in such incidents.Dont u know that the Law Minister of Punjab has been looking after malik ishaq during his detention and had been providing stipend to his family . he has been seeing in their gatherings.

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Mar 1, 2013 - 1:58AM

    Please publish my reply. Its my right.

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  • Danish Xuberi
    Mar 3, 2013 - 7:18PM

    this is POLITICS. Votes count. Ethics are compromised. Morals traded. Though painful, IT is POLITICS at least in South Asia, where perpetrators of ethnic violence and religious hatred find safe heaven of parliament simply because of their vote bank. People will have to change the way they think to correct the society, and since we are not a free thinking society wait for at least three hundred years for a Treaty of Westphalia between the shias and the sunnis, no I dont think it is possible. They have already been fighting for more than 1,000 years.

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  • doom
    Mar 3, 2013 - 8:07PM

    @Syed:
    I find your views muddled and confused, I’m afraid. What is the PPP suppose to do about terrorist organizations in Punjab when Punjab itself wants to ally with them and what are they suppose to do about it anywhere else when all party conference gets together and decides to give the Taliban a big hug? Nor do I understand what you hope to get from Imran Khan since his politics is all about appeasement and pandering (in many cases appeasing the religious right).

    The PPP and ANP are are the only parties who have some party membership who are truly against religious extremism, but they are scared, too badly bitten already and they can’t do anything by themselves.

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