How many more massacres?

Published: September 21, 2011
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Pakistani Shiite Muslims shout slogans against the killing of community members in Quetta on September 21, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistani Shiite Muslims shout slogans against the killing of community members in Quetta on September 21, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The massacre on September 20 of a bus full of Hazara Shia near Quetta is another grotesque reminder of the slow, but steady, erosion of the religious state in Pakistan. It is not only the Quetta Shia who are the permanent target of terrorists. The Turi community — formed through historical migration from Afghanistan to Kurram Agency in the Tribal Areas — tells the same tragic story of Pakistan’s abandonment of its afflicted communities. The main road that links the agency’s headquarters Parachinar with Peshawar and the rest of the country has been more or less closed since 2007 because of the Taliban and their allied militants in the area. Unfortunately, the government has not able to keep it open for more than a few days, despite a much-heralded agreement earlier this year between the various tribes of Kurram. As for the September 20 massacre, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose leader Malik Ishaq was recently released from a jail in Punjab, claimed the attack, which resulted in the cold-blooded execution-style killing of 29 Shia pilgrims on their way to Iran.

Pakistan is struck with amnesia about the Hazaras every time a massacre takes place. The one on the last Eidul Fitr was forgotten; this one will be forgotten too. In the last three years, 230 of them have lost their lives as citizens of Pakistan. When Pakistan was supporting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan starting 1996, it began offering the sacrifice of its citizens to Mullah Umar and his renegade state as proof of its loyalty. And the killings didn’t begin in the 1990s but much before, around the time of General Zia’s Islamisation when the s0-called jihad against the Soviet Union was in full swing. The state tolerated the killing of the Shia by the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif, and did nothing when the Taliban regime that it supported in Kabul went after the Hazara in their heartland of Bamyan. In 2001, following America’s invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda fighters escaped to Pakistan and found shelter here, thanks in part to a network of sympathisers. When this happened, many of the homegrown sectarian killers found a readymade host in al Qaeda with its virulently anti-Shia ideology. In 2003, when the Shia were massacred during Ashura in Quetta, the local Shia leaders showed pamphlets issued by all major madrassas of Pakistan which had declared their sect as heretical.

The main sectarian organisation called Sipah Sahaba circumvented the ban placed on it by splitting into several smaller parts, and as it did this, the state did nothing. One splinter was the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the other was the Jaish-e-Muhammad. The first has joined al Qaeda as a member of Brigade 313 where Tehreek-i-Taliban and Jundullah are featured together with members of al Qaeda. The Lashkar and Jaish are both products of south Punjab, based in Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan respectively with links to the madrassa network headed by a well-known seminary in Karachi.

Pakistan’s turning away from the international community, as symbolised by its pulling out of the IMF programme and its escalating estrangement from America, could well place it in a completely isolationist corner. In fact, if that were to happen, it will only further encourage the forces of obscurantism and extremism, which have already made their significant presence felt across the length and breadth of Pakistani society. In this context, the assassination in Kabul through suicide bombing of the leader of the Tajik community in that country, Burhanuddin Rabbani, also on September 20, could further push Pakistan into this isolationist corner, not least because the rest of the world assumes, rightly or wrongly, that most Taliban attacks inside Afghanistan originate from Pakistan. Those who think that terrorism started in 2001 because Pakistan joined America’s war on terror, should know that attacks on Shias have been happening since the 1980s and since that period non-state actors have been involved in them, and that most of these have links to the Taliban and al Qaeda of today. The question to ask is: how many more massacres are we going to see of the Shias before we wake up and decide to purge the monster of sectarianism from within us?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd,  2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • gulbadsha
    Sep 21, 2011 - 10:14PM

    Why is the so-called Independent judiciary of pakistan silent on this massacre? where are the human rights activists? Where are the Political/Religious leaders?

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  • buttjee
    Sep 21, 2011 - 10:28PM

    Very unfortunate and sad incident. Area ahead of Lak pass towards Zahidan has been the scene of Shiaite killings for quite some time now. The provincial Government has completely failed to protect the lives of its citizens. This area should be effectively patrolled by the security forces and each convoy should be provided with a strong police or FC escort. At the same time civil and military intelligence net work in this area should be reinforced and made more effective.

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  • Hedgefunder
    Sep 21, 2011 - 10:59PM

    The Twin Nation for the Land of pure is North Korea ! Just learn to listen to the Chinese, for a very long time and kiss goodbye to the rest of the world!!!!!!

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  • Ali
    Sep 22, 2011 - 3:26AM

    Sadly sunnis don’t even comment on such articles. Where is Cheap Justice???

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  • Humanity
    Sep 22, 2011 - 7:42AM

    “a civilization doesn’t die from being invaded from the outside but rather commits suicide”

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  • Amazed
    Sep 22, 2011 - 7:47AM

    Although we have suffered enormously, we owe a sense of gratitude to ET for its unequivocal stance and condemnation of virulently deadly anti-Shia organizations. It is the only paper in Pakistan which has come forward to speak for every minority. Thank you.

    As for the state’s abandonment of Shias, it is barely surprising. Does anyone really believe that state was moved by what happened day before yesterday? No. It never does. It never will. Why? Because we are not Sunnis. :)

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  • pfaraz
    Sep 22, 2011 - 10:50AM

    @ali life lost is life lost no one life lost is more precious then teh other. y bring up sectarianism and not talk abt common thing.. if we continue to like this hatred will stay in our society
    i’ve mentioned on other column tht the story of kid died in karachi blast gets covergae even after three days yet mastung incident and peshawer bus incident was forget within 24 hours…
    so there should be media trial of LeJ and other outfits similar to the one tehy did for karachi killings – MQM, PPP and ANP

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  • Doctor
    Sep 22, 2011 - 11:46AM

    I am not Shia but I feel the pain of our Shia brothers. We should be ashamed at what Pakistan has become. We were supposed to be a homeland safe place for Muslims and all minorities but India is much safer for Shias and frankly all Muslims. Recommend

  • saeed
    Sep 22, 2011 - 6:40PM

    Where is justice and chief justice————

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  • buttjee
    Sep 22, 2011 - 10:09PM

    @ saeed
    Chief Justice is right here. Please listen to the news on the TV channels.

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  • Aftab Hussain
    Sep 23, 2011 - 12:24PM

    The Mastung Carnage is a succession of series of Genocide of Hazaras. Numerous times voice has been raised asking the Supreme Court to take Suo Mo to notice of such incidents but it is turning a deaf ear to the growing massacre which have till date claimed more than 600 lives.

    No culprit has been brought to justice in decade long terrorist acts in Quetta. The political parties in Balochistan have become silent spectators to Hazaras killings. History is the witness that a cruel society can not exist for long. Our country depicts a state of lawlessness. Human blood is cheaper than a bullet.
    We have a tarnished image in international arena on accounts of instability. How long will this circumstances continue?

    I ask from nation if the state has potency to sack the terrorists, bring them to justice and prevail peace? In the mean while, masses should unite regardless of their ethnicity and religious believes against all sorts of violence and hatred including sectarianism and terrorism. Recommend

  • abifka
    Sep 23, 2011 - 10:50PM

    @gulbadsha:
    Because it is a judiciary with no shame, no guts or simply no fear of God !!! Supreme court frees ppl like Mukhtaran Mai case’s culprits and Malik Ishaq to go out and carry out his vow that he took saying he will do it again ( kill shias again ) as his fath calls him for this obligatory duty.

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  • Ghulam Hussain
    Sep 24, 2011 - 12:59PM

    In Pakistan all the people belonging to different school of thought. but banned organizations killing the innocent people for trying to speared anarchy and destabilizing the brotherhood atmosphere between the citizen of Quetta city. Our nation’s killing reason is a we are educated defender of our religion, nation, country. we are the follower of Imam Hussain a.s. and we are patriot and loyal with our country cause. The terrorists are the enemy of state and people they have no religion and humanity and they have no arguments no rule of law or justice, we can see their nasty brutal killing activities killings the innocent women and children in all PAKISTAN they wana rule on people with just bullet and suicide jackets. they killed about 600 innocent Hazaras Shia just in Quetta. The Government have implemented ban on all such organizations which are anti state and humanity. The IHRC, human right activists should be aware and take serious notice on the killing on innocent citizens. The innocent people need your attention and favour to stop this brutehood nonstop act. May Allah rest their soul with peace all shohada in janah. (Amin ya Rabulallameen) Pakistan Zindabad Terrorists Murdabad.

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