The Quaid and the Quetta massacre

Published: July 5, 2012
The writer teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada

The writer teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada

If Muhammad Ali Jinnah happened to be on the Quetta-bound bus of Shia pilgrims on June 28, the self-proclaimed custodians of Islam would have killed him, along with 13 others. They would do so because Jinnah was a Shia and that would have been reason enough.

Jinnah, for most Pakistanis today, is the Quaid-e-Azam — the man above any sect in the Islamic Republic. As the Republic he founded increasingly becomes a place where minorities feel vulnerable, it would be remiss to forget that the founder of the country was a Shia. Born into an Ismaili family, he later converted to the Twelver (isna ashri) branch of Shia Islam. He died in 1948 and his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, filed an affidavit in the Sindh High Court stating that her brother was a “Shia Khoja Mohamedan”. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, jointly signed the affidavit. Khaled Ahmed, in his book Sectarian War, documents in detail how the last rites of the Quaid were performed according to Shia stipulations. Jinnah’s Shia colleagues such as Yusuf Haroon and Hashim Raza attended the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) at the Governor General’s House, while prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan waited outside in the adjacent room. After the Shia funeral prayer, the nascent state took the body for Sunni last rites at the grounds where now stands the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi. Miss Fatima Jinnah passed away in 1967 and in her case, too, private last rites were performed according to Shia guidelines and the state-sponsored namaz-e-janaza followed it.

Sunni militant outfits portray Shias as lesser Muslims and thus, lesser Pakistanis. This commandeering of state discourse on Islam from the 1980s onward has emboldened the militants to take up arms against their coreligionists in select parts of Pakistan.

The demonisation of members of both sects denudes members of their complex human identity and reduces them to a single attribute. The demonised is then treated as a tumour in society that needs to be eliminated. A group reduced to a single trait often becomes prey to pogroms — organised massacres of a particular ethnic group. Phrases from medical science and language of sanitation come handy. Adolf Hitler went for ‘total solution’ to cleanse Jews from German society. Following the assassination of Ms Indira Gandhi in 1984, at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards, her supporters murdered thousands of Sikhs around Delhi in a matter of days. The year 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of pogrom of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat where thousands continue to languish in refugee camps.

Finally, a massive massacre accompanied the birth of Pakistan. What is now Indian Punjab, cleaned its territory of Muslims and from the Pakistani side of the Radcliffe Line, Hindus and Sikhs were wiped. Karachi, the first capital of the country, was cleansed of its affluent Hindu population. The anti-Hindu riots of January 1948 convinced hesitant Hindus to head to India. These cleanups became possible once Hindus and Sikhs were robbed of their complex socio-economic identities and reduced to being members of antagonistic faith groups.

Ordinary Pakistanis would be surprised to learn that once even Jews lived in Pakistan without much fear and in 1947, Peshawar had two synagogues. In the 1980s, Karachi’s Magain Shalome Synagogue was demolished to make way for a shopping centre.

Two prevalent myths in Pakistan about the perpetrators of pogroms and the reasons behind religious militancy obfuscate the issue.

Popular media portrays perpetrators as crazy and deranged Muslims. The fact is quite opposite. Religious militants are a product of socialisation, common in public and private religious education, where the emphasis is on certain denominational affiliation to override all other associations and treat other groups as potential enemies of Islam. Militants may be few in numbers but they are not a crazy lot.

Secondly, the idea that the religious militancy will simply go away when the Americans leave Afghanistan is another form of complacency. The American military presence in the region and the manner in which it has lost the battle of winning the hearts and minds of locals is certainly a contributing element but the rot of sectarianism coupled with militancy predates 2001 and, with the way things stand, will outlive American departure from Afghanistan. Ordinary Pakistanis generally hold no violent grudge against religious, ethnic and other minorities. What is worrisome is the hesitation of state authorities and non-Shia clergy to rein in on the rising tide of militant sectarianism in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (46)

  • kaalchakra
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:18AM

    Haider Nizami

    The Great Quaid was needed and much appreciated for delivering all Muslims from the oppression they faced from the British and the Hindus. No way he could have been killed then, in Quetta or anywhere else.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:38AM

    What a great Op Ed! I agree with every word of the author. Thanks for being fair and objective. We have taken a secular Shia leader’s Pakistan and have converted it into Salafistan. This is not a random approach but started in Zia’s era and still going strong.
    I give you one recent example of the degradation of our culture. My father passed away and it was very hard for me to even have a Quran recital for him. Some mosques do not allow that and some people strongly opposed it. Anyway I found a mosque which allowed that. A few weeks later these same people threw a party (Dholki) for my nephew three months before his wedding. It was too soon for me so I told them that I am still sad and people are coming from distances to condole. They told me that it is un-Islamic to be sad for more than 3 days. I told them to be sad on my father’s death is un-Islamic but singing and dancing is Islamic? These extremist hypocrites are making the religion stone cold. Every natural human feeling must be done away with. We have a war going on and we have to fight it there is no hiding or denying.Recommend

  • What's in a name ?
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:40AM

    Hopelessly true :(


  • Riasat
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:54AM

    A good but short overview of the situation of Pakistan Shia genocide by Mr.Haider but doesn’t clearly shows the culprits behind this game of violence. Recommend

  • True Muslim Paki
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:45AM

    Please Sir, we have heard enough lectures.. Can you plz see in other countries where sunni`s are oppressed?Recommend

  • Ahad
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:53AM

    Bravo well written article


  • Sibtain Naqvi
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:55AM

    @ Untrue so-called -muslim Paki: such as? please get some information before making silly remarks. the persecution of shias has been going on for 1400 years and its bigots like you who stay blind to it.


  • s.a.a
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:56AM

    nothing to do wid sect , not wanna involved in this nonsence but QUAID E AZAM WAS NOT SHIA .,,Recommend

  • Critics
    Jul 6, 2012 - 2:06AM

    Islam is very simple! Just pray and ask for good of all humanity. Even pray for your enemy.


  • Nadir
    Jul 6, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Why is it that pointing to other countries and saying, look! look! people are getting killed there as well, works so well in Pakistan?


  • confused Muslim Paki
    Jul 6, 2012 - 2:10AM

    @True Muslim Paki: So you think it is the fault of Pakistani minorities for the injustice with minorities in other countries ? Also, Pakistani minorities are our country fellows and in our own jursidictions.


  • spectator
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:50AM

    While it is true that most muslims were cleaned out of Indian Punjab, Indian punjab maintained a muslim majority district of Malerkotla. Recently there has been an enormous increase of muslim population in urban areas of Indian punjab, where muslim migrants from rest of India have settled due to jobs etc.


  • syedzainraza
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:56AM

    no one else could have put in in better words! atleast some people are still talking sense!


  • A.Raja Rao
    Jul 6, 2012 - 5:22AM

    Unfortunately all such writers live and enjoy life outside Pakistan


  • santhosh
    Jul 6, 2012 - 8:44AM


    Opressed at the hands of Hindus! Can you say when and how? British were ruling at the time. If you didn’t take up English education, why do you blame others for that


  • a human
    Jul 6, 2012 - 9:05AM

    Good subject but the article doesn’t seem to be focused enough.. Different points all over the place.


    Jul 6, 2012 - 10:03AM

    grat article. soul searching.


  • Ali
    Jul 6, 2012 - 10:25AM

    Great article.
    So called Muslim-Militants are actually Nazis in their ideology.
    Nazis wiped Jews in a hope to finish them, but contrary happened; Jews are more stronger now than ever.
    Shiites may be the oppressed ones here but they are not the cowards. The revolutionary spark surely comes from the blood that comes out when grinned in the mill of cruelty and oppression!


  • Jul 6, 2012 - 10:45AM

    Jinnah drew a line between Hindus and Muslims. The extremists in Pakistan are just redrawing that line, but now among Muslims.

    The only difference is Jinnah took to political blackmail encouraging violence by others(Remember Direct Action day), Terrorists also use violence…. Wait, I don’t see any difference now.

    Pakistan was born out of violence, it will continue to live with it. It will take a Gandhi to cleanse Pakistan, but Gandhi is despised in the pop culture of Pakistan.

    I don’t see any hope.. Good luck.


  • Aijaz
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:30PM

    Had Jinnah and Nehru both been on this bus in early 1940s it might have been better for sub continent.


  • Sultan Khan
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:15PM

    When the grandson of the Prophet(PBUH) can be killed by the custodians of Islam of those times why the Quiad could not be killed by the present day custodians of Islam. “Qatle Shabbir hua Nara-e-Takbir ke sath”


  • Faiza
    Jul 6, 2012 - 1:35PM

    I would blame general public for shia genocide due to their silence. These militants are in extreme minority yet they are ruining the peace of Pakistan, unfortunately majority of Sunni brothers and sisters remain quiet because deep inside somewhere in their heart they do consider shias non-Muslim. This is not for everyone but I have spent years with people who are highly educated yet I always undergo discrimination at some point with them. Shia Muslims need to be strong and fight for their rights, we have great leaders to follow and if followed rightly the success will be ours InshAllah. Peace!


  • Jul 6, 2012 - 2:19PM

    Dear Hyder, U wrote that anti-Hindu riots started in Karachi by January 1948, so, Mr. Jinnah was alive at the time (he passed way in september that year). So, my point is, was he unable to rein in Liaquat ali khan n co or he willingly allowed to happen so?


  • Abis
    Jul 6, 2012 - 2:31PM

    Majority in Pakistan dont bother about sect they are happy being Muslim. Thousands of examples are there sunni marrying shia and vice versa.

    Only security forces, judiciary need to do their job honestly


  • Adeel759
    Jul 6, 2012 - 3:35PM

    @Mirza. Condolences for your father, Sir and deeply sad for what ensued after that. This is exactly what Pakistan has been turned into, a Wrongly Righteous and Bankrupt of all Positive aspects of life. This menace of Puritan yet Intolerant and Militant Islam has spread too deep and wide across Pakistan that it just can’t be Vaccinated of this Religious Epidemic.Recommend

  • Ahsan Shah
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:07PM

    Extremely wonderful


  • Ali Wali
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:13PM

    @Ali Rind: Liaqat Ali Khan and Ayub khan never listened to Jinnah, that is a historical fact. Some people alledge that Ayub Khan used to insult Jinnah, which is a shame.


  • Jul 6, 2012 - 4:36PM

    thanks for noticing behavior with twelfth man, it is again time to retain pluralism.


  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:53PM

    Once you start discriminating on the basis of religion , It will not stop there. multiple attempts were made on Jinnah’s life by Muslim extremist sect Khaksars


  • Lord
    Jul 6, 2012 - 4:57PM

    An oppressed is an oppressed what ever there faith,caste and creed they belong.Doesnt matter what language they speak they should be sympathized .Accept shia are oppressed in Pakistan.If any sunni in other part of the world is oppressed by shias they should also be sympathized.But you wont see this case much its mostly other way around.Let it be Indonesia , Malaysia, Pakistan , Afghanistan , Bahrain , Saudia etc. Sir, be with the oppressed be that oppressed is a non-believer to you.


  • Ali tanoli
    Jul 6, 2012 - 5:57PM

    when ever economy gets down in pakistan libral fascist starts blaiming creation of pakistan
    but still they have all the luxury life in pakistan.


  • Babloo
    Jul 6, 2012 - 8:17PM

    Please don’t compare Jinnah with Nehru.
    Nehru was a secularist to the core of his soul and Muslims in India survived because if Nehru and Gandhi.

  • Raja Islam
    Jul 6, 2012 - 9:08PM

    That is incorrect. Jinnah was a Sindhi Ismaili Khoja and by definition a Shia.


  • DevilHunterX
    Jul 6, 2012 - 9:24PM

    A minority made a country for a majority.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Jul 6, 2012 - 10:02PM

    Malerkotla was given protection by the Sikhs in 1947. The nawab of malerkotla was the sole dissenter ,against the killing of guru gobind singhs sons by the ruler of sirhind. The guru gave his promise that the people of malerkotla are void of the sins of the murder of his minor sons. Malerkotla is a Muslim majority district in Punjab.


  • kashan
    Jul 7, 2012 - 1:45AM

    It’s a failure of law enforcement agencies, political government and Judiciary. I do not know these guys in power do not understand the basics of economy. A country can only do progress if peace prevails in it. Every day mass murder of Shia Muslims in Pakistan depicts only the suspicious involvement of all in power whether that is governmental or religious.


  • mystreeman
    Jul 7, 2012 - 1:53AM

    @Raja Islam:
    Jinnah was a Gujarati. And in today’s jargon a Muhajir.


  • observer
    Jul 7, 2012 - 2:30PM

    Project separation of Nations is in progress.

    It is now happening in Iraq, Mali and Bahrain too.


  • Qasim
    Jul 7, 2012 - 3:55PM

    Jinnah is the leader of a country which was based on Two Nations theory. He remained stick to his struggle. Alas our people have categorized our leader to a particular sect ,knowingly he always declare himself a Muslim . In the case of sect Jinnah didn’t not gave “many sectarian theory”.


  • Jul 8, 2012 - 5:56PM

    And look at the love of these Hindus from Karachi for their city that in India you will hardly find a city without a “Karachi Store” Or “Karachi Hotel/ Restaurant” or a thela by the name of “Karachi Chole – Bathure”


  • Azer
    Jul 8, 2012 - 5:56PM

    Historical facts are crystal clear that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, born in a Ismaili khoja family in a little town Jhirk, near Thatta in nineteenth century, initially studied in Sindh Mdarsa Karachi was a Sindhi. BUT Dear mystreeman, why you are bent upon to prove that the founding father was a refugee!!!? Apparently your point of view seems driven by some political consideration.It would be great injustice to malign the persona of the founding father for getting some political mileage. And such type of social engineering will not serve the purpose. Recommend

  • Raza Khan
    Jul 8, 2012 - 8:53PM

    They surely would have killed Jinnah like they killed his Secular Pakistan!


  • Reza Ali
    Jul 8, 2012 - 9:24PM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    If they are, how does that wrong justify this wrong?


  • Syed M. Naqvi
    Jul 14, 2012 - 1:51AM

    In fact Pakistan is suffering from Cancer of Terrorism,which is at its last stage where there is no room for chemotherapy.Hence the only solution to save Pakistan from dying (God forbid) is to perform a major surgery. In order to do that we need an expert surgeon who is dedicated to his profession to the height of sincerity and devotion.After 64 years of continuous sufferings one thing is very clear that today’s Pakistan does not need any kind of democracy.Pakistan needs a sincere Dictator who can perform major surgery to eliminate the rotten and poisonous element from the society and after thorough cleanse-up the system be transferred peacefully and smoothly to the educated and sincere citizens through free elections.Why am i recommending dictator, because in democracy there is no way for such major surgical operation.As part of this major surgery we can easily get rid of the feudal lords and corrupt politicians and their off spring who are the root cause of the ailing situation in Pakistan.
    This is the time for action where there is no further room for any delay.It is very childish and foolish attitude to blame our enemies for our failures.

    Syed Naqvi
    New York


  • Chary
    Jul 14, 2012 - 3:37PM

    Mr Nizami
    A good article but not good enough
    What happened to all the minorities in Pakistan?


  • sohail
    Jul 19, 2012 - 5:07PM

    Faiza you are very true


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