Published originally in Daily Times on Monday March 5, 2012 as my weekly BAAGHI
On February 28, 2012, once again, we slept calmly for having proved ourselves to be good pious Muslims. We killed 19 Shia pilgrims returning from ziyarat (pilgrimage) in Iran to their homes in Gilgit-Baltistan. On their way, in District Kohistan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, their vehicles were stopped, they were asked for their identities, some of them were made to get down, stand in a line, and were shot dead at point blank range. All of them belonged to Shia community that we so want to get rid of.
The data from banks shows a majority of account holders are from the Fiqh-e-Jafariya for the simple reason that they are exempt from automatic deduction of Zakat. This community, nevertheless, remains a ‘minority’ sect in Pakistan. With a long and rich history of harmony between the Shia and Sunni communities of Pakistan, it is rather intriguing to see such widespread hate crimes — well, let’s call a spade a spade, organised Shia killings — throughout the length and breadth of this country. Karachi, Quetta, Parachinar, Gilgit-Baltistan and now Kohistan — this is increasingly becoming an organised genocide of Shias in Pakistan.
Lamenting a perceived Shia-Sunni divide and radicalism as the cause of this genocide would be a painful ignorance of facts. Pakistan’s society could never fall into this trap of violent sectarian clashes even after the decades long “hard work” by the sectarian militants. Shias and Sunnis are still living — or at least trying real hard at it — with each other. Allama Nazir Abbas Taqvi, a Shia scholar, after the latest tragic murders of 19 Shias in Kohistan, completely rejected the notion that there was any tension between the two communities. In fact, both the communities were together against the Ahmedis in the 1950s, and then in the early 1090s. It was the 1980s that brought this gift for Pakistan.
Not much of a labour for digging out what else was happening in the 1980s. Remember? Afghan Jihad, the CIA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — errr…Pakistan’s ISI — rings some bell? In the same decade, Pakistan saw sprouting of many sectarian outfits, aggressive in their speech and violent in their actions. Some of these groups were volunteering for our most pious cause…Kashmir. The others were furious against the godless Soviet Union (while being completely at ease with China). There were yet others who were eager to offer themselves for ‘crushing India’ and ‘destroying Israel’. Perfect setting for you know who!
Fast-forward and we come to 1996. The Taliban’s control on Kabul is consolidated. Pakistan, along with the Kingdom and the Emirates, recognises the regime that got power through the gun and violence. They pay us back by becoming our bogeyman for India, and keeping our hard-earned sectarian militants safe and well trained so we could use them whenever the domestic situation or ‘diplomacy’ with India demands. Using these ‘assets’, democratic governments that dare to be ‘too independent’ would be hushed on the domestic front. On the Indian front, usability of these assets was undeniably effective. Plausible deniability of cross-border terrorism got manifold when ‘our own house is burning due to these militants’. It’s like saying, ‘What if my dog bites you? It bites me so often.’
But never mind, what if a few of our people (as few as around 19,000 in the last five years) die in the process? At least we muted all non-conformism and brought down the enemy so well. So well that the ‘enemy’ is an emerging regional power and our children still dying without medicines, our industry getting shut down without energy, our people getting killed by the same ‘dog’. So what?
Lest you think I am suffering from the worst case of delusion, please look around and you will see so many Shias and Sunnis living in complete harmony. Did you notice how the brave Shia community is standing firm to protect the Sunni minority of Parachinar? Did you realise how the Shia elders of Nagar Valley took around 35 Sunnis in protective custody lest they may be harmed by miscreants? In the 1980s, my mother-in-law gave shelter to a number of neighbouring Shias in her house. She still reminisces with tears in her eyes how peacefully they were all living till then. How some aggressive young men with Kalashnikovs entered every household, enquire about their sect, verify the information, etc. And adding that no one knew who they were, no one had ever seen them before.
So then, who were they? Who are they? If people do not know them, where are they coming from? How do they have access to modern weapons? What makes them so organised, disciplined and well-trained? When a slap given to an election officer by an unnerved contestant, two bottles of liquor allegedly imported in her handbag by a prominent woman, a stupid memo whose author remains undetermined gets so much attention of our judiciary, who will convict these militants? When civilian law-enforcing agencies are made completely subservient to the all-powerful ‘premier’ spy agency of the country, who will look after the safety of the people? The interior ministry and home departments do not even mutter audibly if the premier agency is found on the side of someone. The case in point being the latest newspaper reports about the inability of police to get enough circumstantial evidence in cases of terrorism on account of the illegal interference of the premier spy agency.
Probably the engineers of these dozens of sipahs and lashkars and jamaats did not realise that it might not be just Indians or Afghans at the receiving end of violence always. They could not foresee that the madness they were instilling in their trainees for jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir might come back to Pakistan itself. They did not bother to think twice before using that tactic in Gilgit-Baltistan for probably engaging them in mutual strife so that they might not even think about their long promised autonomy.
The latest well-assisted regimenting of these ‘assets’ could be seen in the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC). Abdul Rehman Makki, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), one of the DPC’s members, is quite a fiery orator from the Jamaat. On Kashmir Day, February 5, 2011, Makki was heard speaking vociferously against what he thought was a thaw in Indo-Pak relations. On this occasion he gave a superb advice to the government of Pakistan. Establish a ministry of Jihad, he said, and get the first batch of one million trained soldiers from him readily. He also offered that the total budget of this proposed ministry would be given by JuD. He was standing on a big stage on the Mall Road of Lahore. One would have expected Punjab’s home department to immediately get hold of this hate-monger who openly confessed to having a personal army of trained soldiers as well as resources to wage jihad.
But nothing happened. Who would dare touch the assets? It is probably high time the Generals understood that their strategy had been a total failure and had brought death upon Pakistanis themselves. More kicks than half pence, as they say.