The sustained campaign of violence against Pakistan’s Shia community continues unabated.
The overall number of bomb blasts and targeted attacks have reached unprecedented levels with 1,304 people killed from explosions, and another 601 people falling victim to targeted killings.
More worryingly, the scope of the attacks has also widened. In addition to the long standing sectarian crisis in Karachi and Quetta, there has been an upsurge in anti-Shia violence in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, interior Sindh and southern Punjab. In addition, the number of blasphemy allegations against Shia Pakistanis has increased exponentially. This represents a new and equally troubling reality for the community.
On January 10, 2013, twin bombings targeting Pakistan’s tiniest ethnic minority, the Hazaras — descendants of Central Asians and who are distinguished easily by their unique facial features — killed over 100 young men at a snooker club.
Many attacks against Shia Muslims are carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Islamic group allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. This time too the LeJ promptly claimed responsibility for the slaughter
So far the Hazaras have endured every killing and attack with silent suffering, hoping their lack of response would be rewarded by a cessation of targeted attacks. But not this time.
The sight of 100 mangled bodies, including that of Pakistan’s leading Shia youth activist for human rights, Khudi Ali seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Instead of burying the dead, as is required by Islamic law, the Hazara Shia Muslims took the coffins to the streets and refused to bury the deceased unless the government assures them of protection against jihadi groups tied to the Taliban.
For over 72 hours the Hazara Shias of Quetta braved sub-zero temperatures that dropped to -10C, and refused to vacate the blocked road or to bury the dead. Initially, the inefficient and incompetent government showed inaction but eventually the PM visited the imambara next to the site and agreed to dismiss the provincial government.
If Pakistan’s men in uniform wished to help, they could easily cut off all ties to the jihadi terrorists and liquidate them. Instead, they perform a strip-tease for America and the Pakistani population, acting as if they are fighting the jihadis while giving the Taliban leadership of Mulla Omar shelter in Quetta.
Destabilizing Pakistan before an election
The fresh slaughter of the Shia in Pakistan comes in the wake of other events unfolding in Pakistan that seem to suggest its part of an attempt to destabilize the country and thwart parliamentary elections due in a few months.
No matter how this play unfolds, the Pakistan created by a Shia Muslim, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, today lies in ruins, being torn apart as vultures gnaw at its carcass. It was near Quetta, Balochistan that MA Jinnah came to die and it is perhaps Balochistan where the country he created will finally unravel into dust.
The Shia and Ahmadi Muslims that are being killed, together with Pakistan’s beleaguered Hindu minority as well as traumatized Christian community, should be seen as canaries in the mine. In their demise is a warning to the rest of us. A nuclear power is about to collapse.
In this decade alone, more than 1000 members of Hazara community, have mercilessly targeted and killed. The State of Pakistan damned by its Wehrmacht and the assortment of vassal militias i.e. Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sunni Thehreek, Ahle Sunnat wal Jammaat, etc., all named and basing their purpose and goals of Islamic Sharia cannot escape the indictment of turning Pakistan into a Wahhabi state even if it means mass killings of Shias and minorities a reminder of Jew holocaust of 30s and 40s in Nazi Germany.
Pakistan is today the battleground of the Saudi dynasty’s war against the Shias.
Despite the fact that Pakistan has had spates of democratic rule, but by and large the State has gradually been reduced to a theocratic authoritarian state.
Democracy is as meaningless outside the Parliament as the Rule of Law remains dead outside the courtrooms. The Constitution has substantially been undermined to the extent of a document which ill affords to provide any surety of life and liberty to the citizens of Pakistan. The writ of the Government of Pakistan has been totally lost from the KPK Province to Baluchistan and in port city Karachi. The city sees death of some 20 to 25 on an average of its citizens every day.
Section 154 Cr. P.C is no longer a provision of law which puts the investigative machinery of the Police in motion, but factually is only a memo by the name of FIR for recording the “offences” designing human lives into figures, and statistics. By the appalling conditions of Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System, it has in all areas of government become dysfunctional and a failed state, fast deteriorating into unfathomable anarchy, given the fire power the non-state actors have assembled, and a confused Wehrmacht, which is shown the desecrated bodies of its Officers and Soldiers, on a routine basis and yet refuses to accept that Taliban will now rule Pakistan, and no longer be its strategic asset. Its Officers do not even have the courage to condemn these horrific acts. Dissentions on the stated policy on Taliban within the military establishment cannot be ruled out. The banning of YouTube raises serious suspicions on the reasons for cutting it off from Pakistani viewers. The videos of inhuman slaughtering of Pakistani soldiers are easily available to viewers. The refusal by the Federal Government, the Government of Sindh and that of Government of Baluchistan to call in Army in aid of Civil Power shows the weakness of the democratic system of Pakistan.
The role of the Supreme Court in the deteriorating law and order also is a cause of alarm.
To date the judiciary has acquitted more than 900 militants. The judiciary’s pliant sympathy for Lal Masjid and other extremist organizations is a matter of public record. Its assumed authority of “supremacy” cuts through all concepts and ideas yet advanced in all legal systems. The intrusion of judiciary in the Executive arm and the Parliament has further confused the Politics of Pakistan. Since its restoration the judiciary has done little to uphold the rights of the citizens of Pakistan, except for using Article 184 clause 3 of the Constitution of Pakistan to settle Political Issues, it has never addressed the real problems of security of the people of Pakistan. All “suo moto” actions taken up by it including those of Karachi and Baluchistan have not shown any positive results except gaining political popularity at the cost of justice.
Killings Of Shiite Muslims Under The Very Nose Of The Military — The ‘Independent Judiciary’ Turns a Blind Eye While The Government Continues its Policy of Appeasement
The killings of the Shiite Muslims continue un-abated in those areas under the control of the military and Para-Military forces where the banned Muslim organizations operate freely and without hindrance.
In the latest killings, terrorists have killed at least 22 passengers after hauling them off three buses and checking their sectarian identities.
The terrorists were wearing uniform of security forces, according to Mansehra district officials. The incident occurred in the limits of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, DIG Gilgit informed journalists.
The incident took place at around 7 o’clock this morning, 17 km away from Babusar pass, according to media sources.
The situation in already panicked and grief stricken Gilgit–Baltistan region has become tense after the news of the tragic incident spread.
This is the fourth attack on passenger vehicles during the current year. The first attack was carried out in Kohistan, the second near Chilas, the third in Minawar locality of Gilgit city and the fourth, the latest, happened 17km away from Babusar, close to Naran. As many as fifty people have been killing in these targeted attacks on passenger vehicles.
The law enforcement organizations and the government seem to be helpless in front of the terrorists. It is pertinent to note that recently a notification had surfaced in which the GB government and police chief had been informed about threats of suicide attacks and attacks on vehicles in the Gilgit–Baltistan region.
Recently, 9 prisoners had escaped from two jails in Astore and Diamer, in two separate incidents, causing panic and fear in the region about the threats of terror attacks. The regional media had reported that some of the escaped prisoners were involved in the Kohistan carnage, in which 18 Shia passengers had been shot dead in a similar manner.
Shia Muslims make up the second largest Muslim sect after the Sunnis. According to the reports from Gilgit-Baltistan, the northern district of Kohistan, where sizeable numbers of Shia Muslims reside, on three different occasions this year, members of the Shia sect were dragged out of passenger buses, asked to show identity cards and after confirming they were from Shia sect they were put in the line and killed.
On August 16 Shias were massacred in Mansehra district. There is apparently a nexus between the perpetrators of these incidents, the armed forced and the criminals released earlier on the instructions of the judiciary. It is too much of a coincidence that the killers are in possession on military uniforms and weapons. High ranking military officers are trying to place the blame on the judiciary for releasing these men, however, it cannot be denied that they are receiving assistance from the military, even if it is only in turning a blind eye to the killings that take place in close proximity to army check posts.
General Pasha, former chief of the notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, has blamed the judiciary during the briefing at Parliament, that 992 terrorist were released by the courts who had been arrested by the law enforcement agencies after a great deal of hard effort.
Another accusation by the Shia leaders is that in 2010, the Chief Justice visited the Karachi jail during the evening and had 28 terrorist released and it is those people who were involved in the killings.
In the recent incident of August 16, in the early morning, the four buses, carrying passengers from Gilgit to Rawalpindi, a city of Punjab, were halted by around 50 men in military uniform who placed heavy stones and wooden logs on the main road at Babusar Top in Kaghan valley, Mansehra district.
All the passengers were asked to alight from the busses and show their national identity cards, after identifying 25 persons as Shia Muslims they were instructed to stay at the side of the road. Their hands were tied and more than a dozen assailants opened fire at them. After the shooting they marched away in military style shouting Allah ho Akbar.
Earlier on February 28, 2012, gunmen in military fatigues hauled the passengers from a bus and in the same fashion killed them on the road side after checking their national identity cards. The passengers were travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, the northern district of Kohistan.
On April 3, a mob dragged nine Shia Muslims from buses and shot them dead in close proximity to a military check post that was fully manned. There was no response from the soldiers.
People from the Hazara community of Balochistan belong to the Shia community and on many occasions have been massacred near military check posts.
One of the amazing things to come out of these killing is that the blame is always placed on the Taliban Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba (banned Islamic militant organizations).
On June 28 at least 13 pilgrims were martyred and several others injured in a bomb blast attack on Zaireen’s bus in Hazar Ganji, Quetta where the city remains under the tight control of the Frontier Corp (FC), a unit of the Pakistan Army. In the city it is not possible for anyone to move without being body searched by the FC and other law enforcement agencies yet the militants pass freely. A police officer was also killed in the attack.
The bus carrying at least 40 persons from a Shiite religious group was coming from Taftan, Pakistan’s border city with Iran. The pilgrims had gone to Iran on a pilgrimage tour. The banned organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has claimed responsibility for the massacre.
During the month of June alone, 31 Shiites were killed in the Quetta and Mand areas of Balochistan by the LeJ bomb blasts and target killings. All of them were from Hazara ethic groups who are associated with the Shiite sect of Islam.
More than 600 persons from the Shiite sect of Islam have been killed during the past four years. According to the provincial home department report more than 400 Shiites and Hazaras had been killed in more than 200 incidents in the four-year span through 2011 and about 100 pilgrims had been killed in the first half of this year alone.
Calligraphers linger at the gates of an ancient graveyard in this brooding city in western Pakistan, charged with a macabre and increasingly in-demand task: inscribing the tombstones of the latest victims of the sectarian death squads that openly roam these streets.
For at least a year now, Sunni extremist gunmen have been methodically attacking members of the Hazara community, a Persian-speaking Shiite minority that emigrated here from Afghanistan more than a century ago. The killers strike with chilling abandon, apparently fearless of the law: shop owners are gunned down at their counters, students as they play cricket, pilgrims dragged from buses and executed on the roadside.
The latest victim, a mechanic named Hussain Ali, was shot inside his workshop. He joined the list of more than 100 Hazaras who have been killed this year, many in broad daylight. As often as not, the gunmen do not even bother to cover their faces.
The bloodshed is part of a wider surge in sectarian violence across Pakistan in which at least 375 Shiites have died this year — the worst toll since the 1990s, human rights workers say. But as their graveyard fills, Hazaras say the mystery lies not in the identity of their attackers, who are well known, but in a simpler question: why the Pakistani state cannot — or will not — protect them.
“After every killing, there are no arrests,” said Muzaffar Ali Changezi, a retired Hazara engineer. “So if the government is not supporting these killers, it must be at least protecting them. That’s the only way to explain how they operate so openly.”
The government, already battling Taliban insurgents, insists it is taking the threat seriously.
During the recent Mourning of Muhurram, when Shiites parade through the streets over 10 days, the Interior Ministry imposed stringent security measures such as blocking cellphone signals for up to 12 hours — to try to prevent remote bomb detonations — and banning doubled-up motorcycle riding. Even so, Sunni bombers struck at least five times, killing at least 50 Shiites and wounding several hundred. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the biggest attacks, highlighting an emerging link between that group and traditional sectarian militants that has worried many.
Yet the unchecked killings have also raised wider questions about Pakistani society: about the spread of a cancerous sectarian ideology in a public that even just a decade ago seemed more tolerant, and about what might be spurring the growing audacity of the killers, some of whom are believed to have links to the country’s security services.
The murders in Quetta, for instance, involve remarkably little mystery. By wide consensus, the gunmen are based in Mastung, a dusty agricultural village 18 miles to the south that is the bustling local hub of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the country’s most notorious sectarian militant group.
Like so many Pakistani groups that combine guns with zealotry, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi thrives in a wink-and-nod netherworld: it is officially banned, but its leader, Malik Ishaq, was released from jail last year amid showers of rose petals thrown by supporters. Now Mr. Malik lives openly in southern Punjab Province, protected by armed men who loiter outside his door, allowing him to deliver hate-laced statements to visitors. Shiites are “the greatest infidels on earth,” he told a Reuters reporter last month.
In Quetta, his followers are similarly unfettered. In targeting the Hazara — who, with their distinctive Central Asian features, are easy to pick out — Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants block busy highways as they search vehicles for Hazaras and daub walls with hate slogans. “The face is the target,” said Major Nadir Ali, a senior Hazara leader and retired army officer. “They see the face, then they shoot.”
In the worst killing this year, militants dragged 26 Hazara men from a bus headed for a religious pilgrimage site in Iran, and executed them in front of their wives. The episode occurred near Mastung.
There is a growing sense of siege in the Hazara community here. Shards of glass are still lodged in the head of Waqar Husain, an engineering student who survived a bomb attack on a crowded university bus last June. Four students died in the attack, and four lost their sight. “It changed my view of life in Quetta,” he said.
Now largely confined to home, Mr. Hussain is still not safe. Threats come via Facebook and Twitter, he said, through taunting messages about the “Shia kaffir” — infidels.
The campaign of fear has forced the Hazara to retreat into ethnic enclaves on the edge of the city. Businesses have moved from the city center to Alamgir Road, a Hazara quarter where discreetly armed men stand watch on street corners. Even the ambulance drivers are armed.
One driver cocked his pistol before leading the way to the site of a recent attack. Across the street, the flag of a banned Sunni group fluttered from a shop with graffiti that read: “There is one treatment for Shiites — it is called jihad.”
The rattle of attacks is just one of several conflicts plaguing Quetta, a once quiet provincial capital now riven by a range of ethnic fissures and violent intrigues, lending it an air of power-keg tension.
Most famously, the city is, or was, home to the “Quetta Shura,” the secretive Afghan Taliban leadership council. But for the Pakistan Army, the main enemy are ethnic Baluch separatists, who killed three soldiers in a bomb attack in central Quetta on Nov. 21.
Foreigners are no longer safe, either treated as Western spies by suspicious officials or abducted as part of a soaring trade in kidnapping. Last April the decapitated body of Khalil Dale, a British Red Cross doctor, was found near Quetta, three months after suspected militants abducted him for ransom.
With such a dizzy array of threats, it is perhaps unsurprising that the security forces have failed to stem sectarian violence. But many analysts see a more disturbing cause: a fatal ambivalence inside the police and military toward jihadi groups.
While the military ostensibly severed its relationship with Islamist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi after 2001, some activists suspect that, at a local level, ties linger. “The authorities are turning a blind eye,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch. “The most charitable explanation is that they are incompetent. The alternative is that the military enjoys an informal alliance with Sunni extremists.”
A senior official with the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force in charge of securing Quetta, denied accusations of collusion. The situation is “challenging,” he admitted, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But there is no problem with the Hazara. We pursue all criminals, irrespective of sect, caste or religion.”
Regional politics also plays a role. Iran and Saudi Arabia financed rival Shiite and Sunni militant groups in the 1990s, as part of a proxy war for influence. Experts say that, while the Iranian financing has slowed dramatically, private Saudi funds continue to pour in.
In a State Department cable dated December 2009 and published by WikiLeaks, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton noted that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”
The sense of siege has turned to flight for many younger Hazaras, who are leaving their homes in Quetta for Australia, 6,000 miles distant and the largest center of the Hazara diaspora. It is an expensive, dangerous journey: after paying up to $15,000 per head to people smugglers, many are forced to brave perilous journeys in rickety boats across the Indian Ocean. Too often, the boats sink en route, taking hundreds of lives.
Muhammad Hussain, a 39-year-old teacher, said two of his brothers had left for Australia in the past four years — one had almost certainly drowned, he believed; the other, who left four months ago, had still not sent news.
“We just don’t know what happened,” he said, twisting his fingers anxiously as he spoke.
Balochistan province, the Gilgit and Baltistan and Kurram agency of FATA have become a killing ground for the Shiite sect that consists of 24 percent of the Muslim population in Pakistan. These are the places where the contingents of the Pakistan army, its Para-Military forces and the Frontier Corps (FC) are stationed and control all the roads, besides having check posts all around the major cities. In the same areas the banned militant groups are operating along with the military organizations and in these areas the military provide safe passage to them. There is also a huge presence of spies from the infamous intelligence agency, the ISI. As a result banned Islamic militant organizations feel at liberty to operate freely under the patronage of the law enforcement agencies.
In Karachi alone, which is not considered a military zone, not a month passes without target killings of Shiites and the militant organisations overtly take collections from the streets to fund their operations.
The civilian intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), in its latest report has warned that organisations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jundallah are more powerful now than they were in the ’80s and ’90s when they wreaked havoc across the country through sectarian attacks.
Even today they pose a challenge as big as al Qaeda and they are getting more powerful. Imagine where they will be in a couple of years. The SSP and LeJ had already extended their network outside their traditional strongholds in South Punjab, the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Pakhtun belt of Balochistan, including Quetta.
Now they are everywhere…from interior Sindh to the base of the Himalayas. The SSP and LeJ were among several outfits that were banned by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf back in 2002, but their infrastructure and manpower remained untouched.
An activist of the SSP who would only give his last name said, “We went into hiding for some years but our system was very much there,”
The killings of Shiites, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and other communities from religious minority groups are of no concern to the state as a whole and the elected representatives of the assemblies including the governments of Pakistan and the provinces. Massacres are taken, nowadays, as routine issues and the main concern is the numbers of deaths. If the body count is lower than the previous one it is generally thought that it was not so important.
The so-called ‘independent judiciary’ turns a blind to these massacres though it is famous for taking Sou-Moto action in politically sensitive cases. In fact, the courts have released many militants, at least one of which has spoken in public calling for the killing of Shiites in the service of Islam.
In a cold blooded attack by men in uniforms of the Pakistan Army, 18 persons from the Shiite community of Islam were targeted and killed on Feb 28, 2012 on the Karakoram Highway. The incident occurred in the Khyber Pakhtunkha close to the border of Gilgit and Baltistan area where Shias reside almost in good numbers to the Sunni population.
The passengers were off-loaded from four buses that were going to Gilgit from Rawalpindi, when, in the mountainous Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkha province, men dressed in army uniforms stopped and disembarked the Shia passengers after identifying them from the rest of the 117 passengers. The Shias were put in a queue and shot down by the men.
Kohistan has a rich local history as a crossroads between Central, South and Southwestern Asia and Kohistan is used for a region that stretches from the border with Azad Kashmir in the east to Afghanistan’s Nuristan province in the west.
No militant organization, who in the past were involved in killing the Shias, has claimed responsibility for the killings. No statement of clarification has been forthcoming from thePakistanarmy about the men involved in the attack despite the fact that they were in military dress. According to media it was first claimed that a notorious anti-Shia organisation, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were responsible for the killings but then, after some time it was said that Jundulla, a banned Sunni militant group was involved.
In the recent target killings of Shias, the majority of the incidents were recorded in those areas which come under high security regions or under the control of the military and its Para-Military troops like, Balochistan, Kurram agency-close to the Afghan border and Gilgit Baltistan area close to theChinaborder. In all those areas there are military check posts within short distances to monitor the activities of terrorists and no civilians, including the government officials, can move without their identification papers. However, on this occasion the killers and terrorists from banned organizations are free to move their convoys armed with sophisticated ammunition and stop vehicles for hours at a time to complete their nefarious designs.
It is inconceivable in this day and age of modern communications, when every person owns a cell phone that the killers were able to operate on their own without any fear that they would be stopped at a military check post. The same incidents happened in Mastung and other parts of the Balochistan province where members of the Hazara ethnic group, also from the Shia sect were targeted and killed in the same fashion. The check posts of the Frontier Corp, a Para-Military force, were not far away from the places where the incidents occurred and where the sounds of the gunshots could be heard. Three examples are self explanatory where within 15 days in three different incidents 44 persons from Hazara community were killed. The areas were not far away from the check posts.
On September 19, In Mastung, Balochistan, 28 persons were disembarked from the bus in which they were going toIranto visit holy sites. They were disembarked from the passenger bus and whole episode or target killing took some time to complete without any fear of discovery. The next day another incident took place inQuettacity, close to Mastung, where three more Hazara persons were killed.
Within 15 days, on October 4, another incident of same kind occurred where four gunmen on motorbikes stopped a bus and identified Shiites from the Hazara group, made them stand in a row and then opened fire, killing 13 persons. This incident took place in the outskirts ofQuettacity where nobody can travel without identifying themselves at the check posts.
Human Rights Watch says that since 2008 at least 275 Shias, mostly from Hazara Community have been killed in Balochistan province.
During the first two months of 2012 more than 100 Shias were killed in different parts of the country including the Gilgit Baltistan incident. Among them 34 in Khanpur, Punjab province, 49 in Parachinar, Khyber Pakhtunkha province and 18 in Gilgit.
Over the past three decades, violence between Sunnis and Shias has ebbed and flowed, but two things are clear. First, despite spawning banned violent sectarian outfits of their own, the Shias have largely been on the receiving end of the violence. In recent years, the violence has spread from southern Punjab and (sporadically)Karachi toQuetta, and the FATA on Pakistan’s troubled border withAfghanistan.
The target killings of Shias in Gilgit shows a great failure of the law enforcement on the area, even after killing a large number of people the militants were able to escape as is common in almost all the events of target killings and the perpetrators of such organised crime remain untouched.
The government should arrange proper forensic investigations of the dead bodies without involving the army in the process. The government should specify the lethal arms used on the killings and more importantly secure the source of such lethal arms used in the killings.
The government and parliament must immediately introduce a hate speech law, to punish those who offend the feelings of the religious by disturbing a religious ceremony or creating public calumny. The law should also prohibit public expression of insults of a person or a group on account of national, ethnic, racial, or religious affiliation or the lack of a religious affiliation.
The target killings give us a clear picture of the lack of accountability and transparency in dealing with the organised crimes done by militants.
Members of Shia community were under attack while the military forces look on
Brutal sectarian violence against Shias continues unabated
It is a recognized fact that a state’s police and law enforcement agencies play a critical role as the first line of defense against the threats of terrorism and insurgencies.
Police is often failing to protect the members of religious minorities including Ahmadias, Shias, Christians and Hindus. Militant groups are carrying out suicide bombings and targeted killings across the country. The Taliban and affiliated groups are increasingly targeting civilians and public spaces, including marketplaces, hospitals, and religious processions.
Although Shias are a minority in the country, Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community after Iran in terms of numbers. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 50 million and may be as high as 60 million. Globally, Shia Islam represents 10-20\% of the total Muslims population, while the remaining 90\% or nine-tenths practice Sunni Islam.
The increase in the number of suicide bombings and militancy has added to the sectarian tension that is played out in Muharram (the month of mourning for the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet PBUH) every year. A series of bomb blasts and shootings, mostly targeting Pakistan’s minority Shia community in recent years shows that sectarian violence in the country can be every bit as deadly as that instigated by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Attacks in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and the north-west seem to be manifestations of the bitter split between Sunnis and Shias. In most cases, no-one claims responsibility for such attacks.
But Pakistan’s fateful involvement in the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, General Zia-ul-Haq’s controversial ‘Islamisation’ policies, and a sense of Shia empowerment in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 had the combined effect of limiting the freedom of the Shia’s to practice their religion and challenging their loyalty to Pakistan.
Among those blamed for the sectarian violence in the country are mainly Sunni militants such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and members of Shia militant groups such as Tehrik-e-Jafria and others. However, predominant Sunni terrorist groups are often blamed for frequent attacks on minority Shiites and their religious gatherings resulting in reprisal attacks by them.
Pakistan’s ISI-backed Punjabi judiciary once again demonstrated its institutional hatred of Shia Muslims today by releasing the notorious leader of the Jihadi-sectarian organization Malik Ishaq, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (also known as the Punjabi Taliban or Sipah-e-Sahaba). Punjabi judges, backed by Punjabi generals, released a Punjabi terrorist to enable further massacres of Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and other targeted communities.
Malik Ishaq was released less than a week after his followers killed at least 20 Shia Muslims in his home town of Rahim Yar Khan. On the last occasion he was released from jail, he killed many Shia Muslims in various parts of the country, and the news items were either ignored or misrepresented in Pakistan’s mainstream media. He has now embarked on his next bloody mission.
While right-wing proxies of Pakistan’s military establishment are legitimately celebrating Malik Ishaq’s release, the ISI’s liberal proxies in the English speaking class are busy in blaming the prosecution, ignoring the important links between ISI and LeJ and ISI and the judiciary. For example, Pakistan’s English media routinely presents Malik Ishaq as the “Sri Lankan team attack suspect”. Therefore, the murder of 70 Shias does not mean much to this class. http://criticalppp.com/archives/69517
Over the past three decades, violence between Sunnis and Shias has ebbed and flowed, but two things are clear. First, despite spawning banned violent sectarian outfits of their own, the Shias have largely been on the receiving end of the violence. In recent years, the violence has spread from southern Punjab and (sporadically) Karachi to Quetta in Balochistan, and the FATA on Pakistan’s troubled border with Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Shias have been murdered by militants in Quetta in the past few months. In the last couple of weeks, Shias have been taken off buses, lined up and shot dead. Quetta, however, is not an exception. Shias are not safe in any major town in Pakistan. Their places of worship, religious processions, and civilian and religious leadership has come under relentless attacks while the State’s machinery has either refused or failed to protect Shias and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
The organized systematic genocide of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan has claimed 58 lives and injured 67 during the month of January 2012 in 32 attacks.
Based on January 2012 statistics, the projected number of deaths per year could be somewhere in the vicinity of 500 to 800 Shia Muslims killed per year and the number of those injured could be estimated to be between 700 and 1000.
In terms of the total number of attacks in January 2012, Sindh, Karachi in particular, was most problematic (15 attacks out of total 32), however, in terms of total deaths, Punjab proved to be most deadly province (36 out of 58 deaths).
The list of recent sectarian attacks makes for grim reading:
September 2011: Gunmen open fire on a bus carry pilgrims at Mastung in Balochistan province. At least 26 Shia Muslims are killed
January 2011: At least 10 people killed after twin blasts targeted Shia Muslim processions in Lahore and Karachi.
September 2010:At least 35 Shias were killed and 160 people were injured in a blast during a procession in Lahore.
September 2010: At least 50 people killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia rally in Quetta, south-western Pakistan
July 2010: Sixteen Shias killed in an attack on Shias in north-western tribal areas
February 2010: Two bombs in Karachi kill at least 25 Shias and injured more than 50 people.
December 2009: At least 40 people killed and dozens injured in a suicide bombing on a Shia procession in Karachi
Feb 2009: Bomb attack on a Shia procession in Punjab leaves 35 dead
It is a sad fact that the scores of deaths in the last few months is particularly alarming all over Pakistan. Due to paucity of resources and lack of communication networks there are still incidents of Jihadi sectarian attacks on Shia Muslims which are not recorded. This means that no exact statistics is available about Shia killings in Parachinar and other areas in FATA.
The Punjab government for having a soft spot for terrorist outfits, especially The Jamat- ud- Dawah (JUD) and Lashkar – e- Jhangvi (LEJ). Granted that the Punjab government must be held accountable for allowing these organisations and other extremist groups to hold public rallies full of hate speech all over Punjab.
The Pakistani government claims that it has taken measures to suppress the violence. The Pakistani Interior Chief Rehman Malik said the Shia population was in need of greater protection. Therefore, Islamabad ordered security forces to carry out this task, yet the violence has continued.
Our voices should no longer remain muted. We must convince the Pakistani government and its affiliates that it is crucial to take greater action against the violence perpetrated by these terrorists.
Officials must target the sources and support for the sectarian violence by apprehending known leaders and members of Taliban-associated militant groups across the country. Their influence has reached major cities as well and must be stopped.
Saudi-funded madressas (Islamic schools), which are used to target impressionable children and youth and preach the mentality that Shias are infidels, should be closely regulated and, in some cases, shut down.
Quetta’s Hazara community living in fear
Widespread fear of harassment, discrimination and killings has prompted some Hazara community members living in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, to consider leaving the country, even by illegal means.
“Over 600 Hazaras have been killed since 2000,” Abdul Qayuum Changezi, head of the Hazara Jarga, a group representing Hazaras, said. Media reports speak of dozens recently killed in attacks on the community in Quetta [ http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=9314&Cat=13 ] and in other parts [ http://tribune.com.pk/story/256419/gunmen-attack-bus-in-balochistan-20-killed/ ] of the province.
The Hazaras constitute a distinct ethnic group, with some accounts [ http://www.hazara.net/hazara/hazara.html ] tracing their history to central Asia. Almost all belong to the Shia Muslim sect, speak a dialect of Farsi, and are concentrated in central Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan. There are some 6,000 to 7,000 Hazaras in the country, according to a Hazara chief, Sardar Saadat Ali.
In Quetta, many of them live in Alamdar Road. Close by, Ali Hassan, 55, and his two sons, both in their 20s, were engrossed in a fierce argument in their small house about leaving the country, even if illegally.
According to the two, there is too much discrimination against the Hazaras for them to have a future. “It is simply too dangerous to live here. Besides, Hazaras get no opportunities in education or for jobs, because of the bias that exists,” said Ibrar Ali, 21, the younger of Hassan’s sons.
However, their parents were terrified of allowing them to try and leave, mainly because of an incident in December last year in which at least 55 Hazaras from Quetta were killed [ http://tribune.com.pk/story/309165/indonesia-boat-tragedy-55-quetta-youth-missing-at-sea/ ] when a boat carrying some 90 illegal immigrants to Australia capsized off the coast of Indonesia.
“The boat was overloaded with over 250 people, including children and women,” said Nasir Ali, whose brother was on the ill-fated boat, but survived.
Following the incident, the autonomous HRCP [ http://www.hrcp-web.org/showprel.asp?id=249 ] demanded a government inquiry. In a statement, HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf said the fact that “Hazara young men chose to leave Pakistan by taking such grave risks is a measure of the persecution the Hazara community has long faced in Balochistan.”
The statement also urged the government to act against those illegally ferrying people out of the country in exchange for large sums of money, and demanded it “take urgent steps to find a way to put an end to the persecution of the long-suffering Hazara community”.
The New York based monitoring body Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also condemned the sectarian killing of Shia Muslims [ http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/03/pakistan-protect-shia-muslims ] in Pakistan, and has noted: “Research indicates that at least 275 Shias, mostly of Hazara ethnicity, have been killed in sectarian attacks in the southwestern province of Balochistan alone since 2008.” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says a start can be made to ending such killings “by arresting extremist group members responsible for past attacks”.
Anger within the Hazara community runs deep, and has been growing.
“The news of the killings and the desperation of the community is terrible. I weep often when I read of what is happening. I want to return to Quetta, because I love my home town; I want to be close to my parents and live there with my own family. But my fiancé and I ask if it will be sensible to raise our children in a climate of death,” Mina Ali, a medical student from the Hazara community currently based in Karachi said.
Her fiancé, also a Hazara, is keen to try and flee the country, whether “legally or illegally”, Mina said.
Statements to the media from top government officials, including the chief minister of Balochistan, have also been perceived as insensitive [ http://hazaranewspakistan.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/chief-minister-balochistan-mocks-hazara-killings/ ] in their failure to strongly condemn killings that some commentators have described as a “genocide”. [ http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011%5C10%5C20%5Cstory_20-10-2011_pg3_2 ] Others in Pakistan are demanding that the International Court of Justice look into the matter.
Hazara chief Sardar Saadat Ali, a former provincial minister, told IRIN most Hazaras in the country were based in Quetta but there were “also some in Hyderabad [in Sindh Province] and other Baloch districts”.
Ali, who has lost close relatives including his brother in targeted killings of Hazaras, said: “We can expect nothing from the government; so we act for ourselves. I personally went to Indonesia to bring back the bodies of the young Hazara men who had died in the boat tragedy. They were fleeing because of the security situation and in search of a chance to gain an education.”
Hazaras, he added, were being targeted on “both ethnic and sectarian grounds” by extremist groups – mainly the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, which have origins in the Punjab. [ http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=90760 ] He was also concerned about further persecution if the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan.
“I don’t understand much about politics, but I worry constantly for my grown children, and their children,” said Zareen Bibi, 60, a Hazara resident ofQuetta. “Too many Hazaras have died, for no reason – and this inhumanity has to end. We all deserve dignity and the right to life.”
Members of the Shiite community came under attack from militant Islamic organizations which, in the past had the patronage ofPakistanarmy and its intelligence agencies who offered sophisticated terrorist training including the handling of rocket launchers. The Balochistan province and Kurram agency of northern area has become a killing ground for the Shia sect that consist of 24 percent of the Muslim population in Pakistan. These are the places where the contingents of thePakistanarmy and its Para-Military force, the Frontier Corps (FC) are stationed and controlling all the roads, besides having check posts all around the major cities. There is also a huge presence of ISI personnel there.
In a latest incident of September 20, 26 Shias were ambushed by the death squad of a banned religious organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) within half a kilometer from a FC check post. According to official reports the gunmen shot dead 26 Pakistani Shia Muslim pilgrims travelling to Iran, the deadliest attack on the minority community in Pakistan for more than a year. In the brutal assault, gunmen ordered the pilgrims to get off their bus, lined them up and assassinated them in a hail of gunfire in Mastung, a district 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Quetta.
An hour after the first attack, unidentified gunmen killed another three Shias on the outskirts of Quetta whom police said were relatives of victims of the first incident en route to collect their bodies. This figure rises to more than 500 the Shias killed in terrorist attacks during the past three years after the FC received the powers of the police. After every terrorist attack on Shia religious community the LeJ claims that they were in fact, target. The LeJ is distributing leaflets in Balochistan province particularly, in Quetta, that Shias are infidels and they are liable to be killed according to Islamic teachings. These campaigns against the Shia religious community is very well known to Police, FC, the Army and its intelligence services but no action has been taken against the LeJ.
The LeJ are followers of Wahabi sect of Islam which is the dominating sect in Saudi Arabia and the organization was formed during the military regime of General Zia Ul Haq in the period of Jihad against Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan. This organization was banned by General Musharraf after 9/11 when the USA and UN declared it to be a terrorist organization. But, still the LeJ operates in all parts of Pakistan particularly in Punjab province where the provincial government has even provided them with office space.
The Shia sect is also facing the same situation in Kurram Gency of northern part ofPakistanat theAfghanistanborder where the army and the FC have strong control after 9/11to operate against the terrorists. Parachinar, the main city of the agency, is predominated by or at least a big chunk of the Shia community is residing here with the name of Turi tribe who have been regularly made the victim of terrorist activities of militant outfits of the Pakistani armed forces particularly, by Anjuman Sipah-e-Shaba of Pakistan (ASSP), a banned organization and follower of Saudi branded Islam of Wahabism. The Kurrum agency was divided mainly in Turi and Bangash tribes — the Bangush are mostly consisted of the Sunni sect, the largest sect of Islam inPakistan, but both the tribes are victim of the Taliban and ASSP’s terrorist activities. The Sunni tribe, Bangush tribe, is made victims of killings and other terrorist activities, mainly, because they were not taking action against Shias and not supporting the terrorist activities of banned organizations.
The whole Kurram agency is under the control of the Haqqani network, a powerful terrorist organization under the leadership of Mr. Siraj Haqqani, who carries out terrorist activities inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and was involved in the killing of Nato forces. It operates from the Kurram agency which is at the borders of three Afghan cities and provides a short cut route toKabul, the capital ofAfghanistan. The Kurrum agency is also known as Parrot’s beak because of its geographical position inside the territories ofAfghanistan. This whole area is under control of FC andPakistan army all roads for exits have hundreds of check posts. But still the roads leading to Peshawar, particularly Thall road is under the control of Haqqani network and Taliban. The Parachinar city is under siege of these organizations andThall Road is closed since four years. So the people of Parachinar have to go insideAfghanistan and then to enter Pakistan, taking very long route to reachPeshawar city. The Shias have fifty percent population of Parachinar.
In the month of April, 2011, 33 persons (all Shia) were abducted by the militant Taliban group from the Thall road, leading to Peshawar, and 13 out of them were burnt and maimed and thrown on the road where, in those days, thePakistanarmy has deployed a new contingent to start a new operation against the terrorists. In the last 18 months at least 250 people, the majority of them belonging to the Shia community, have been killed and 3000 have been injured at the hands of bloodthirsty criminals. The main Thall-Peshawar Roadhas been closed for the last several months. The one day it was opened resulted in killing and beheading of passengers. Other roads are closed as well, and one can only enter the region fromAfghanistan. Unfortunately, this is also a very dangerous road and resulted in the murder of civilians who tried to use this route.
Since the 2001 more than 5000 persons have been killed by the terrorists and majority of them are Shias in Kurram agency which is besieged by the militant organizations and troops from Pakistani military. The Thall road is also closed since 2007 and whenever it is opened the kidnappings and killings of Shia and Bangush tribes are reported daily. In July of 2008, the New York Times ran a piece highlighting the rise of “sectarian conflict” in Parachinar. By then, the town had already been subject to a siege that had spanned for months; food and medical supplies had been in severe shortage after the main Thall-Peshawar highway leading to the town was blocked off by armed groups.
In the month of July the Supreme Court of Pakistan has released one militant, Malik Sadiq of the LeJ, who was famous in the move against Shia community and wants the state to declare Shia as infidel as it was declared to the Ahmadis. He has been charged with the murder of 70 people, most of them Shia. He was released on bail on July 16.
After being released from jail on bail in September 2011, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq’s presence has already managed to cause violence and death when members of his entourage clashed with a Shia community in Muzaffargarh,Punjabprovince, resulting in at least two deaths and ten injuries. Ishaq, a leader of the banned anti-Shia militant organisation, and has been travelling the country, preaching his message of bigotry against the Shia community ever since.
It has already been reported that Malik Ishaq had in October 1997 admitted to an Urdu daily to being involved in the killing of over a 100 people. He was flown fromLahoretoRawalpindiin 2009 on a military plane to get the al Qaeda-linked terrorists to negotiate with attackers who had taken several people hostage inside GHQ. On his release, he was accompanied by Sipah-e-Sahaba chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi who is in triumph today, having made a political deal inPunjabafter the alleged killing of a minority group in Gojra.
In the month of December 2009, around 50 Shias were killed in a bomb blast inKarachi, the capital of Sindh province, when they were having their yearly mourning processions in memory of martyred grandson of the last prophet of Islam. But still the killers are at large.
It is also alleged that judiciary is soft on the terrorists and many were released by the court process and particularly because of the prosecution’s ill information about the law. In most of the cases the judges and prosecution work under the threats from the religious militant organizations.
The Shia and other religious minority communities are also blaming the Chief Justice of Pakistan for his soft attitude towards the religious terrorist organizations particularly about ASSP and LeJ and their leadership. One example is very much sighted against the chief Justice ofPakistanthat when he visited Karachi Central Prison,Karachi, in September 2009, he stayed in the jail for almost the whole night and released 28 target killers in one night from the jail on the pretext that there was not sufficient evidence against them. Those released were booked on target killings of many persons from Shia community. It was argued by the Shia community that if there were no sufficient charges against the killers even then a judicial process should be adopted rather than arrival of Chief Justice toKarachiespecially for the release of terrorists and then immediately returning back toIslamabadis the clear message of the judiciary against the different religious groups.
Maulana Mohammad Saeed, chief of defunct Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT) was also on many occasion has been released by the higher courts is also wanted in the Mumbay blasts inIndia. The LeT is infamous in target killing of Shia and Ahmadis communities. alleged soft corners of the Pakistan army and higher courts towards the terrorist and leaders of sectarian violence is providing a good space for them to unleash against the opposite religious groups. These sectarian banned groups do not follow the law or are trying to disband their activities when they find good alleged patronage from the judiciary and army. The militant sectarian groups have also easily reaped in the law enforcement agencies particularly in army.
The sectarian killings have also become common in the country and every year at least 200 hundred to 300 hundred persons have died. The irony is that all such killings are conducted by those organizations which are banned by the law since many years but still operating free and having their offices in the cities but no law can ban them when they find friends inside judiciary and army.