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Pakistani bloggers’ blackout on Shia killings

While Pakistani media, politicians, civil society and most of the bloggers remain focused on the Long March, NRO, political battlefield in Punjab and perhaps on certain other regions such as Gaza and Kashmir, the plight of Shias of Pakistan remains grossly ignored.

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While blogging is an alternative, powerful media, I wonder why does the dominant majority of Pakistani bloggers remain silent on Shia killings in Pakistan at the hands of the Taliban and their allied network of sectarian and jihadi organizations.

While we spend hours and hours on discussing or contemplating the Long March, examination grades of Farah Dogar, attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team etc, what about the thousands of Shias who have been ruthlessly massacred by the Taliban in the last few years through numerous attacks on mosques, Imambargahs, funerals, houses, school vans, muharram processions, political meetings, jirgahs etc.

Kohat, Hangu, D.I.Khan, Quetta, Parachinar and Karachi. Why are these regions and events happening in these regions not worthy of our attention?

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This post is dedicated to the 4 unfortunate Shia children who were kidnapped by the Taliban on 27 February 2009.

….

Hangu abducted students couldn’t be recovered

HANGU: The situation in the district here remained heated and tense, following the abduction of the students and firing on the school van on 27 Feb 2009…

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The following is a rare media report on the state of Shia killings in Pakistan .

Media blackout on Parachinar Shia killings

Leading Pakistani scholars strongly condemn the ‘western media censor-policy’ over the Shia Muslim killings in the northwestern city of Parachinar.

Political experts and religious scholars, attending a summit in the Iranian city of Qom, emphasized on the necessity to launch a regional media campaign to raise global awareness about the issue.

The summit held in Iranian city of Qom under the banner “Holocaust of Shias in Parachinar,” came in the wake of the killings of hundreds of Shia community-members over the past six months in Parachinar and Hangu.

Pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants, who are reportedly behind the killings, have imposed an economic blockade against the Shia-dominated population areas.

The frequent incidents have raised concerns among human rights group, while moderate Pakistani Sunni groups have described the issue as a conspiracy against the country.

Taliban leaders, who were toppled in the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, took refuge to tribal regions in Pakistan and rapidly began to extend heir influence from tribes to major towns and cities.

The pro-Taliban anti-Shia groups have launched a violent campaign against the Shia Muslims, and are stretching the campaign toward the restive southwestern Pakistan as well.

Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s restive southwestern Balochistan province has witnessed several instances of violence directed against the Hazara Shia community in recent months.

Several Shia religious gatherings have also been targeted in central province of Punjab over the past some months.

Tehran has repeatedly cautioned Islamabad over the ’silent massacre’ of its Shia community by the Taliban in the country. “The incidents that have occurred against Pakistan’s Shia community are a plot to create conflict between the region’s Sunni and Shia population,” said Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. “We have warned Islamabad over the incidents and we will follow up on the matter,” he added.

Shia sources say they make up one-third of Pakistan’s population of nearly 160 million. Since the 1980s, thousands of people have been killed in sectarian-related incidents in Pakistan.

ہنگو کے مغوی بچوں کا پتہ نہیں
دلاورخان وزیر

بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام، پشاور

بچوں کی بازیابی کے لیے سکیورٹی فورسز کوشش میں لگی ہیں
صوبہ سرحد کے ضلع ہنگو میں بارہ دن پہلے سکول بس سے اغواء ہونے والے چار بچوں کو تاحال بازایاب نہیں کرایا جاسکا۔ پولیس کا کہنا ہے کہ بچوں کی بحفاظت بازیابی کے لیے قومی سطح پر کوششیں جاری ہیں۔
سکیورٹی فورسز کے مطابق قبائلی عمائدین اور علماء کا ایک جرگہ دن رات اس کوشش میں مصروف ہے لیکن ابھی تک جرگے کو ناکامی کا سامنا ہے۔

پولیس کے ایک افسر سعید خان نے بی بی سی کو بتایا کہ ستائیس فروری دو ہزار نو کو ایک سکول کی بس پر شہر کے قریب حملہ کر کے سکول کے چار بچوں کو اغوا، ڈرائیور کو ہلاک اور دو بچوں کو زخمی کردیاگیا تھا۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ اغواء ہونے والے سکول کے بچے تاحال بازیاب نہیں ہوئے ہیں۔

ان کا کہنا تھا کہ بچوں کی بازیابی کے لیے قومی سطح پر کوششیں جاری ہیں جس کے لیےمقامی عمائدین اور علماء پر مشتمل ایک جرگہ دن رات اس کوشش میں ہے کہ وہ اغواء کاروں کا سراغ لگایا سکے لیکن ابھی تک جرگہ کی کوششیں ناکام دکھائی دیتی ہیں۔

ابھی تک نہ حکومت نے کوئی ٹھوس قدم اٹھایا ہے نہ میڈیا نے اس پر توجہ دی ہے۔ بس پہلے دن کے خبر کے بعد خاموشی ہے۔ بس اللہ سے دعگا مانگتے ہیں۔غریبوں کا اللہ کے سوا کوئی نہیں ہے۔

مغوی بچے کے والد ریاست علی
پولیس افسر کے مطابق تاحال یہ بھی معلوم نہیں کہ بچے کس کے پاس ہیں اور کسی نے اس واقعہ کی ابھی تک ذمہ داری قبول نہیں کی ہے۔ پولیس کے مطابق بچوں کے اغواء کے بعد علاقے میں سخت کشیدگی پائی جاتی ہے۔ پولیس نے سکولوں کے قریب اور سڑکوں پرگشتی ٹیموں میں اضافہ کردیا ہے۔

سترہ سالہ طلب علم سیّد حلیم شاہ بھی اغواء ہونے والوں میں شامل ہیں۔ان کے والد سید ریاست علی شاہ نے بی بی سی کو بتایا کہ بچوں کے اغواء کے بعد سے وہ حیران و پریشان بیھٹے رہتے ہیں۔ان کے دو بیٹے اور ایک بیٹی ہے۔

ایک بیٹا اغواء ہوا ہے دوسرا گھر میں ہے جب وہ شام کو اپنے گھر پہنچتے ہیں تو بچوں کا سامنا نہیں کرسکتے۔انہوں نے کہا کہ ان کے بیٹے کے اغوا سے پہلے جب وہ گھر جاتے تھے تو بچے ان سے پیار کے لیے آگے آتے تھے۔اب جب وہ گھر پہنچتے ہیں تو بچے رونے لگ جاتے ہیں جس کی وجہ سے پورے گھر والوں کو پریشانی کا سامنا ہے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ وہ پولیس کی کاروائی سے مطمئین نہیں ہیں اور پولیس ان کی بات سننے کے لیے بھی تیار نہیں ہے۔ ریاست علی شاہ کے مطابق جرگے کی کوششیں بھی مؤثر نہیں کیونکہ علاقے کے ہر ایک باشندے کو پتہ ہے کہ بچوں کو ہنگو کے طالبان نے اغواء کیا ہے اور بعد میں اورکزئی ایجنسی منتقل کردیا ہے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ بچوں کے اغواء کے بارہ دن پورے ہوگئے ہیں۔’پتہ نہیں کہ ان کے علاقے میں اس کے بعد سے لوگوں پر کیا گزر رہی ہے لیکن ابھی تک نہ حکومت نے کوئی ٹھوس قدم اٹھایا ہے نہ میڈیا نے اس پر توجہ دی ہے۔ بس پہلے دن کی خبر کے بعد خاموشی ہے۔ بس اللہ سے دعا مانگتے ہیں‘۔

یاد رہے کہ ستائیس فروری دو ہزار نو کو بروز جمعہ ضلع ہنگو کے علاقے میروباک میں نامعلوم افراد نے سکول کی بس پرحملہ کیا تھا جس میں ڈرائیور ہلاک جبکہ دو بچے زخمی ہوگئے تھے۔اس کے بعد فائرنگ کرنے والوں نے چار بچوں کو اغواء کیا اور انہیں نامعلوم مقام کی طرف لے گئے تھے۔

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/story/2009/03/090309_kids_kidnap_sz.shtml

Also read:

Ammar360: Holocaust of Shias in Parachinar

and
The massacre the world ignored: Parachinar

SOS from Pakistan – Save Pakistani Shias Petition

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri

7 Comments

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  • Comments from LUBP old website:

    Shaheryar Ali said…
    Thanks Abul, we have long been saying that Pakistani blogospehere is hopelessly conformist and toes state’s line
    Saudi dollars have blinded the state and Saudi favours to Sharifs have numbed the conscience of bloggers ,who see in Sharif savior of PK

    9 MARCH 2009 18:06

    Abdul said…
    Hi Sherry, indeed, you, Rabia Shakoor, Ammar and a few others are amongst the notable exceptions.

    9 MARCH 2009 18:08

    Munna said…
    I’m sure of one thing and that is you guys at Let Us Build Pakistan have got a ‘death wish’. Take care.

    From a friend and a well-wisher.

    9 MARCH 2009 18:26

    Ammar Faheem said…
    It is good that you have raised this issue specific to our blogosphere and we should stand up and take responsibility about serious issues such as these.

    Thank you for the link-back. A link-back to your post is coming =)

    9 MARCH 2009 18:44

    Abdul said…
    @Munna, you are right. My co-bloggers and I have received some threats. In the words of sufi Bulleh Shah, asan marna nahi, gor paya koi hor. (It is not me in the grave, it is someone else).

    9 MARCH 2009 19:24

    Miqdad R.Lakhanie said…
    I have been an avid follower of your blog and once again the blog has come out with a hard hitting post highlighting the plight of Shias at the hands of the inhmane taleban. What surprises me most is the fact that when taleban captures or attacks cities like Bajaur, its a taleban insurgence but when the same ill-led organisation clamps down shias in Parachinar, Hangu or recently DI Khan, it is tagged as a sectarian rift. This is NOT a sectarian conflict! Shias and Sunnis have long lived together and would ever do so in the land of pure but Taleban is doing the most to destroy this peace in general and to terrorise the Shia community in specific.

    Keep up the good work … let the truth be heard by the world!

    9 MARCH 2009 19:39

    Abdul said…
    @Miqdad, thanks for writing. “when taleban captures or attacks cities like Bajaur, its a taleban insurgence but when the same ill-led organisation clamps down shias in Parachinar, Hangu or recently DI Khan, it is tagged as a sectarian rift.” Spot on. That’s why I think our mainstream media as well as ‘mainstream blogs’ are partners in their criminal silence on the massacre of Shias in Pakistan.

    10 MARCH 2009 08:13

    Abdul said…
    @Ammar. Thank you. We need more and more voices such as yours.

    10 MARCH 2009 08:15

    Anonymous said…
    Thanks for raising the issue!

    14 MARCH 2009 12:15

    karachi khatmal said…
    very impressive…

    you are very right, even in the mainstream media we are specifically instructed to report the clashes in kurram and parachinar as sectarian, without mentioning the particular sects. i spoke with people from hangu who have complained about how the state has deliberately resettled members of groups that were banned in punjab, such as lashkar-e-jhangvi, in these areas. it has a sectarian holocaust now, it will have a demographic clash as well in the future. what the fuck are we all thinking?

    3 APRIL 2009 13:08

  • Failure to nab perpetrators of Shia killings worries HRCP – By HRCP Press release, February 11, 2009 http://hrcpblog.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/failure-to-nab-perpetrators-of-shia-killings-worries-hrcp/

    Lahore: The recent string of target-killing of Shias in Balochistan and the government’s failure to bring any of the perpetrators to justice is a cause for growing alarm, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

    A press statement issued by the Commission said: “The killing of Shia notables in Quetta has sadly become a frequent occurrence. Some of the killings have been owned by an extremist organization flying a religious standard. The number of the Shia community members killed there over the recent years has exceeded 300. The government’s failure to track down the culprits has understandably enraged the targeted community, and it has also emboldened the perpetrators to kill with impunity. Besides religious figures, liberal politicians, businessmen and government officials have been targeted.

    The government must surely now know that the community is exasperated with the government’s inability to perform one of its basic functions, that of ensuring that the lives of the people are protected. The Sunni population also fears that unhindered killings of the Shias might cause sectarian strife in an area where the sects have generally coexisted peacefully for centuries.

    HRCP fears that the state agencies’ consistent failure to track down the killers may prompt the targeted community to retaliate against members of other sects, which is perhaps the sort of violence those behind the target-killings want to trigger.

    The province, which has been in the grip of an insurgency for many years and now faces a growing threat from the Taliban, cannot afford that. The government must act decisively to investigate the killings in an efficient manner before the situation slips into further chaos.”

    Asma Jahangir
    Chairperson

  • IDSA COMMENT

    Talibanization of Gilgit-Baltistan and Sectarian Killings – Senge H. Sering October 19, 2009

    http://www.idsa.in/idsastrategiccomments/TalibanizationofGilgitBaltistanandSectarianKillings_SHSering_191009

    The authorities in Gilgit-Baltistan were not quite done celebrating the proclamation of the Empowerment and Self-governance Ordinance of 20091, when a bomb rocked Gilgit town on September 27 sparking off the latest bout of Shia-Sunni riots.2 Gun battles in the aftermath of the blast have led to the death of more than twelve people, including Raja Ali Ahmed Jan, a prominent leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.3 The incidents, culminating in a short-lived peace in this Pakistani occupied Shia region of Jammu & Kashmir, have led to the detention of several civilians as well two policemen. Some of the arrested are allegedly linked to those who assassinated Deputy Speaker Asad Zaidi and his companions in Gilgit in April 2009.4 Zaidi was the third-most high profile Shia politician, after the revered clerics Agha Ziauddin5 and Allama Hassan Turabi, to become the target of sectarian violence – a menace that has troubled Gilgit-Baltistan socially and economically, since the 1970s. Agha Ziauddin’s death in January 2005 caused widespread clashes leading to a six-month long curfew and emergency, and loss of more than two hundred lives. Allama Turabi, shot dead in Karachi on July 14, 2006, hailed from Baltistan and was the President of Tehrik Jafaria of Pakistan (TJP). His death has been termed as detrimental to Shia rights’ movement in Pakistan.6

    In the sequence of events, as one looks back, eighteen people including the Director of the Agriculture Department of Gilgit7 died in 2008 as a result of Shia-Sunni clashes. However, by far, 2009 has seen more sectarian killings than the previous two years put together. It started in the middle of February when two Shias were killed in an attack on a van in Gilgit.8 Then, on June 17, ISI personnel arrested a Shia political activist, Sadiq Ali, and tortured him to death.9 Two months later, when the leader of the banned anti-Shia political party Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan (SSP), Allama Ali Sher Hyderi was killed in Sindh, riots broke out in Gilgit leading to the closure of markets and heavy gun battle between Shias and Sunnis.10 In September, two Sunni Pashtuns and three native Shias were killed in Gilgit while a bus with Shia passengers coming from Baltistan was torched, causing several casualties.11

    For centuries, people of Gilgit-Baltistan, professing various religions, co-existed in amicable conditions. It was only after Pakistan’s annexation of these regions in the seventies that anarchy began. First, authorities abrogated the State Subject Rule, the law that until then protected the local demographic composition, and encouraged Pakistani Sunnis to settle in Gilgit town. This illegal government-sponsored settlement scheme damaged the social fabric and provoked religious feuds that continue to simmer. Pakistan created a political vacuum and a law and order crisis, once princely states and time-tested administrative structures of Gilgit-Baltistan were abolished. While Islamabad refused to delegate powers to local Shias by establishing viable a modern political structure, the despotic military rulers maintained ad-hoc policies to govern the region with an iron fist. It was during the same time that Pakistan embarked on its well-rehearsed divide and rule policy to paralyze local society. It exploited ethnic and religious fault-lines to weaken the natives in their demands for genuine political and socio-economic rights. Government-led Shia-Sunni and Shia-Nurbaxshi riots caused acute socio-political polarization in Skardo during the early 1980s. Events like these forced members of the local intelligentsia like Wazir Mehdi, the only Law graduate of Gilgit-Baltistan from Aligarh University, to admit that unification with Ladakh and Kashmir brought culture and civilization to the region while opting for Pakistan has resulted in the arrival of drugs, Kalashnikovs and sectarianism. On occasion, agencies employ religious leaders to fan hatred. In one such incident, intelligence agencies released a Punjabi cleric, Ghulam Reza Naqvi, from prison “to be sent to Gilgit to keep the pot of sectarian violence boiling.” His release was granted after negotiations with SSP, which also got their leader Maulana Mohammad Ludhianivi freed from jail.12 A watershed in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan causing permanent trust deficit was reached in May 1988 when tribal Lashkars, after receiving a nod of approval from General Zia, massacred thousands of Shias in Gilgit and abducted local women. The intention was to undertake demographic change by force in this strategically located region sandwiched between China, the former Soviet Union and India.

    The recent killings of Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan may also hinder the election process for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) that will take place in November of 2009. With the newly proclaimed self-governance ordinance, GBLA is expected to legislate on 66 articles pertaining to socio-economic and administrative issues. While local political institutions are evolving towards achieving genuine autonomy, the Sunni minority fears that the Shias would gain a majority in the assembly, which the former sees as a direct attack on its long term political and socio-economic interests in the region. The authorities intend to exploit similar insecurities to consolidate control over Gilgit city, which is not only the largest settlement in the region but also the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan. As the regional ballot is nearing, authorities may resort to electoral engineering to create a hung assembly, thereby stripping GBLA of the mandate to pass laws. The past experience of reorganization of constituencies along Shia-Sunni lines has also enabled Sunni candidates to gain a majority in various constituencies.

    Gilgit city is divided into two constituencies – Gilgit-1 and Gilgit-2. Until a decade ago, voters from both constituencies sent Shia members to the local Council. The demographic change has turned the tide in favor of the Sunnis; in 2004, voters of Gilgit city returned Sunni candidates as winners. Shias in Gilgit-1 were further marginalized when the major Shia settlement of Nomal was transferred to Gilgit-4, thereby tilting the population balance. Since then, contests between Shia and Sunni candidates have remained neck to neck.13 The tipping point is the vote bank in the Amphari neighborhood with a mixed Shia-Sunni population where sectarian polarization will help the Sunni candidate gain a lead. Likewise, in Gilgit-2, the settlement of Pathans and Punjabis has changed the demography and this one-time Peoples Party (PPP) stronghold supported Hafiz Rehman of PML in the 2004 elections, which he won by a small margin of 500 votes.14 The voters’ list released recently shows more than a 80 per cent increase in voters’ numbers in Gilgit-1 (from 28,146 to 47,835) and Gilgit-2 (from 34,517 to 62,048) in just five years.15 Of these, a majority are Pakistani settlers who will impact election results in favor of Sunni candidates. The government is planning to increase the number of GBLA seats after the November elections and the above-mentioned additional voters in Gilgit city will lead to an out of proportion representation for Sunnis in GBLA. Such interference from Pakistan will only lead to further sectarian clashes and deaths.

    Although sniper shooting has remained the primary method of sectarian killings, owing to Taliban influences bomb blasts are also becoming common. In May 2009, a bomb blast occurred in Baltistan, which led to the arrest of two Sunnis and recovery of explosive-making material and hand grenades.16 Later in July, a bomb was hurled at Bagrot Hostel, Gilgit, killing two and injuring several other Shia students.17 In April 2009, an Al Qaeda member, Abdullah Rehman, threatened to bomb a four-star hotel in Baltistan.18 Many Taliban who escaped from Swat and adjoining areas found shelter among Sunni extremists in Gilgit.19 Analysts fear that locals may benefit from the Taliban expertise in the field of bomb and suicide jacket making. Local youth is also susceptible to converting to the extremist Islamic ideology and joining the suicide bomber club as a result of Taliban influences. The fact that more than 300 suspected terrorists were expelled from Gilgit in October 2008 highlights fears that the Taliban presence in Gilgit-Baltistan is widespread.20 Successful Talibanization of Gilgit-Baltistan means more Shia deaths and continued arrival of Taliban in large hordes, which will hasten demographic change and hurt local cultural identity and ethnic solidarity. The ongoing military operation in Waziristan against Taliban and Al Qaeda may also create greater problems for Gilgit-Baltistan as Shia soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment will be in direct confrontation with those who perpetuated the Shia genocide in Gilgit in 1988.

  • @Aamir,
    Appreciate your comments on this thread. Your detailed links/footnotes are much appreciated and are very useful in examing the background of today’s tragic event.