Original Articles

Is Shia genocide an adequate term to describe the plight of Pakistan’s Shia Muslims?

Related posts: Misrepresentation of Shia genocide

Shia genocide: what’s in a name? – by Dr. Taqi

“If this isn’t Shia genocide, what is?” – by Zofeen Ebrahim

Participate in international campaign to stop Shia genocide in Pakistan: Sample letters

An increasing number of journalists, bloggers and rights activists in Pakistan and abroad are using the term “Shia genocide” to describe the ongoing massacres and target killings of Shia Muslims currently taking place in Pakistan since late 1980s. Here is a detailed database of incidents of Shia genocide in Pakistan: https://lubpak.net/archives/132675

There are, however, at least some people who are reluctant to use this term due to various (personal, political or legal) reasons.

This post offers an overview of various definitions and opinions on this matter in order to assess whether massacres of Shias in Pakistan qualify to be classified as genocide.

According to Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn:

“Genocide is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator” (The History and Sociology of Genocide , 1990).

The intent of Pakistan’s military-dominated State (army, its various intelligence agencies, subservient civilian bureaucracy and government) in massacre of Shia Muslims is evident through it ongoing support to the Jihadi-sectarian militants. Here is an archive of about 300 articles and reports on this topic:

https://lubpak.net/archives/tag/pakistan-armys-support-to-taliban-lejaswj-other-militants

While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
— Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II

This Convention, to which Pakistan has been a party since 1957, applies to killings of members of a racial or religious group as such with intent to destroy that group in whole or in part.

Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:

1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and

2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.”

Article III describes five punishable forms of the crime of genocide:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide. ”

It is a crime to plan or incite genocide, even before killing starts, and to aid or abet genocide: Criminal acts include conspiracy, direct and public incitement, attempts to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.
Punishable Acts

The following are genocidal acts when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence:

Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.

Causing serious bodily or mental harm includes inflicting trauma on members of the group through widespread torture, rape, sexual violence, forced or coerced use of drugs, and mutilation.

Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.

The law protects four groups – national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.

A national group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by a common country of nationality or national origin.

An ethnical group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common cultural traditions, language or heritage.

A racial group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by physical characteristics.

A religious group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common religious creeds, beliefs, doctrines, practices, or rituals.

As explained above, the crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action. “Intentional” means purposeful. Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts.

Intent is different from motive. Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorrial integrity, etc.), if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.

In Article II, the phrase “in whole or in part” has been subject to much discussion by scholars of international humanitarian law. The phrase “in whole or in part” is important. Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members – mass murder. But an individual criminal may be guilty of genocide even if he kills only one person, so long as he knew he was participating in a larger plan to destroy the group.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Trial Chamber I – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2001) ICTY8 (2 August 2001) that Genocide had been committed. In Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Appeals Chamber – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2004) ICTY 7 (19 April 2004) paragraphs 8, 9, 10, and 11 addressed the issue of in part and found that “The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough to have an impact on the group as a whole.”

In the context of Shias of Pakistan, it is empirically recorded that a large number of Shia doctors, lawyers, literary personalities, religious leaders, political leaders, merchants have been killed in the last three decades. Overall, this has has a visible impact on the economic and social status of Shias. Today, there is not a single Shia family in Pakistan which has not lost a relative or a friend in target killing by LeJ-ASWJ militants.

In Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Appeals Chamber – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2004) ICTY 7 (19 April 2004) there is also this paragraph:

“In addition to the numeric size of the targeted portion, its prominence within the group can be a useful consideration. If a specific part of the group is emblematic of the overall group, or is essential to its survival, that may support a finding that the part qualifies as substantial within the meaning of Article 4 [of the Tribunal’s Statute].” In paragraph 13 the judges raise the issue of the perpetrators’ access to the victims: “The historical examples of genocide also suggest that the area of the perpetrators’ activity and control, as well as the possible extent of their reach, should be considered. … The intent to destroy formed by a perpetrator of genocide will always be limited by the opportunity presented to him. While this factor alone will not indicate whether the targeted group is substantial, it can—in combination with other factors—inform the analysis.”

Clearly the above description is applicable to the contexts of Toori Shias of Parachinar (more than 3000 of them have been killed in the last few years), Shia Hazaras of Quetta (about 600 have been killed), and non-Shia Hazaras of Quetta (about 200 have been killed). Non-Hazara Shias have suffered the most in terms of the ratio of population. Out of a total population of 20,000 non-Hazara Shias of Quetta, at least 200 have been killed which constitutes at least one per cent of their total population.

Stages of genocide:

Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, has described “The 8 Stages of Genocide” to explain that genocide develops in a number of stages that are “predictable but not inexorable”. Following is an explanation of each stage, its suggested preventive measure and a brief mapping to the situation in Pakistan.

1. Classification: People are divided into “us and them”. Right from its creation in 1947 Pakistani state has been dominated by Sunni Deobandi scholars. For example, despite the fact that the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah was himself a Shia Muslim, his State funeral was not allowed to be led by a Shia Imam. A private family funeral was led by a Shia Imam while the Stat funderal was led by a Sunni Deobandi cleric. This was an official declaration that Shias were “them”, not “us”. The process was expedited through the adoption of the notorious Objectives Resolution by Pakistan cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan which publicly expressed the country’s commitment to the Quran and Sunnat, thus rejecting the Shia Muslims notion of commitment to the Quran and Ahl-e-Bait. Further Othering of Shias was institutionalized during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime (1977-1988) which blatantly tried to impose a Sunni, in particular Deobandi-Salafi, ideology and laws on Pakistani society. It is during the same period that violent Jihadi Salafi-Deobandi organizations (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb-e-Islami, other Jihadi groups aligned with Jamaat-e-Islam, Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) etc) were cultivated, founded and trained by Pakistan army for global Jihadist operations in Afghanistan and India. Almost all of these organizations are vehemently anti-Shia treating Shia Muslims as infidels. It is during the same period that Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) was created in Jhang in order to control and punish Shia Muslims and other deviant and minority sects. Preventive measure: “The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend… divisions.”

2. Symbolization “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…”. Usually Shia Muslims are ridiculed as Rafizi, Kafir, Sabai, lesser Muslims, a deviant sect. Their religious traditions are frowned upon and ridiculed. Preventive measure: “To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden as can hate speech”.

3. Dehumanization “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.” Shias are variously described as the worst infidel, as insects, vermins. Shia activists are ridiculed as trolls, viruses. Preventive measure: “Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen.” No Pakistani or international leader of significance has condemned Shia genocide. Instead vague terms are used to misrepresent, justify or deny it. Known terrorists and militants of banned organizations are allowed to roam freely inciting violence against Shias.

4. Organization “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…” There is ample evidence of Jihadist training camps where Pakistan army trained Jihadi Deobandi and Salafi militants, several of whom are also a part of ASWJ – LeJ. Preventive measure: “The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on government, particularly Pakistan army generals, involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations”

5. Polarization “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…” “Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups”. In Pakistan’s context, there is evidence that human rights groups are either under resourced or themselves under direct threat from Pakistan army to maintain their silence on Shia genocide and other atrocities.

6. Preparation “Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity…” “At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. …” There is evidence of segregation of Shias due to their racial features (e.g. Hazara Shias), physical marks of self-flagellation (a Shia tradition) on their backs, identification through names and castes and subsequent massacres in Gilgit-Baltistan, Quetta and Kurram Agency.

7. Extermination “It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human”. “At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection.” In Pakistan’s context, this situation is particular applicable to the context of Shias of Parachinar, Hangu, D.I.Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi and Quetta.

8. Denial “The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…” “The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts” Given Pakistani courts subservience to Pakistan army due to various reasons, there is no chance that the perpetrators of Shia genocide will be punished by them.

Legal precedence

The term Bosnian Genocide is used to refer either to the genocide committed by Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995,[49] or to ethnic cleansing that took place during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War (an interpretation rejected by a majority of scholars).

In 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judged that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide.

On 26 February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Bosnian Genocide Case upheld the ICTY’s earlier finding that the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide.

It may be noted that less than 8000 Muslims were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. In contrast, more than 10,000 (up to 19,000) Shia Muslims have been killed in Pakistan in gradually increasing slow motion genocide in the last few years, which is still happening.

Ways to dilute Shia genocide:

Misrepresenting ‪Shia Genocide is not much different from Ahmadinejad’s antisemitic attempt at misrepresenting Jewish Holocaust.

Several people in Pakistani media and society use ethnic terms (Hazara), sectarian terms (Sunni vs Shia), diluting terms (ShiaKilling) to misrepresent Shia genocide. There’s so much effort to ignore or misrepresent Shia genocide in Pakistan.

1. Denial. Shias are not being particularly killed. Everyone is being killed in Pakistan, no one is safe.

2. Justify: Shias are being killed because they insult the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet). Shias are being killed because in Iran, Shias are killing Sunnis.

3. Misattribution: Shias are being killed not by LeJ-ASWJ-Taliban but by agents of RAW, Mossad and CIA.

4. Shias are being killed because their is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both Sunnis and Shias are being killed. This is Sunni vs Shia sectarian violence.

5. This is ethnic, not sectarian. Hazara genocide is taking place in Quetta which has nothing to do with Shia genocide. There is no Shia genocide. The issue has been blow out of proportion.

It is now amply documented and established that majority of peaceful Sunnis reject and disown ASWJ-SSP terrorists. Both Shias and Sunnis (Barelvis and moderate Deobandis) are being killed by the same groujp (ASWJ-SSP). Therefore, presenting Shia genocide as sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias is an intellectual dishonesty. In a similar vein of dishonesty, media used to call frequent ambush of Talibans on Shias of Parachinar, Hangu and DI khan as “Tribal feud”.

We encourage our readers to review Saroop Ijaz’s bold and clear article on Express Tribune (4 March 2012) on this topic. Saroop writes:

The Shia Muslims are being systematically murdered in Pakistan. Use the word ‘genocide’ and people would begin to protest and bring forth the dustiest of legal definitions. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is slightly less contentious and is now occasionally being used in the case of the Hazara and other Shia. Reflect on the full import of the term for a moment, it has the implication that some people are merely filth and murder is a way to cleanse the impurity. Repulsive thoughts; are they not, but this is the mindset that is plainly looking us in the face. It is not ‘sectarian strife’ or ‘conflict’, since that would presume the existence of at least two parties with a semblance of parity. The euphemisms would be silly and disingenuous at all times, but what makes them wicked is that it is either fear or prejudice which leads to their usage. To admit or be open to the possibility that the Shia are being slaughtered through an orchestrated scheme, in a country with the second-highest Shia population in the world is to be open to the realisation of just how deep the rot has spread.

Similar views were expressed by Dr. Taqi:

What Professor Roger Smith et al had written about the genocide-denying scholars is also apt for such media obfuscation: “Where scholars (in the present case the media) deny genocide in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have most dire reverberations. Their message in effect is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over … (they) contribute to the deadly psychohistorical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.”

Why does the media not identify the victims — and the perpetrators — for who they are? The answer is not simple and has its roots in the media persons being poorly informed, fearful of the perpetrators, or downright complicit. Many well-meaning people are genuinely unaware of who some of the victims are.

Before discussing the role of deep state-supported militants in silencing the media, activists and politicians, it is pertinent to mention another deflection tactic used by genocide deniers, i.e. the use of terms like sectarian warfare. When the former French president Francois Mitterrand was asked about the genocide in Rwanda, his infamous response was, “Genocide or genocides? I don’t know what one should say!” Mitterrand was effectively laying the groundwork for defending the French-supported Hutus through ‘double genocide theory’, implying that violence was mutual. Similar false narratives that allege Iranian support for the Shias and present the Shias’ genocide in Pakistan as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rife.

The false narratives notwithstanding, we are not in the presence of an unnamed crime. As this newspaper of record wrote in its April 16, 2012 editorial: “Quetta in particular has become the theatre of this sectarian genocide.” The genocide of the Shias has put their very existence in jeopardy throughout Pakistan.

But as far as the Shia genocide goes, sealing up the windows is precisely what seems to be happening in Pakistan. The media, mullahs, most politicians and, most importantly, the military, are all complicit in this conspiracy of silence. The activists, on the other hand, remain weak, under threat and consumed by semantics to highlight, forcefully and meaningfully, the systematic extermination of the Shia. The ordinary Pakistani’s apathy is reminiscent of the second part of Glover’s quote: “The world would be a terrible place if the whole truth about this aspect of us was what Norman Geras had called ‘the contract of mutual indifference’: we leave other people in peril un-rescued and believe that others will do the same to us.”

The Iran connection and nonsense peddled about the imaginary tit-for-tat sectarian warfare are red herrings to divert focus from the compact between the Pakistani military establishment and its jihadist proxies used as lynchpins of the Pakistani foreign policy agenda. The seeds of this symbiosis were sown right at the inception of Pakistan, with each subsequent military regime continuing to do its part in grooming the relationship. The adoption of Islam-based national ideology under Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq’s wholesale Islamisation, Pervez Musharraf’s duplicitous policy of using jihadists while milking the west for ‘enlightened moderation’, and ultimately General Kayani’s overt India-centricity has provided the Islamist terrorists a continuity of patronage to the extent that now the tail may be wagging the dog.
The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn had written, “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.” The Pakistani brass had made a conscious decision to not just deploy ideology but religious ideology to further its domestic and foreign policy agenda, and along the way, chose a particularly virulent strain of exclusivist religious extremism whose thirst would hardly be quenched by Shia blood.

To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, Pakistanis perhaps view the sectarian cleansing and genocide as direct threats to their furniture. They are oblivious that the exclusivist ideologies like Takfir or Nazism never stop at one victim group — or stop on their own.

In the face of public indifference, lack of political will and the state might protecting the perpetrators, honest witnessing and reporting takes on an unprecedented importance and urgency. Had the Jewish people thrown into gas chambers been identified merely as Germans or Poles, the world conscience might have never been awakened. It is therefore imperative that the Shia victims are identified and named accurately. And equally important is to name the perpetrators, when possible. When mass media misrepresents or obscures information about these atrocities, it becomes incumbent upon the human rights activists to report that neither the crime is nameless nor the victims faceless — it is a Shia genocide. They should be the last ones to seal up the windows.

Apparently, the portraying of Shia genocide as Sunni-Shia sectarian violence or ethnic violence etc is aimed at deflecting the responsibility of Shia genocide from the real killers: i.e., Pakistan army, which has recently enabled further Shia genocide through the tacit support to the Defence-e-Pakistan Council, an alliance of Islamist religio-political groups comprising anti-Shia Jihadi-sectarian terrorists.

Shia genocide discourse

Only recently, a network like Al-Jazeera called it Shia genocide http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/11/201211269131968565.html,

Other leading newspapers e.g., Dawn, Express Tribune, Daily Times, The Hindu etc have described it as Shia genocide.

Anita Joshua (The Hindu) http://worldshiaforum.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/relentless-killing-of-shia-muslims-in-pakistan-by-anita-joshua-the-hindu/

Zofeen Ibrahim (Dawn) http://dawn.com/2012/08/27/if-this-isnt-shia-genocide-what-is/

Khuldun Shahid (Pakistan Today) https://lubpak.net/archives/232697 ,

Dr Mohammd Taqi (Daily Times) https://lubpak.net/archives/226929 https://lubpak.net/archives/76194 ,

Saroop Ejaz (Express Tribune) https://lubpak.net/archives/231563

Pakistan is also being placed in Shia genocide watch list now http://www.genocidewatch.org/pakistan.html

All such aforementioned writers are few of the most respected names in media. Never have they shied away to use the term Shia genocide because they are aware of the magnitude of the problem and plight Shias are faced with. The term Shia genocide has been used by key political leaders and scholars, e.g., Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Husain Haqqani, Dr. A.Q. Khan etc.

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri

42 Comments

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  • We are not let down by those who are in denial mode but those who are representing shia genocide .

  • Thank you for this comprehensive and much needed post to explain this issue. This is clearly a case of Shia genocide in Pakistan.

  • less than 8000 Muslims were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. In contrast, more than 10,000 (up to 19,000) Shia Muslims have been killed in Pakistan in gradually increasing slow motion genocide in the last few years, which is still happening.

    Well argued. This legal precedence is a question mark on the silence and insensitive statements by representatives of HRW and Amnesty in Pakistan.

  • Saroop Ejaz writes: The Shia Muslims are being systematically murdered in Pakistan. Use the word ‘genocide’ and people would begin to protest and bring forth the dustiest of legal definitions.

    This reminds me of Ali Dayan Hasan (HRW) and some of his friends.

  • @shakeel arain

    We are also let down by those who are in silent mode and also by those in apologist mode.

  • Very concise and well researched. Total agreement with the Blogger. State and Pakistani intelligentsia should come out from their state of DENIAL and start calling spade a spade. We do listen one odd statement of all parties on any such incident but why PTI is maintaining a ‘No Comment’ profile on Shias’ killings?

  • what I meant in my previous comment was that those who are misrepresenting shia genocide have let us down .

  • I wonder how muchefforts Mr Nishapuri puts to bring such master piece of writing

    Allah bless you so much

    This research can be referred any where

  • Saroop Ijaz

    “The word Fascism,” Orwell wrote, “has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.” As an admission, I have been guilty in the past of using the term rather loosely and I shouldn’t have, nevertheless the term ‘Fascism’ has its use in Pakistan today. When Shias are periodically off-loaded from buses lined up and shot dead on public highways, the term ‘Fascism’ unmistakably lurks. A murderous cult with clear and public visions of a master race/sect is conducting “genocide” of one set of citizens; the term is useful in its full historical accuracy. So when those engaged in one-upmanship use terms like ‘liberal fascists’ they do not only expose their lack of knowledge of language or critical thinking faculties, infinitely significantly, they soften and make commonplace a word of the utmost condemnation and horror, similar to ‘genocide’ (which I can now claim to use with awareness in this context).
    However, those having a flair for using these absurd, meaningless terms are exactly the sorts who find the emphasis on “Shia” killing and an 11-year-old Christian girl suffering from Down’s syndrome charged with blasphemy a bit too much and an attempt to detract from the “real issues”. This is nonsense of the most sinister and malicious kind. No issue is more real than murder and witch-hunt. Twenty-two Shias killed for their sectarian beliefs is not the same as the same numbered killed in a highway robbery or even by dengue fever. All loss of innocent life is to be condoled, yet not all funerals require the same mourning or outrage. Those who are being hunted and murdered in this country deserve our immediate attention and in Pakistan, there cannot be enough of it right now. Hindus are being persecuted so as to make them leave the country, the nation’s premier atomic scientist is allowed to come on television and spew hatred against the Ahmadis — this I say, with no hesitation, deserves the same if not more attention than the power crisis. The silly idea that when one speaks about an issue she ignores all others, if accepted, would make it impossible to speak on any issue.
    Being a liberal or a conservative is no badge of pride. William Hazlitt in his essay on Edmund Burke wrote: “It has always been with me, a test of the sense and candour of anyone belonging to the opposite party, whether he allowed Burke to be a great man.” Whatever the flaws in Pakistan’s liberal community are (there are admittedly many), the opposition also falls considerably short of the Burkean ideal (with some rare exceptions). Oddly enough most people want themselves to be portrayed as the “real” liberals as if there is something inherently wrong with being a ‘conservative’ or a ‘centrist’.
    The neat classifications of ideological divisions are from a different lexicon meant to cater to different times. Our challenges right now are elemental, even primitive and require more clarity. To condemn the murder of Shias, the persecution of the Christian girl and the barbaric nihilism of the suicide fanatics does not allow for shallow nuance. Silence on the issue, attempting to change the topic or worse, criminal rationalisation is not “conservative” or “anti-liberal” etc, actually it is no political thought; it is terrorist apology at best and probably complicity.
    Differences on the strategy for “our” war on terror are valid and often helpful and so are the objections to drone attacks. Yet, using this and the drawing of false moral equivalences to explain or rationalise the theocratic fascist (another term that I am sure will stand the test of historical verification) assault on our society by the religious fundamentalists is malevolent and masochistic. The supposedly youthful anti-imperialist drawing inspiration from the once great Professor Noam Chomsky and the suicide bomber are in unspoken and perhaps, unknowing agreement here.
    To speak against this murder and mayhem means to expose oneself to the charge of ignoring the power crisis, inflation, unemployment, Muslims in trouble in random parts of the world, in short a “government apologist”. A charge, I will gladly embrace as opposed to being a mouthpiece and a tool (even if unwittingly) of homicidal fanatics bombing our schools, hospitals and mosques.
    Morality ordinarily has a very little place in political views, however, if “liberalism” is taken as per the maybe simplistic definition of its enthusiastic opponents as creating too much of a fuss over the murder of minorities, Shias and suicide bombings etc., then it becomes a question of morality and even humanity. As we progress, I am sure that we will evolve our own definition of what being ‘liberal’ or a ‘conservative’ entails in our political and economic sphere but I hope we will never see (or perhaps, more accurately cease to see) the day when insidious justifications of murder of innocent civilians by terrorists are treated with any credibility or respectability.

    Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2012.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/426128/fake-liberals-and-liberal-fascists/

  • Murder, by any other name
    By Saroop Ijaz
    Published: October 22, 2011

    The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk
    It seems to be a season of protests and vigils in Pakistan. In recent days, we have seen people take to streets for assorted reasons ranging from electricity, loadshedding, Mumtaz Qadri, presumably Steve Jobs and now potentially Muammar Qaddafi. Amidst the news of the active population exerting their democratic right, there was one particular news item in this newspaper that perhaps was the most harrowing. It was a brief report of a vigil held last week in Lahore, in memory of the members of the Hazara community brutally being murdered in Quetta and the rest of Balochistan. Twenty-five people showed up, out of which seven were of Hazara origin. The display of utter lack of moral seriousness and even of the basic human emotion of empathy is shameful.
    When Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was martyred, Lahore remained unmoved. In the case of the Hazaras, I doubt that a few outside the circle of the educated intellectuals (both real and pseudo) have any meaningful realisation of the extent of the barbarism being perpetrated upon the Hazaras. Even within those who at least acknowledge the existence of the violence, there is ambivalence in unequivocally condemning the violence. The principal debate it seems is on semantics and nomenclature, e.g. if the killing spree should be termed as ‘sectarian conflict’, ‘ethnic strife’ or the more graphic ‘genocide’, as if language and not murder is the primary issue here. The careful and meticulous usage of language is admittedly very significant in situations like this. Sectarian conflict is a hopelessly inexact term in the particular context. ‘Conflict’ summons to mind the existence of at least two opposing factions fighting it out, which is simply not true here. It is similar to using hollow terms currently en vogue such as extremists and fascists, both liberal and religious. The impetuous to using such gibberish is provided by the desire to remain ‘objective’ and not come out as an ideologue. I am afraid the luxury of maintaining a pretence of neutrality is no longer available to us. When one side is bullying, intimidating and murdering the other, it is not a conflict. It is an assault, and in cases of ethnic groups, the only appropriate terminology is either ‘cleansing’ or ‘genocide’. In the case of the Hazaras, there is clearly and unambiguously one side that is doing all the killing and the state establishment is either unbelievably incompetent or more likely complicit.
    Christopher Hitchens, writing about the Armenia genocide, quotes the US ambassador in Constantinople in 1915, Henry Morgenthau. The term ‘genocide’ had not been coined yet in 1915, but Ambassador Morgenthau wrote to his government, describing the systematic slaughter of the Armenians as a ‘race murder’. At some level, ‘race murder’ is a more vivid and intense term than the now legally neutralised and objectified ‘genocide’. The precise connotation of what constitutes ‘genocide’ is important at a policy level, but that still does not explain why 25 people would show up at a vigil held at the Liberty Roundabout in Lahore. The rest are certainly not waiting for it to become genocide in the strictly legal sense before they decide to protest, at least I dearly hope not.
    The intellectual elite presumably maintain their ‘objectivity’ because they do not have a dog in this hunt. Speaking for the Hazaras is not the cause currently deemed fashionable enough. The primary reason for that seems to be that they are too far away to make us really agitated as opposed to loadshedding, which is here and now. Let me assure you that if we are worried about descending into the prehistoric Dark Ages, it is not the electricity that we need to really fret about, it is the cowardly, criminal silence on the ‘race murder’ of the Hazaras. Earlier this month, the anniversary of the October 2005 earthquake passed. I know this seems outrageously callous and cruel, but the collapsing of the Margalla Tower in Islamabad probably helped millions in Kashmir and the north (not for long though). Margalla Tower and the infinitely tragic loss of innocent lives there immediately brought the stinging realisation that this not a calamity on other people, it is a disaster for us. Hazara and Balochistan unfortunately do not have that quality, yet. I quiver to think of a similar scenario happening in Islamabad and Lahore which would wake us up from our abysmal, apathetic slumber.
    Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2011.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/279610/murder-by-any-other-name/

    The mindless, hyper-nationalist jingoism and sophomoric solipsism are defining features of our media, but they outdid themselves this time around. Around about the same time, on the first of Muharram, Shias were killed in a terrorist attack in Karachi, but the message of sheer horror did not get the coverage it mandated. However, one anchorperson on Dunya TV chose to talk about it and, probably in some twisted interest of fairness, invited the leader of a banned criminal sectarian organisation (mind you, also a prime suspect of the murders) to voice his hatred against the Shia and why they are labelled ‘kafirs’. Surely, no one can be this stupid so as to not realise the unbelievable insensitivity at play here. It makes one wonder if there is some secret reservoir of the semi-literate, partially educated from which our television channels pluck out some of these gems.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/301702/the-blood-trade/

  • Silence is criminal
    By Saroop Ijaz
    Published: March 4, 2012

    The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

    In Pakistan, at times one feels the need to check oneself and restrain the use of hyperbole and absolutisms; I personally am particularly prone to this tendency. Yet, some days are easy and have little room for shallow nuances and complexities. People were offloaded from buses, their sectarian affiliations ascertained from their identification cards, and people belonging to one sect lead aside, lined up and shot dead on the side of a highway. Tired clichés and grotesque historical parallels are impossible to avoid. It is one of those incidents where the number of people killed is secondary to the undiluted and absolute evil of it. This is as simple and hideous as it gets. Though, not for everyone it seems, the condemnations took a while coming, and did not come at all from some quarters. If this does not interrupt and enrage you, then you are not made to be bothered by this stuff.
    In the exquisite movie, “Chariots of Fire”, Harold Abrahams said that with anti-Semitism you catch it “at the edge of a remark”. In our case also, the language used to describe or refer to violence, often gives away much more than is consciously intended. When the Taliban blow up hospitals and girl schools, the prefix ‘western’ before civilisation is unnecessary, to describe the subject of their outrage. In a slightly different context, the prefix ‘female’ lobbed in before pilot or film-maker is in most cases redundant and indicative of underlying chauvinism. Remaining with the trope, a prefix omitted before many who are murdered is ‘Shia’. Those murdered in Kohistan were clinically executed for no other reason but the fact that they were Shia, it would seem intuitive that it is mentioned at the outset.
    The Shia Muslims are being systematically murdered in Pakistan. Use the word ‘genocide’ and people would begin to protest and bring forth the dustiest of legal definitions. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is slightly less contentious and is now occasionally being used in the case of the Hazara and other Shia. Reflect on the full import of the term for a moment, it has the implication that some people are merely filth and murder is a way to cleanse the impurity. Repulsive thoughts; are they not, but this is the mindset that is plainly looking us in the face. It is not ‘sectarian strife’ or ‘conflict’, since that would presume the existence of at least two parties with a semblance of parity. The euphemisms would be silly and disingenuous at all times, but what makes them wicked is that it is either fear or prejudice which leads to their usage. To admit or be open to the possibility that the Shia are being slaughtered through an orchestrated scheme, in a country with the second-highest Shia population in the world is to be open to the realisation of just how deep the rot has spread.
    Most days here are busy news days amidst memos, corruption scandals and Supreme Court etc., yet is it too much to ask that the media and the ‘public intellectuals’ keep at least some of their powder of contempt and anger dry for the Shia being massacred, or at the very least begin calling it by its right name. Neutrality is often an overrated virtue, if it is a virtue at all, and in the case of mass murder, it becomes cowardice and complicity. Most major religious parties consider the Shia as infidels or heretic, even if they do it under their breath to make it palatable. And we know too well, what the faithful propose to do with, or to the infidels. The argument that one has other areas of interest or expertise on different matters to focus on and hence, will decide to sit this one out is rubbish. One cannot let oneself off the elementary task of condemning the butchering of fellow citizens; it does not require any special knowledge. The pretence of looking at this matter academically and objectively and not picking sides etc. is in most cases more infuriating than a straight out, shameful and stone faced denial, at least with that we know what side somebody is on. This is ‘us’ versus ‘them’, I refuse to be lumped in an orgy of oneness with these barbarians, notwithstanding whimpers of smugness, generalisation etc.
    I cannot possibly improve on Mustafa Zaidi’s rendition of Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil and apathy of the intelligentsia when he writes beautifully about Karbala, so I will directly quote him (Urdu and its English translation side-by-side):
    (“Remember Germany’s Auschwitz and Japan’s Hiroshima/ Who was there to hear their dying shrieks? They had millions of friends/ Yet for them, the tragedy was worth nothing more than academic discussions/ Concealed from everyone except their own intelligence/ All Jaspers, Makros and Sartres were silent/ This civilised silence is more heinous than any other crime/ The wicked laughter of the murderer pales into insignificance before it/ The murderers might be deserving of forgiveness, they had no choice/ Why were us who were friends deaf to conscience”.)
    The sheer moral case for unequivocally speaking out and fighting this rampage of murder of Shias is relatively basic and in my view unimpeachable. Even then, if an additional reason is required, let me make this pathetic appeal to our self-interest. They will not stop at the Shia, or anyone in particular for that matter. Our silence will not be rewarded by amnesty unless, of course, we actively join them in murder.
    It did not work in Germany or in Rwanda, and it does not work anywhere. With each killing, there is one less to get to you, this is admittedly hyperbole, yet necessary. Sometimes it is said that the terrifying thing about tyrannies is not that they want us to obey them only, but to agree with them. John Donne’s words have some prescience here, “… Therefore send not to know/for whom the Bell tolls/it tolls for thee”.
    Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/345004/silence-is-criminal/

  • Shia genocide: nameless crime, faceless victims —Dr Mohammad Taqi

    “Genocide is any act that puts the very existence of a group in jeopardy” — Professor Henry Huttenbach.

    When Winston Churchill in his August 24, 1941 speech described the extermination of the Jews and Jewish Bolshevists by the Nazis in the occupied Soviet territories, his vivid depiction of the “methodical, merciless butchery” was quite accurate. Still, even the eloquent Churchill had no specific term for the atrocities going on and had to conclude, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” It would be over a year before the Jewish lawyer Professor Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide for the crimes against humanity that Churchill was alluding to.

    The Shias of Pakistan, along with scores of other vulnerable groups, have been under an unrelenting systematic assault since the height of the Pak-Saudi-US jihad against the erstwhile Soviet Union. But over the last several years the methodical, merciless butchery has reached a point that is gruesome even by Pakistani standards of viciousness and yet the slaughter of the Shias in Quetta, Kurram, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi and Peshawar has remained a nameless crime. It is a media norm to use euphemisms and sanitised phraseology to describe the mass murder of a beleaguered community.

    But not identifying the crime is not the only thing happening. There is a systematic effort by the mainstream media to obfuscate the religious — and in some cases ethnic — identity of the victims. In a recent Twitter exchange with a young Hazara boy, a top Pakistani television anchor wrote, “Hazaras should not call them Shias; they are Pakistani Muslims and their blood is equal to all the other Pakistanis [sic].” It appears to be a pretty benign comment unless one considers the implications of reporting a nameless crime, now with nameless and faceless victims.

    However, before I proceed further, let there be no doubt that those massacred recently in Quetta used to identify themselves as Shia Muslims and belonged to the ethnic Hazara community. Their names are: Ms Bakht Jamal, Zafar, Alam Khan, Ghulam Sakhi, Hafizullah, Nazir Hussain, Mubarak Shah (Spini Road attack March 29, 2012), Ejaz Hussain and Ali Asghar (Kirani Road attack April 2, 2012), Qurban Ali, Muhammad Zia, Muhammad Hussain, Shabir, Nadir Ali, Saeed Ahmad (Prince Road attack April 9, 2012); Muhammad and Ms. Fatima (Sattar Road and Kasi Road respectively, April 13, 2012), Abdullah, Juma Ali, Muhammad Ali, Syed Asghar Shah, Eid Muhammad (Brewery Road April 14, 2012), and Suleiman Ali (Kawari Road April 16, 2012). This list is neither exhaustive nor includes the injured.

    This same anchor in a subsequent tweet laid the blame for the massacre of the Hazara Shias on the presumed enemies of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. So now one does not know the crime, the victim or the perpetrator — without which little, if any, meaningful remedial, preventive or punitive intervention can take place. What Professor Roger Smith et al had written about the genocide-denying scholars is also apt for such media obfuscation: “Where scholars (in the present case the media) deny genocide in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have most dire reverberations. Their message in effect is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over … (they) contribute to the deadly psychohistorical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.”

    Why does the media not identify the victims — and the perpetrators — for who they are? The answer is not simple and has its roots in the media persons being poorly informed, fearful of the perpetrators, or downright complicit. Many well-meaning people are genuinely unaware of who some of the victims are. A leading editor, in an otherwise balanced editorial, had called the victims of the Quetta violence as ‘Hazarajat’, a term for the traditional geographic homeland in Afghanistan of the Hazara tribes but never used for the people. Also most Pakistanis have had little or no direct interaction with the small closely-knit Hazara community of Quetta and find them to be some sort of curiosity. But the foregoing remark by the anchorperson is also ominous in that it dispenses with any acknowledgment of diversity and upholds boilerplate conformity that the Pakistani state has been perpetuating almost since its inception.

    The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as ‘only’ Muslim. There are schools upon schools of Islamic jurisprudence that have significant doctrinal differences. Setting some sort of benchmark to qualify for the state’s protection spells disaster for the groups that are numerically and logistically handicapped. More importantly, the Islamisation of Pakistan and indoctrination of the armed forces under General Ziaul Haq has made Wahhabism and its certain variants as the de facto state creed. The inherent problem in using religion as the pivot of the national polity is that the adherents of the myriad interpretations of religion compete with each other and with everyone else — by armed means eventually — to assure that their model prevails. While the Shiite and others were only outnumbered before, after the Wahhabist militants became the veritable arm of the Pakistani security establishment, they were outgunned too. When the Pakistani state consummated its compact with the jihadists, neither party signed a ‘for external use only’ clause. By virtually sharing the right to use violence with the non-state actors, the Pakistani state empowered them to define — and enforce — what the good ‘Pakistani Muslim’ should be.

    Before discussing the role of deep state-supported militants in silencing the media, activists and politicians, it is pertinent to mention another deflection tactic used by genocide deniers, i.e. the use of terms like sectarian warfare. When the former French president Francois Mitterrand was asked about the genocide in Rwanda, his infamous response was, “Genocide or genocides? I don’t know what one should say!” Mitterrand was effectively laying the groundwork for defending the French-supported Hutus through ‘double genocide theory’, implying that violence was mutual. Similar false narratives that allege Iranian support for the Shias and present the Shias’ genocide in Pakistan as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rife.

    The false narratives notwithstanding, we are not in the presence of an unnamed crime. As this newspaper of record wrote in its April 16, 2012 editorial: “Quetta in particular has become the theatre of this sectarian genocide.” The genocide of the Shias has put their very existence in jeopardy throughout Pakistan.

    “When people’s lives are at risk from persecution, there is a strong moral obligation to do what is reasonably possible to help. It is not enough to seal up the windows against the smell”– Jonathan Glover.
    But as far as the Shia genocide goes, sealing up the windows is precisely what seems to be happening in Pakistan. The media, mullahs, most politicians and, most importantly, the military, are all complicit in this conspiracy of silence. The activists, on the other hand, remain weak, under threat and consumed by semantics to highlight, forcefully and meaningfully, the systematic extermination of the Shia. The ordinary Pakistani’s apathy is reminiscent of the second part of Glover’s quote: “The world would be a terrible place if the whole truth about this aspect of us was what Norman Geras had called ‘the contract of mutual indifference’: we leave other people in peril un-rescued and believe that others will do the same to us.”
    The overarching reasons for the complicity, silence, indifference and thus inaction are the fear of the perpetrators and a desire to seek their political favour. Shortly after the recent spate of killings of the Shia Hazara community, there was a large political rally in that city by the up and coming party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). To the utter dismay of the Quetta Shia community, the leader of the PTI, Imran Khan, failed to condemn from the podium the persecution of the Shia. Khan, instead, quietly showed up at the Hazara Shia Imambargah in Nichari, Quetta, to offer routine condolences. Contrarily, the PTI President, Javed Hashmi proudly claims to have christened the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) — a conglomerate of assorted jihadist and religio-political groups including the reincarnation of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The PTI’s vice-president Chaudhry Ijaz is seen unabashedly rubbing shoulders on the DPC stage with the SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jamat-ud-Dawa leaders. Similarly, Imran Khan loudly praises the Musharraf crony, General (retired) Ali Jan Orakzai, whom the Kurram Shia consider the architect of their persecution. The PTI consorting with jihadis and issuing meek condolences has everything to do with its quest for electoral gains in Punjab where the India-oriented jihadist groups are the virtual kingmakers now.
    The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has played an equally dubious and dirty role in its tacit support of the Punjabi militant groups. In the PML-N’s case, a doctrinal transformation of its leadership due to influence from and/or to appease its Saudi mentors, an increasing recognition of jihadist power in Punjab and quite significantly, the fear factor played a role in the party’s change of heart from hunting down the militants to its leaders actually paying tribute at the tombs of SSP’s terrorist leaders. Ironically, the SSP/LeJ terrorist late Riaz Basra had once not only masterminded a bomb attack on Nawaz Sharif, then the prime minister of Pakistan, in January 1999, but also came within arm’s length of him.
    Owen Bennett Jones chronicles in his book, “Riaz Basra showed his contempt for the police’s capabilities when he turned up at one of Nawaz Sharif’s political surgeries (khuli kacheri). Having slipped in with the petitioners who wanted to see the prime minister, Basra positioned himself directly behind Nawaz Sharif and got one of his accomplices to take a picture. Three days later, the staff at the PM house received a print of the photograph. The faces of Sharif and Basra, within a few feet of each other, had been circled and underneath there was an inscription — it’s that easy.” Interestingly, the Punjab government, on the orders of the Punjab High Court, had been giving Basra’s then-imprisoned successor Malik Ishaq’s family a monthly stipend! Little wonder then that Ishaq has been thumbing his nose at the law enforcement agencies for years now, including at the DPC rallies.
    The fear instilled in the media, human rights activists and the politicians is however not just because of the ruthlessness of the Punjabi Taliban, a la SSP, LeJ and LeT, et al. There is an acute awareness, especially in the political class, that these groups have been given the most favoured jihadist status by the Pakistani security establishment. Just like the Jalaluddin Haqqani terror network on the western frontier, the India-oriented, Punjab-based jihadists receive a kid-glove treatment from the deep state operatives, complete with protection or rescue from police custody and operational freedom.
    The Iran connection and nonsense peddled about the imaginary tit-for-tat sectarian warfare are red herrings to divert focus from the compact between the Pakistani military establishment and its jihadist proxies used as lynchpins of the Pakistani foreign policy agenda. The seeds of this symbiosis were sown right at the inception of Pakistan, with each subsequent military regime continuing to do its part in grooming the relationship. The adoption of Islam-based national ideology under Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq’s wholesale Islamisation, Pervez Musharraf’s duplicitous policy of using jihadists while milking the west for ‘enlightened moderation’, and ultimately General Kayani’s overt India-centricity has provided the Islamist terrorists a continuity of patronage to the extent that now the tail may be wagging the dog.
    The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn had written, “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.” The Pakistani brass had made a conscious decision to not just deploy ideology but religious ideology to further its domestic and foreign policy agenda, and along the way, chose a particularly virulent strain of exclusivist religious extremism whose thirst would hardly be quenched by Shia blood. To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, Pakistanis perhaps view the sectarian cleansing and genocide as direct threats to their furniture. They are oblivious that the exclusivist ideologies like Takfir or Nazism never stop at one victim group — or stop on their own.
    In the face of public indifference, lack of political will and the state might protecting the perpetrators, honest witnessing and reporting takes on an unprecedented importance and urgency. Had the Jewish people thrown into gas chambers been identified merely as Germans or Poles, the world conscience might have never been awakened. It is therefore imperative that the Shia victims are identified and named accurately. And equally important is to name the perpetrators, when possible. When mass media misrepresents or obscures information about these atrocities, it becomes incumbent upon the human rights activists to report that neither the crime is nameless nor the victims faceless — it is a Shia genocide. They should be the last ones to seal up the windows.

    (Concluded)

    The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/mazdaki

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C04%5C19%5Cstory_19-4-2012_pg3_2

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C04%5C26%5Cstory_26-4-2012_pg3_2

  • Sharmeen Obaid ‏@sharmeenochinoy
    @AliDayan what qualifies as a genocide for HRW?
    Collapse Reply Retweet Favorite More
    11:00 AM – 3 Dec 12 ·

    3 Dec Ali Dayan Hasan ‏@AliDayan
    @sharmeenochinoy As defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II

    3 Dec Ali Dayan Hasan ‏@AliDayan
    @sharmeenochinoy But the threshold for determination is extremely high.

    3 Dec Sharmeen Obaid ‏@sharmeenochinoy
    @AliDayan I read the convention and I can see why the Shia/hazara isn’t being called a genocide yet- thanks

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