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Silence of Pakistan army generals on Shia genocide – by Feisal Naqvi

Related posts: General Kayani and Takfiri Deobandis جنرل کیانی اور تکفیری دیوبندی

Pakistan army outsources the Defence of Pakistan to killers of Shias, Ahmadis and Christians

Note: The following post is slightly edited and adapted from Express Tribune, August 29, 2012. to remove some minor omissions and inconsistencies in the original article. It is important to read this article in conjunction with the comment provided at the end.

Pakistan’s slow-motion slide into sectarian hell has, so far, met with studied silence from all the major political players.

In the case of the PPP, the silence is mere cowardice. In the case of the PML-N and the PTI, the silence is calculated; a cold-blooded conclusion that there are seats to be gained from turning a blind eye. What is more interesting though is the silence of the khakis. Because of all institutions, it is the Army that has the most to lose.

The fact of the matter is that the armed forces are a pluralistic institution. Our officer corps includes not just Muslims of every shade but also Christians, Parsis and even Ahmadis. More importantly, while Shias form 25 per cent of Pakistan’s population, there is some evidence that they form an even larger part of the officer cadre. The Army may, therefore, be able to survive the day when Muslims refuse to obey Christians. But it will not survive the day when Sunnis refuse to obey Shias. Assuming that the Army knows this, the question arises as to why it is doing nothing. My understanding is that there are two reasons — one official, one unofficial.

The official reason is that it is not the Army’s job to determine the ideological contours of this country. Instead, that is the job of the civilian leadership.

Pardon the language but I am going to call ‘bullshit’ on that one. This country has been ruled for decades at a time by the military. Even otherwise, the military has generally been the single-most important political force in Pakistan. More importantly, while the roots of discrimination in our Constitution were introduced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the reason why those seedlings of hate took hold and spread is because of General Ziaul Haq and his minions. If the Army is now troubled by sectarianism in Pakistan, it cannot wash its hands of the matter.

What, then, is the real argument?

The real argument is that the rank and file of the Army have been deliberately indoctrinated with the belief that they are warriors of Allah whose job is to keep infidels at bay. In other words, the average soldier’s patriotism has a distinctly religious tinge in which Pakistan is a fortress of Islam and its enemies are also enemies of Islam.

Now this worldview is certainly useful in motivating people to kill Indians. At the same time, it has limited utility when it comes to jihadis because the jihadis claim to be even better Muslims than us.

Till date, the Army has tried to deal with this problem not by changing its propaganda but by painting jihadis as Indian stooges. It has done so because it believes the present moment is simply too delicate for wholesale ideological retooling. In other words, the Army thinks that telling the jawans to protect a pluralistic ideal could well result in mass mutiny. At a practical level, this is undoubtedly a very powerful argument. There is also ample historical precedent for not worrying about subtleties in the middle of a war.

To take one famous example, the Bolsheviks spent 1917-1942 preaching to the world that nationalism was a bourgeois disease. However, when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, Marxist orthodoxy was swiftly jettisoned in favour of a full-throated nationalism and the cult of  ‘Mother Russia’. This was because the average Soviet soldier was far more willing to die for his country than for the sake of class solidarity.

But does this strategy make any sense in the case of Pakistan’s current situation? Not in my view.

The whole point of a military ideology is to objectify the enemy, i.e., to reduce the opponent to an evil caricature who can be killed without compunction. Accordingly, the most important function of a military ideology is to allow differentiation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ so that the others can then be caricatured and killed.

In the case of the Germans, hyper-nationalism made sense because it allowed Joseph Stalin to portray the invaders as evil Huns. Similarly, jihadi nationalism makes some sense as a military ideology if the enemy is India because Indian troops can all be lumped into the category of  ‘kafirs’. However, in the case of the TTP, jihadi nationalism is useless because it fails to adequately differentiate the enemy from ourselves.

Our current national ideology is a muddled mess in which we have decided both, that all citizens shall have the right of freedom of religion and that the state will decide their religion for them. This really doesn’t work.

Let me be more blunt. By stating in our Constitution that certain people (i.e. Ahmadis) do not have the right to consider themselves Muslims, we have accepted the argument that an individual’s religious identity is a political matter. It is not possible to reconcile that argument with what the rest of the world considers to be freedom of religion. Moreover, this conflict is not just theoretical: we have thoroughly legalised persecution of Ahmadis and yawned in the face of their suffering.

The net result is that there is only a difference of degree, and not a difference of principle, between the state of Pakistan and the emirate envisioned by the TTP. The state excommunicates Ahmadis. The TTP excommunicates both Ahmadis and Shias. [TTP also considers and treats Sunnis Barelvis/Sufis as plytheists (mushrik) and infidels (kafir) thus the attacks on Sufi shrines across Pakistan.]

Pakistan, therefore, has two options. The rational option is to move in a more pluralistic direction where the state doesn’t have the right to define anyone as a non-Muslim. The politically feasible option is to continue with the status quo but to try and differentiate our particular brand of witch-hunting from the tactics of the TTP. I understand that the rational option is politically dangerous. Unfortunately, the politically feasible option doesn’t work for Shias like me. That’s because we’re likely to wind up dead under that option. Furthermore, while preserving the status quo may work in the short term, the long-term result of such cowardice is likely to be civil war.

Rationally speaking, the Army no longer has the option of staying silent. Yes, it is not the Army’s job to fix our muddled and hateful beliefs. But if the Army doesn’t at least prod the civilians into acting, this country will fall apart. When that happens, there will be no Pakistan. And no Pakistan Army either.

A comment on the above article:

Feisal Naqvi has written on an important topic, however, he appears very soft on Army. More importantly, the Army should stop treating all those who are attacking Pakistan’s very citizens (Sunni Barelvis, Shias, Ahmadis, moderate Deobandis, policemen, others) as its strategic assets for cross-border Jihadist operations. Those who are causing insecurity within Pakistan cannot be treated as guarantors of our strategic security. It’s important to boldly highlight that Army as an institution, and its various agencies, have behaved out of their legal and constitutional bounds in the last 60 years, and have completely destroyed the nation, its social fabric, its communal harmony, its political and financial systems, its foreign policy… all in false pursuit of India-centric Xenophobia, foreign weapons, dollars, and big bungalows. Their wrong decisions on import of Salafist Jihadist ideology to hire Takfiri Deobandi and Wahhabi mercenaries for proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan has hurt not only the people of Kashmir and Afghanistan but also the people of Pakistan. It’s time the Army, particularly its generals, be made accountable for all their wrongs for 60 years, make them answerable to common people and bring them to size. More importantly, it is not only Taliban, it’s various Takfiri Deobandi off-shoots and affiliates eg Sipah Sahaba (also known as LeJ, ASWJ, Jundullah), DPC, JuD are a part of the same Jihadist sectarian complex that only the Army has the capacity to destroy. As noted by Salman Khan in his comments on ET: The author (Feisal Naqvi) seems to be confused about role of military in curbing secterian violence. He wants army to direct civilian government in the right direction but I think it is the army which needs to be directed in the right direction. We all know how and why military had unleashed monsters like Malik Ishaq, Hafiz Saeed etc. In mid 90s Army used sectarian violence to weaken civilian governments. Saudi Arabia financed these Sunni (in fact Deobandi and Wahhabi) extremist groups in their struggle against Shia groups and our security establishment was happy with the arrangement as it was getting holy warriors which it can use in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Civilian Governments in 90s tried to deal with the menace of sectarianism but military made sure it wouldn’t succeed. Even now we see little change in attitude of our military establishment, the Shia tribes in Kurram had been punished by the Army for last twenty years because it refused to be part of the game Pakistan Security establishment is playing in FATA and Afghanistan. Our Army has been engaged in killing and harassing its own citizens, so am not surprised over its silence on Shias Persecution because maybe not directly but indirectly it is a party to these killings. If the Army sincerely wants an end to these killings it needs to change its mindset, it needs to change the narrative which it is feeding to its officers and jawans. If some institutional changes are not implemented I don’t see any hope, and in response to the author’s argument what why Shia officers in the army are silent I would like to quote Smedley Butler (a Major General in US Army and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history) “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

Tail piece: Veteran journalist Amir Mateen highlights Army’s role in Shia genocide

Dunya @8 with Malick – 22 August 2012

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8 Comments

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  • @Salman Khan:
    Khan Sahib, I agree with you 100%. You hit the bull’s eye with your comments. Unless the army is truly educated and cleansed of all the teachings of Gen Zia and Wahabis there is no hope at all. The army should be in total control of civilians and act as paid govt servant not the colonial power that has a God given right to rule the country. An ex-marine who is knowledgeable about Pakistan told me that there cannot be a military coup in the US. The soldiers take oath to uphold the constitution and not to support their superiors to break their oath of office. He said a general cannot order a soldier to arrest a congressman, senator or any innocent civilian let alone the president. The soldiers would not obey his orders and arrest him instead of the govt officials. The army in Pakistan behaves as if they have taken oath of allegiance the army chief and not the govt or constitution. That is why not a single army takeover has been opposed and resisted by any faction of the army.
    We have to cleanse, truly educate and bring the army under the govt like any other public servant. The army should not have anything to do with their own promotions, foreign or defense policy. Those who are opposed to this Op Ed must understand that nobody wants to bring the army to run the country but to help the govt control it better like the police force which has been inadequately equipped. On the contrary the army has been creating problems and has links with the worst terrorists in the world like OBL. Even when the army was doing flood work, it was publicizing as if the govt has failed and their parallel govt is working for the welfare of public. They should be a part and subordinate of the govt and not the other way.
    Thanks and regards,
    Mirza

    …….

    bisaf:

    The move from a dogmatic Sunni nationalist Islamist narrative won’t happen under Kayani. There are anecdotes of applications for positions in the forces being discriminately rejected based on minority sect names, and some senior minority sect officers marginalized from meetings or even seeing confidential information.
    There’s that incredible sabotage by the Pak army when they strangled the last supply route of the anti-Taliban Turi tribe in Kurram when they had the Haqqanis and the Taliban on the ropes, but were forced into a peace deal for access into Afghanistan. The army were uninterested in protecting them from any sectarian attacks.
    Many at the top themselves, like most of Pak society, may hold hypocritical prejudice and hegemonic bias, so appealing to them maybe a lost cause. Read your fellow contributor’s, Ejaz Haider, articles on how the military disingenuously views sectarian massacres as being ‘both sides’, or simply ‘tribal’ as the north is concerned.

    Top cat:
    Army has created the mess by doing something… And it can just not reap the benefits and sit quietly and not do something about it and leave the mess for the civilians to deal with.

    Khalqe Khuda:
    Army is anything but silent Sir, Pakistan army is no longer pluralistic. Shias are not welcome and Ahmedis dare not declare their faith. The massacres through out Pakistan are taking place under the auspices of armed forces.
    Please visit Gilgit and find out for yourself how Shias were identified at checkposts and murdered by soldiers in uniform. Visit Kurram, visit Quetta, visit Kohistan or any other place you like. The army is not silent, it is the main culprit.

  • I laud Feisal for starting a debate on this very important topic.

    In today’s newspaper (Pakistan Today), Dr. Hasan Askari Riziv too highlights the same issue:

    The military has often overplayed anti-Americanism and sought the cooperation of pro-Taliban militant and Islamic groups and the Political Right to protect its institutional interests, i.e. the Kerry Lugar bill controversy (2009), the Difa-e-Pakistan conglomerate after the Salala border post incident. By now, anti-American sentiments have become so deep rooted that no rational approach to foreign and security policy can be implemented.

    The elected government, the political players and the security apparatus may like to control religious extremism and terrorism but they lack the political will to take and implement difficult decisions. They are unable to evolve a shared disposition on terrorism. The key question is if the military can practically adopt a policy of treating all armed religious groups as a threat? It needs to convince the pro-military circles and retired officers to view countering terrorism as Pakistan’s war and fully support the military on it. As this is not expected to happen in the near future, the confused and ambiguous policy for controlling terrorism against the backdrop of internal power struggle will continue.

    The writer is an independent political and defence analyst.

    http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/08/29/comment/columns/on-countering-terrorism/

  • In one line, MQM’s Raza Haroon explained why there is no end to #ShiaGenocide in sight

    http://www.facebook.com/shiakilling3/posts/426009574102353

    پاکستان کے ایک سیاسی رہنما “رضا ہارون” سے آج ایک ٹی وی انٹرویو میں پوچھا گیا کہ کیوں فرقہ وارانہ کلنگ کا کوئی قاتل نہیں پکڑا جاتا، جواب میں رضا ہارون نے کہا کہ ہم نے تو خود پوچھاایجنسیوں سے کہ وہ کیا کررہی ہیں؟

    پھر نیوز اینکر نے سوال کیا کہ تو وہ(ایجنسیاں) کیوں گرفتار نہیں کرتے؟ رضا ہارون نے بہت اہم جواب دیا انھوں نے کہا “کسی کے خلاف اُسی وقت کاروائی نہیں کی جاتی جب اُن لوگوں سے مفادات وابستہ ہو”

    اس چھوٹی سے بات میں پوری شیعہ نسل کشی کا راز چھپا ہے!!!!

    ———–

    Khalq-e-Khuda

    Army is anything but silent Sir, Pakistan army is no longer pluralistic. Shias are not welcome and Ahmedis dare not declare their faith. The massacres through out Pakistan are taking place under the auspices of armed forces.
    Please visit Gilgit and find out for yourself how Shias were identified at checkposts and murdered by soldiers in uniform. Visit Kurram, visit Quetta, visit Kohistan or any other place you like. The army is not silent, it is the main culprit.

    Bigsaf:

    The move from a dogmatic Sunni nationalist Islamist narrative won’t happen under Kayani. There are anecdotes of applications for positions in the forces being discriminately rejected based on minority sect names, and some senior minority sect officers marginalized from meetings or even seeing confidential information.
    There’s that incredible sabotage by the Pak army when they strangled the last supply route of the anti-Taliban Turi tribe in Kurram when they had the Haqqanis and the Taliban on the ropes, but were forced into a peace deal for access into Afghanistan. The army were uninterested in protecting them from any sectarian attacks.
    Many at the top themselves, like most of Pak society, may hold hypocritical prejudice and hegemonic bias, so appealing to them maybe a lost cause. Read your fellow contributor’s, Ejaz Haider, articles on how the military disingenuously views sectarian massacres as being ‘both sides’, or simply ‘tribal’ as the north is concerned.

  • As an Indian Muslim I have this to say – we are very safe and happy with our Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters and thank God our ancestors chose to stay in secular India than migrate to fundamentalist Pakistan.