Featured Original Articles

Can we combat terrorism without identifying the terrorists?


Sunni militants or Takfiri Deobandi militants?

Raza Rumi’s recent article in Express Tribune (Great expose of the unelected) touched upon the ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakistan and we appreciate him on highlighting this important issue. The same article, probably unwittingly, reinforced a deeply questionable binary, in that, it lumped the perpetrators as Sunni Muslims.

Rumi writes:

The year 2012 was also the year of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which continued the acts of terror against Pakistan and its civilians. Its allies, the Sunni extremist groups, added to the mayhem by targeting Shias, including the members of the Hazara community.

Unfortunately, this same binary “Sunni militants killing Shias” has done much to obfuscate the reality of Shia Genocide by Takfiri Deobandi militants of Sipah Sahaba Taliban (operating under various aliases such as ASWJ, LeJ, TTP, Jundullah etc).  This obfuscation has increased the confusion amongst Pakistanis and the world community and therefore made any possible solutions even more difficult to develop and implement.

(Related post: Shia Hazaras of Quetta reject misleading report on #Shia Genocide by New York Times’ Declan Walsh – by Jafar Hazara)

For starters, Sunni Muslims have often protested that it is unfair to dub them all in the same category.  Therefore, Barelvi Sunnis who form a significant part (at least 50%) of Pakistan’s population and at one time may have constituted an out right majority are not party to Shia Genocide.  Here is a relevant video of a Sunni activist re-stating this fact

Mufti Muhammad Abid Mubarak (Sunni Barelvi scholar) asks Aurangzeb Farooqi Deobandi of Sipah Sahaba to refrain from using the name of Ahle Sunnat (Sunni Muslims) in promoting their Takfiri Deobandi agenda.


Allam Abdul Tawab Siddiqi exposed Sipah Sahaba terrorists plans aginst Sunni Barelvis:

Like the Shia and Ahmadi Muslims of Pakistan, Sunni Barelvis too have suffered at the hands of ISI-backed and Saudi-funded Takfiri Deobandi militants. Here is a quick list of mass attacks on Sunni Barelvis by Deobandi militants of Sipah Sahaba Taliban.

  1. Attack on Data Darbar, Lahore
  2. Attack on Jhal Magsi, Balochistan
  3. Attack on Bari Imam, Islamabad
  4. Attack on Rehman Baba Shrine, Peshawar
  5. Attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Karachi
  6. Attack on Nishtar Park on Milad Celebration in Karachi

These are just some of the most prominent attacks by Deobandi militants on Sunnis Barelvis.

Here’s a must read article: Who are Takfiri Deobandis? https://lubpak.net/archives/236725

However, it will be unfair generalization as even moderate Deobandis have suffered at the hands of Takfiri Deobandis.  From prominent scholars like Maulana Hasan, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai and Maulana Yusuf Binori who did not survive to prominent leaders of JI (Qazi Hussain Ahmed) and JUI-F (Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani etc) who have been relentless attacked, even Deobandis have suffered at the hands of Takfiri Deobandis.  The term Takfiri denotes the adjective to apostasize – an extremist tendency that logically assumes a violent dimension to wipe out any dissenting views.

And it is these Takfiri Deobandis that are the sole beneficiaries of the Pakistan army-Saudi backing in their quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan. Locally, they are dominated by interconnected groups the main one of which is Sipah Sahaba (ASWJ).  ASWJ itself has chosen a name (Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) that by definition misrepresents them as the sole face of Sunni Muslims. It is difficult to tell where ASWJ ends and LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) begins but both are known to be the main Takfiri Deobandi affiliates of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In Pakistan today, the overwhelming majority of terrorism is proudly owned by the interconnected nexus of Sipah Sahaba Taliban.  Contrary to the false narratives presented by Pro-military establishment mouthpieces and apologists, these groups share the same sponsors and financiers (Pakistan army generals and Saudi ideologues) and have been watching out for one another since before 9/11 when a Pakistani delegation to extradite Takfiri Deobandi (Sipah Sahaba) terrorists had its demands rejected by the Taliban.  Refer to SATP report and this short excerpt that highlights this linkage:

Both the SSP (renamed ASWJ) and LeJ maintain that they are not organisationally linked. But, few analysts of the sectarian conflict in Pakistan believe this to be true. Their cadres come from the same madrassas as also a similar social milieu. The SSP leadership has never criticised the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi because the two organisations share the same sectarian belief system and worldview. They also have a similar charter of demands, which includes turning Pakistan into a Sunni state. Both the outfits have consistently resorted to violence and killings to press their demands, though the SSP has also been attempting to adopt a political path.

The SSP (renamed ASWJ) and LeJ have very close links with the Taliban militia. They assisted the Taliban in every way they can both in Afghanistan and within Pakistan. They have fought alongside the Taliban militia in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. Besides, all three groups are closely linked in their fight against the Shias, be it in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. LeJ and SSP cadres reportedly played an active part in the massacres of Shias by the erstwhile Taliban regime in Afghanistan

By obfuscating the identity of the Takfiri Deobandi perpetrators of terrorism in Pakistan, analysts are doing a great disservice to Pakistanis and a great service to ASWJ (Sipah Sahaba). Labelling them as Sunnis instead of their specific identity (Deobandi militants) is tantamount to lumping the victims and their perpetrators under one heading!

It may require a few more key strokes but to not highlight who is doing the killing (Sipah Sahaba Taliban) and what motivates and coalesces them (Takfiri Deobandism) and who their primary backers are (army, Saudia) can we honestly come any closer to apprehending these criminals and towards peace.

Recently, pressure has been exerted on LUBP to drop the Takfir Deobandi narrative and use the popular but deeply flawed and misrepresentative tag “Sunni militants” or “Sunni extremists” or “radical Sunnis”.  For those who want LUBP to drop Deobandi militants, have the suggested that analysts also drop “Sunni militants”.

If the desire is to continue confusing the public on the very identity of the perpetrators, then “Sunni militants” is the best way to increase confusion even as the same “Sunni militants” who are specifically TD are massacring both Barelvis and Deobandis in Pakistan.  If clarity and the way forward is required, one has to be specific and not vague and call out the Deobandi militants of Sipah Sahaba (ASWJ).  Unfortunately, Pakistan’s “liberals” are doing just the opposite when they promote Sipah Sahaba apologist (Tahir Ashrafi Deobandi) and its leader (Ahmed Ludhianvi Deobandi) as “moderate leaders” and “prophets of peace”.


In picture: Shia protesters in Toronto Canada protest against Deobandi militants (13 Jan 2013)


Postscript: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik too admitted that Shia genocide in Pakistan is not an outcome of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence. Speaking to Shia and Sunni protesters against Shia genocide, Mr Malik said that Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of LeJ-ASWJ, not Sunnis, were killing Shias.

لندن میں شیعہ نسل کشی کے خلاف احتجاج کرنے والے شیعہ سُنی سے پاکستان کے وزیر داخلہ رحمان ملک نے بات چیت کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ پاکستان میں شیعہ سُنی کا مسئلہ نہیں بلکہ شیعوں کے قتل عام میں کالعدم سپاہ صحابہ،لشکر جھنگوی ملوث ہیں۔


ulma deobandi

About the author

Jehangir Hafsi


Click here to post a comment
  • We can’t get rid of terrorism when a faction of Establishment has unshackled bondage with terrorists for a meagre monetary chunk from Saudi groups. Terrorism started with sole slogan of “Down with America”. Just how many NATO forces men have died and how many Pakistanis and Afghanis – there is no comparison at all. Hate America has been turned into local professional terrorism. Pay money and get Shias killed, pay money Deobandis are killed, pay money Sunnies are killed. Our jawans are happy when part chunk is stuffed in their pockets. Blood is flowing like river. “Who dies if Pakistan dies”, Quaid-e-Azam is only for elementary school syllabus. Today’s syllabus is “today is cash tomorrow is a post dated cheque”. Those stupid Maulanas (including this Canadian Maulana Tahirul Quadri, are posing and talking like they are the real owners of this country. Army says if one door is closed (USA) Allah has opened another door (Saudi Groups). But Saudis flow of Riyals and gunpowders has a limitation. One day they would get tired or feel the desired results are not being met. Then What?? Hillary Clinton is not going to allow supply of spare parts for grounded F16s and other sophisticated arm machineries. Army is still “Must elephant” as long as they have nukes, heck with conventional weapons. And who cares any way, we all die alone.


    A young man – son of a Deputy Superintendent of Police and nephew of a sitting MNA of the ruling party – while in a drunk state on 7th Muharram (22nd November) went outside Masjid & Imambargah Yasrab in DHA, Phase IV, Karachi and played loud music there on his car’s sound system while a majlis-e-aza was underway. When requested by the volunteers posted there to refrain from this he started abusing and physically attacking the volunteers. Due to their sheer number, he was, however, overpowered and sent away. The young man’s father got some of the volunteers arrested. However, since it was a wrongful arrest, the could not be detained very long.

    On 25th December (11th Safar) – hardly a month later – the same young man has been murdered in cold blood near Ibrahim Mosque in DHA, Karachi, allegedly by sons of feudal politicians.

    Unlike the second story, the first story neither made it to the media nor came under suo moto notice of His Lordship the Chief Justice of Pakistan.


  • Finally, some news report clearly identifies Deobanid identity of Taliban, Sipah Sahaba and Lashkar Jhangvi:

    Profile: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
    By Asif Farooqi
    BBC Urdu, Islamabad

    Both the Taliban and the LeJ belong to the same orthodox, puritanical Deobandi tradition of Islam

    Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is one of Pakistan’s most violent Sunni Muslim militant groups.

    It takes its name from the late Sunni Cleric Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who spearheaded the anti-Shia campaign which began in the country 30 years ago as a counter-movement to the Iranian Islamic revolution.

    Mr Jhangvi was a founding member of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a group blamed by many for introducing sectarian violence to the country.

    Researchers say that the Islamisation policy introduced by Pakistan’s former military leader, General Zia-ul-Haq, in the 1980s allowed the emergence of SSP in 1985.

    The group resorted to violence against the Shia community almost immediately.

    Path of violence
    The campaign got bloodier when a rival Shia group, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah Jafferia (TNFJ) challenged it, resulting in the deaths of the top leaders of both sectarian groups, including Mr Jhangvi.

    Police regularly display captured Lashkar-e-Jhangvi weapons
    Within a decade the conflict led to fissures within the SSP and in 1996 LeJ broke away under the leadership of Riaz Basra.

    He wanted to continue on the path of violence against Shias and rejected a call from other Sunni militant leaders to join mainstream politics and scale down attacks.

    Calling themselves “Jhangvi” loyalists, the Lej – or Army of Jhangvi – began allying itself with the Taliban movement which was just taking over in Afghanistan.

    Both the Taliban and the LeJ belong to the same orthodox, puritanical Deobandi tradition of Islam associated with the Islamic revivalist movement in the region.

    The connection helped Mr Basra and his group to seek refuge in Afghanistan.

    Government intelligence agencies have pointed to several LeJ militant training camps in Afghanistan. These camps were used not only to train anti-Shia militants but also as safe havens for Pakistani criminals and militants.

    In August 2001, Pakistan’s military leader General Pervez Musharraf banned a number of militant organisations, with LeJ top of the list.

    In May 2002 Riaz Basra was killed, and analysts believe that the group began to develop links with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

    Such fears were proved right when investigators found links between LeJ relating to three 2007 incidents in Pakistan which were all blamed jointly on al-Qaeda and the LeJ.

    These included the kidnapping and beheading of US Journalist Daniel Pearl, an attack on French engineers in Karachi and a bomb attack on an Islamabad church.



    The problem is: stating Sunni militants shows false Sunni-Shia binary. It hides the fact that Deobandis are also killing Sunni Barelvis.

    As media persons, activists, we can lead the opinion and educate the public. Introducing Deobandi militant identity will be helpful to Shia.

    The aim is not only to be factually accurate but also to stop Shia genocide at the hands of Deobandi militants who are also killing Sunnis.

    Apparently, Pakistani media needs to start using term Drobandi and then the rest will follow.

    You will be surprised to know that Pak media does not mention the faith identity of LeJ-SSP at all. In most cases it also hides Shia victims.

    In some cases, Pak media ditto copy-pastes Reuters etc reports and it uses “Sunni militants” taking lead from Western media. It doesn’t help