The last three days, Labaik Ya Hussain, the cry of the oppressed, was on the lips of millions of Pakistanis. They included not just Shias, but also Sunnis (both Barelvis and Deobandis), Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus who came out in support of the Shias in Quetta. From Karakoram to Karachi, Pakistan stood united in grief and outrage against the ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakistan.
In the last few decades, every community, regardless of their faith, ethnicity or class structure, has suffered terribly at the hands of the Saudi-financed, ISI backed and Judiciary-protected militant groups like Lashkar Jhangvi/Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat/Sipah Sahaba, Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The protests were triggered by the defiant and brave stance of the Shia Hazaras of Quetta who had just lost over a hundred of their brothers, sons and fathers in the latest terrorist attacks by the groups mentioned. As a long suffering community that has lost at least 700 members due to their Shia faith, the Hazaras refused to bury their martyred until they received justice –justice that was continually denied not only to them but to all those who are daily suffering at the hands of the LeJ monsters.
In their brave stance, they rallied the entire country to come out and conduct a protest that caught global imagination. Peaceful protests emerged all over Pakistan with 17 locations in Karachi alone. The universally respected symbolism of Imam Hussain (and Hussainiat) was the guiding force of these protests as no property was damaged and no violence was conducted.
However, towards the end of the protests, things took a dark direction whose long term effects do not bode well. Let us consider:
The Protesters: If anyone wanted to see the ideal peaceful protestors who had suffered the worst but choose non-violence, this was the place. In spite of the efforts of some social media activists who have a history of obfuscating on this issue, the protestors remained committed to protesting Shia Genocide. The usage of vague and misleading ethnic or sectarian terminology was kept to a minimum. Something changed though, in the last few hours of the protest as some opportunists of two pro-establishment parties, the MQM and PTI diverted the protests to serve their party’s political ends. Suddenly, one or two sections of the country-wide protests changed from condemning LeJ and its protector, the Chief Justice, to condemning the US and abusing President Zardari.
While the PPP-led Government’s pathetic response (or complete lack of) and overall performance in combating Shia Genocide merits criticism, their crime is the crime of omission. The crime of commission by the Army, the Judiciary, the Media and Pro Taliban parties like PML N and PTI was largely ignored at the end. These are the groups that protect, support, apologize, promote and stand in solidarity with the LeJ-ASWJ in the DPC. To use an LUBP analogy, it makes no sense to just criticize the Governor of Madina but stay silent on Amr bin Saad, Yazeed bin Muawiya, Obaidullah Ibne Ziyad and Shimir for their negative role at Karbala.
The PPP-JUI-PML Q government of Balochistan has been nothing short of a cruel joke. However it is the Fronter Corps (FC) under the Pakistan Army that effectively controls and manages Balochistan to ensure that its strategic assets like the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar remain secure there. CM Raisani’s sick comments on Shia Genocide (“I will send them a truck of tissues”) deserve the harshest rebuke and a dismissal that is late by two years . But what about the Pakistan Army whose LeJ and Jundullah assets are not just killing Shias (belonging to Hazara, Pashtun, Baloch, Punjabi ethnic origins) but also using the same proxies to infiltrate and delegitimize the decades old struggle of the secular Baloch nationalists.
While those Baloch MPAs who are alleged to protect terrorists need to be hauled up by the Judiciary, what about the FC IG and Core Commander of Balochistan. Instead of asking for action against the LeJ and its army and FC protectors, the Shia Clerics who negotiated with the PM asked Kaira to shut up. They actually wanted the same FC IG and Core Commander to now take care of them.
We all know that our Judiciary can only haul up those whose affiliation is with PPP even if their only crime is being the relative of a suspected criminal (Sikander Jatoi).
However to see the Shia clerics and Shia Hazara community (themselves victims of LeJ attacks) demanding that the perpetrators (the Army) protect them has marked an unfortunate ending to the protests that shook not just Pakistan but the world from their torpor on Shia Genocide. In the short term, this might result in an artificial decline in Shia Genocide. In the long run, putting oneself at the mercy of those who created and handle Sipah Sahaba Taliban is close to suicidal.
President Zardari, Chairman Bilawal and PM Ashraf made a very costly mistake by their inertia in the three days that followed the massacre at Alamdar Road, Quetta. There were reports of Bilawal wanting to address the Quetta Coffin sit in on day 2. We still don’t know who scuttled that. While PPP MNA and PAC member, Nadeem Afzal Chan must be lauded for his clear condemnation of Baloch CM Raisani on Day 1, where was the top leadership of the PPP and why did not they not use the media to stand in solidarity with the countrywide protests against Shia Genocide. This was a very costly mistake and scores of PPP supporters and activists have highlighted this. Many of them have discussed the frequently poor response times of the PPP senior leadership and this sentiment cannot be ignored.
However, many PPP activists and critical supporters have been at the forefront of Shia Genocide in those days when others like PTI were standing with LeJ in the DPC. In later days, however, Imran Khan has been more vocal in his clear condemnation of Shia genocide at the hands of LeJ terrorist, something on which President Zardari has hardly bothered to speak. However, we cannot ignore PPP Senator Faisal Raza Abidi’s impassioned advocacy against the Sipah Sahaba Taliban since 2008. The PPP has also lost scores of its leaders and activists to the same groups conducting Shia Genocide. Yet, in comparison to the activists of other political groups (especially PTI and MQM), they have accepted the valid criticism against their own party with grace. PPP and ANP activists have been in the firing line and unlike PTI and MQM, they have not misused the mass protests of Shia Genocide for their own crass political motives.
Close to midnight, a small fraction of the rally at Bilawal House – as per reports, most probably MQM youths instigated by PTI, some civil society activists and burger types – attacked and manhandled Sharjeel Memon and Pir Mazhar ul Haq. The momentum to divert the peaceful protests against Shia Genocide had been building up for some time in the evening when various social media activists of PTI were diverting the peaceful protestors at Numaish to the other end of the city at Bilawal House. Prominent PTI activist, Salman Ahmad, in a typical show of his obsessive hatred for Bilawal tweeted about “Occupy Bilawal House” and “Bilawal Chicken”. His hypocritical act, as always was lost on him when there was no mention of occupying the Court premises that released Malik Ishaq. Similarly, no mention of occupying the various army bases all over Pakistan and specifically the one in Karachi – the same army that created and still maintains ties with factions of Sipah Sahaba Taliban. Of course, there was no mention of occupying Bani Gala – the 40 acre luxury estate of Pakistan’s most popular Taliban apologist, Imran Khan. Pakistanis who braved three days of freezing temperatures to protest Shia Genocide must take note of this pathetic attempt by PTI activists to divert this burning issue into their grudge with PPP.
In the end, the positives of the Shia Genocide protests must be highlighted where peaceful protests created a real momentum for change. We cannot afford to ignore the negatives. By inviting the same army whose policies have laid the foundation for Shia Genocide, the leaders of the protest have miscalculated and underestimated the strength of the nation that stood in solidarity with them. One can understand their extreme duress but this demand is clearly not a solution. Similarly, the PPP has paid the price and more, for its earlier inaction. The uncalled for assault on Shia sympathetic PPP leaders like Sharjeel Memon and Pir Mazhar ul Haq is another thing that should concern the protestors as must the attempts by PTI and MQM to hijack Shia Genocide protests for their shallow political opportunism.