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Zaheer Kidvai’s insensitive comments in Tehelka on #ShiaGenocide


Zaheer Kidvai’s insensitive comments in Tehelka  http://blog.tehelka.com/the-division-gets-worse/ on Shia genocide in Pakistan  are a perfect example of why the world community is so misinformed about this issue.  His comments reek of subconscious sectarian bigotry.  They highlight that instead of informing the world about Shia Genocide in Pakistan, its civil society, intelligentsia and media would rather recycle the manufactured and false discourse of the military establishment.

Kidvai makes the flippant, false and unsubstantiated assumption that LUBP’s identification of the perpetrators being Deobandi has to do with its contributors belong to the Sunni Barelvi school of thought.

FACT:  This identification is by the perpetrators themselves and the ideological support that they have from umbrella organizations like Ulma-e-Deoband http://www.facebook.com/ulmaedeobnad?fref=ts, the largest Deobandi web portal in Pakistan with more than 90,000 followers full of hatred against Sunni Barelvis, Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Jews etc. This identification comes from LUBP always adopting a specific stance as opposed to the vague, wishy washy discourse of Pakistan’s English speaking elitist civil society types.  This identification is based on decades of research instead of the mathematically-challenged insensitive ramblings of subconscious bigots where the ASWJ-LeJ (formerly known as Sipah Sahaba) and Jaish Mohammad have publically aligned and launched themselves from Deobandi mosques and madrassas.

FACT: LUBP’s diverse editorial and contributor panel includes both Sunni Barelvis and Deobandis.  It also includes Shias, Hindus, Christians  Ahmadis.  LUBP has also stood up against the oppression on women, Baloch, Pashtun, Seriaki, atheists and LGBT communities that make a truly diverse Pakistan – in stark contrast to the narrow, myopic world-views of the Punjabi-Muhajir elite that dominate Pakistan’s military-civil bureaucracy and their extensions and flatterers.

In standing up for those who are the victims of State sponsored oppression, LUBP has spared no one.  From political parties (PPP, PMLs, PTI, MQM) to religious parties  (JI, JUI, MWM), LUBP has been vocal in its condemnation.  Unlike the selective moral pandering of Pakistan’s civil society elites, LUBP has also been critical of the Islamofascist Media-Judiciary nexus and its military establishment sponsors.

FACT: Unlike the deeply compromised and vague discourse of civil society and intelligentsia, LUBP has been CLEAR  since the beginning about both the victims, i.e., Shias, Sunni Barelvis, moderate/non-Takfiri Deobandis, Hindus, Christians  Ahmadis, Sikhs  – and the perpetrators, i.e., the State-backed, Saudi funded Deobandi militant networks. These networks which include the Taliban, ASWJ-LeJ and Jaish-e-Mohammad are all interconnected and their terrorists move fluidly from one group to the next.  All of them have been allied with the Al Qaeda since the 1990’s.

The FACT that Zaheer Kidvai does not even bother to once name the perpetrators (ASWJ-LeJ), their specific sect (Deobandism) and the ideology (Takfirism) that guides their acts of violence  speaks volumes about his motives of writing what is essentially a very insensitive and factually questionable article. Conflating Deobandis as Sunnis leads to false Sunni-Shia binary of discourse that only suits the Deobandi militants of ASWJ-LeJ who are not only killing Shias but also Sunni Barelvis and other communities.

The insensitivity continues when Zaheer Kidvai uses a dubious, home-made statistic (with no credible reference) that is nearly a hundred years old to downplay the Shia Muslim population of Pakistan.  This tactic has previously been used by former ISI chief General Hamid Gul to downplay the Shia Hazara population of Afghanistan in the 1990s while they were being massacred by the ISI’s Deobandi Taliban proxies in Bamiyan, Mazar-e-Sharif and Yaekewlung province.

Similar tactics are also used by the Deobandi ASWJ to highlight that Pakistan’s Shia Muslim population is 4% of the total population.

Even if the 100-years old statistic was proved to be right (no credible evidence is presented to us by Mr. Kidvai or ASWJ leaders), are populations demographics a static phenomenon? A lot can change in the nearly century old, pre-Partition  benchmark that Mr. Kidvai uses to downplay the Shia population of Pakistan.  It could be that census surveys were not that reliable a century ago.  However, it seems that Mr. Kidvai needs a basic lesson in maths. If the population of Shias in an “Undivided India” was 2%, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that in Post-Partition Pakistan,  where the Muslim majority is 97%, that the Shia population is at least 10% if not more.  Similarly, the bulk of South Asia’s Shia population resides in what constitutes Pakistan which likely drives the number even higher. If Mr. Kidvai were to compute the percentage of the Muslim population of pre Partition India, I am sure he would come to the same mathematical conclusion that we did.  Or he could still align his perceptions with General Hamid Gul and Deobandi bigots of ASWJ-LeJ.

As for Kidvai’s criterion for separating Shia Muslims on the basis of ethnicity, the less said the better. This is a favourite tactic by Pakistan’s compromised media.   The massacres of Pashtuns in Parachinar, Gilgitis in Kohistan ,  Hazaras,  Balochs, Kandahari and other Pashtuns, Urdu speakers, Punjabis etc  in Quetta and Sariakis in Bhakkar, D G Khan, Khanpur and Sindhis/Urdu speakers in Karachi were done because they were Shia. Their shared belief is the reason and not their separate ethnic identity.

Dividing Shia casualties along ethnic lines serves to dilute the outrage and is a typical dishonest tactic by Pakistan’s establishment and establishment-influence media and intelligentsia.

The unkindest cut in Kidvai’s article was dragging the late Benazir Bhutto’s faith into this discussion.  One can disagree with Benazir Bhutto and President Zardari on many different counts but why should their outrage and condemnation be based on their faith?

Is Kidvai trying to say that Shias should watch out for themselves and only Shia influential should speak out on the ongoing Shia Genocide whereas others like him should continue fudging the issue. For the record, President Zardari, in spite of his government’s helplessness and inability to speak out on this issue has been one of the few leaders in Pakistan to speak out against the general scourge of extremism.  When PPP Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed, his Deobandi ASWJ-Taliban murderers specifically threatened Zardari.   Similarly, Kidvai only needs to watch Benazir Bhutto’s last speech to know her clear and unequivocal stance against the Taliban – unlike Kidvai’s civil society friends who were marching with ASWJ/Lal Masjid and General Hamid Gul behind Islamofascist judges.

Aurganzeb Farooqi Deobandi and other Deobandi leaders of ASWJ-LeJ reserve their hatred for PPP and ANP.  As per reports, when Benazir Bhutto was killed in 2007, the Taliban taunted the Turi Pashtun Shias who were resisting them with words to this effect:

“We have killed your mother today”

For Kidvai to drag in Benazir Bhutto into his ramblings was a low blow.

About the author: Jaffar Tayyar Bangash – My heart resides in Parachinar


Update: Reaction on Twitter


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  • My comments, regardless of what you say, do not range from ‘subconscious sectarian bigotry’. I have not said I am whatever YOU think I am …

    First of all, I have condemned on FB, Twitter, and in my previous blogpost the killing of Shias and Sunnis and Hindus and Christians and Ahmadis.

    The remarks that I felt were strongly anti-Deobandi were also repeated by others that I discussed the matter with. The head;ine read “#ShiaGenocide: In 2012, total 1450 Shia Muslims killed by Deobandi militants in Pakistan” … If they sounded flippant, I am sorry. That was not my intention.

    I am also not a Punjabi-Muhajir Elite. My article was about my growing up in a Pakistan that was very different from what it is now. My not mentioning LeJ and others was not that I am in favour of them – a fact that my articles, discussions, and posts will show you. No point, sirs, in starting to create idiotic ideas through peculiarly misinformed or maladjusted points in your amazing article in response to mine.

    As for your piece about my rematks on the Shia population, I sent Feisal’s note to a friend – and said that in my post. Feisal Naqvi, I think, is a Shia … but I have no way of knowing that. I am only using a common Shia surname to say that. The friend, however, is a Sunni. He was sent the article for what was great about it. He sent back an answer that negated the Shia population Feisal had mentioned. I listed the article link and his answer. It does not, in any way, say that I believe the former or the latter opinion. I have no idea of the census or why it was held … and just quoted my friend, verbatim, on the subject. (The Shia population was 2% of the Muslim population at that census. I have been told that after I contacted my friend!)

    Mr. Hamid Gul is neither someone I know nor someone whose views I subscribe to …

    I did not separate the Shias at all. The majority of the Shias include the Hazaras!!! Please read my article again. On the other hand, the killers are possibly different people in the the murders. I think so … and so do some people who discussed this at a T2F meeting.

    The matter of the President being a Shia has been brought up by many of my Shia friends. I mentioned that his wife was one, too, only because 2 weeks ago a debate had ranged on Twitter on whether she was a Sunni or a Shia. People who read my responses on Twitter (as well as friends who read my blogposts) were aware of this and I wanted to mark it in my post again.

    It is not just incomprehensible that you say I am fudging the issue. It is downright stupid! A lot of my Sunni friends – including members of my family – went out and stood among the Shias who were protesting. Almost all my Shia friends, naturally, also went.

    The funniest line in your post is this: “… unlike Kidvai’s civil society friends who were marching with ASWJ/Lal Masjid and Hamid Gul behind Islamofascist judges.”

    Who were they, pray tell? None of my friends supported the ASWJ/Lal Masjid & Hamid Gul, Mr.Bangash. But if you want to spread lies, that’s up to you …

    With best wishes,
    Zaheer Kidvai

  • Mr. Kidvai,

    Let me answer your points:

    Unlike Pakistan’s biased media and compromised intelligensia, many of us are sick and tired of vague and wishy washy terms. We are sick of euphemisms as we pick dead bodies of our fallen every day. It is not Martians or Buddhists who are killing Shias and Sunnis and Ahmadis and Christains in Pakistan – it is Takfiri Deobandis. With all due respect, you and the rest are fudging the issues when you obfuscate the identity and guiding ideology of the killers. Many media commentators call this a Shia-Sunni thing when the same Takfiri Deobandi militants from ASWJ are also killing Sunnis from the Barelwi sect and even their own Deobandi sect.

    You are fudging the issue when you cannot name the common denominator behind terrorism and genocide in Pakistan. You may not want to offend people by stating the truth – we on the other hand cannot afford to hide it so that the sensibilities of your and your friend are not offended when being faced with facts and reality.

    What is the point of mentioning that President Zardari may be a Shia. We can disagree with his government but why must we drag his faith into the discussion. Does his being a Shia make a difference to the ISI backed and Saudi funded killers?

    If your Shia friends keep bringing this into the discussion, does that make it a valid and sensible observation? This is not to be flippant but try and answer the question.

    I bring up Lal Masjid/Hamid Gul because of the Lawyer’s Movement. Please don’t deny that T2F promoted this movement. Didn’t T2F invite Munir Malik to talk about Lawyer’s movement which provided big boost to rightist elements and the fascist vigilantes of Lal Masjid. This is fact but you are free to live in denial about this and dismiss this as “stupid”.

    I don’t know what you discussed in T2F meeting but Hazaras are being killed for their Shia faith. Google the ASWJ-LeJ fatwa against Shias. To term LeJ, ASWJ, Sipah Sahaba, Jaish Mohammad and Taliban as “different people” is recycling the discredited rubbish of the military establishment.

    All have patronage from the army, promotion by the media, protection by the Judiciary and either spinelessness (PPP) or complicity (PML N) by politicians. They all share the same ideology (Takfir – a process of apostasization which is an effective death sentence) and have been interconnected since Zia’s times. Please read Khaled Ahmed’s book where he talks of how Jaish Mohammad was launched with the full suppport and cooperation of Sipah Sahaba in famous Deobandi madrassa of Karachi in 2000 after ISI freed them by using its militants for Air India hijacking.

    When you quote your friends remarks:

    “I sent that article to a friend of mine to read – and he sent back this: Until 1926/7 census in India showed Sunnis and Shias separately. However this was discontinued on the protest of Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad and the Agha Khan, in the subsequent census. The population of Shias in undivided India was 2% in the 1926/27 census. “There is no reason to believe that it could have increased to 15%” is what he said to me on the phone, later.”

    I saw no follow up comment to clarify what is both a very insensitive and mathematically misleading observation. When your friend quotes 2% he is referring to Pre-Partition numbers of total Shias as a percentage of a United India’s Total population where muslims were a minority. When taken in Post Partition terms, the number is obvious to go up because a. it now relates to a muslim majority country b. It relates to a part to South Asia where the proportion of the Shia population is far higher than it is in the Eastern parts of South Asia.

    If you don’t clarify what is clearly a misleading comment, then it is probable that you agree with the counterpoint which is again obvious when you place it as a counter to Feisal’s point. A diverse community that is being massacred on a daily basis does not need the bias and mathematically misleading comments of someone who is trying to minimize their existence even further.

    FYI, whether Shias are 2% or 15% or even 0.0002%. The fact is that they are being relentlessly targetted by State backed militants. These militants espouse Takfiri Deobandi ideology, as clearly stated by them on multiple public forums and this guides them to commit Shia Genocide and other acts of terrorism.

    If you want to be the ostrich and slam my post just because it showed an ugly reflection, that is your right.


  • @Mr Kidvai

    Do you really thing Shia genocide in Pakistan is a Sunni-Shia issue?

    Then who is killing Sunni Barelvis, moderate Deobandi and Salafis?


    The statistics speak for themselves:


    Are those (Deobandi militants) who are slaughtering Shias not responsible for Sunni massacres at Data Darbar, Sakhi Sarwar, Jhal Magsi, Abdullah Shah Ghazi too?

    Who are you helping by creating the false Sunni-Shia binary. Surely Sunni Barelvis and Shias do not benefit from your discourse and analysis.

  • Kidvai Sahib:

    Sir, can you please cite a credible source on the basis of which you deemed it fit to publish a statistic about Shia population in India/Pakistan?

    Or do you always cite whatever is told to you by your bigoted Deobandi-Wahhabi friends without much regard for factual evidence and sensitivity of a community that is currently facing genocide?

  • Jafar, Farhana aur Khalid,

    Why are u surprised to see insensitive post and comments by Zaheer Kidvai sahib? I have grown up in the 1960s and have seen many left-liberal intelligensia compromise themselves for NGO funding and for social acceptability. This class of people is a jaded group that can curse politicians if they belong to PPP.

    However most of them treat the sellout judges as celebrities. Few of them have guts to call out army and MQM. They are defined by their selective morality and selective causes (which are populist). Why do you expect them to have sympathy for Shias. I come from mixed Ahmadi and Deobandi background but that has not prevented me from seeing the obvious that Shias are facing genocide in Pakistan. Moderate Deobandi leader, Maulana Hasan Jan was known to my cousin and he was also killed by the Takfiris who have hijacked our sect in Pakistan.

    But you all are young people and don’t realize the extant of compromise by left liberal intelligensia of Pakistan. Nearly all of them were and continue to remain blind supportors of PCO Chaudhary. His Supreme Court released Malik Ishaq.

  • In their compromise and opportunism, they have destroyed the left-liberal cause of Pakistan. Now three of their groups have merged into one but result will be same that it will be Nill-batta-Nill for them in next elections. Perhaps they can join the Sharif Brothers on stage with Sipah Sahaba and defile memory of our past poets.

  • Dear Mr. Jafar

    (1) I was NOT a part of the T2F ‘Lawyers Movement’ crowd. I never decided to be part of it, then or when it won.

    (2) The movement, incidentally, started at T2F because people who were visiting it decided to do it. Many people from my friends – including two from T2F- did join it, but I didn’t and neither did some others.

    (3) T2F had a series of sessions about the Baluchistan Story. Some members did bring up the Hazaras and insisted that the killers are different from the ones that kill Shias in other parts. This is why I treated it separately … but also included them in the rest of the group, too.

    (4) LeJ, ASWJ, Sipah Sahaba, Jaish Mohammad and Taliban and others have said again and again that they will kill Shias. I even posted a quote from a couple of them in FB a while ago. I think they are murderers and am surprised how they get to call up the Press and give interviews. They should be caught and tried and then given the punishment they deserve. Instead, people want to ‘negotiate’ with them. I am totally surprised at ‘negotiations’ when one side wants to kill Pakistanis (Shias and other brands of Sunnis).

    (5) My Shia friends have said this and i was not being flippant at all by including it! Please read my comment again.

    (5) Mr. Bangash, I did not place this as a COUNTER to Feisal’s comment. I said this because I wanted to quote both sides to show just how different the feelings are. Actually I would not have expected my friend’s answer to be what it was … and was surprised at the distinction between his and Feisal’s views.

    (6) My friend says that 2% was the Shia population among Muslims! I wrote that because Feisal said they were 15% or more. Just wanted to show how different the people are in their beliefs. Have you never noticed how idiotically people are becoming different? Is this a way to run Pakistan? Instead of trying to order people to love and live with each other people have come to hate everyone who is different from them. I think it is idiotic and stupid beyond belief.

    Dear Ms Farhana Rizvi

    Apart from my friend not being a Deobandi-Wahhabi (as you seem to think), did you hear me state that he was right or Feisal was right? No. I didn’t. The friend – and I called him up again, today – insisted that he had seen this written and had discussed this. His uncle had even sent a letter to Dawn about it years ago. I am not doubting him or Feisal. It is important for people to know the extremes that some people think are really true. This is why they get into stupid arguments. And lately these arguments have taken to killing each other — with obviously more Shias being killed by the various groups. Please try and understand that I have not just a lot of Shia and Sunni friends but also have relatives who are Shias and Sunnis. I have no idea why my article – not meant just for Shias but for all the minorities 0- has taken you and Bangash Sahab into this attitude, including calling me a friend of Hamid Gul, a member of a T2F team that was part of the lawyers Movement, and a liar.

    I think you should give this a good thought …

  • Dear Mr Qureishy

    My column was carried in The Ahmaddiya Times http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2013/03/pakistan-division-gets-worse.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    I have fought for Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu, Shia rights for years and am surprised to see this selection of people writing about me and my column in a way that makes one think that I was against them. Pity.

    Your idea of how some left-liberals also form NGOs is interesting … but it does not apply to me since I do not own an NGO. As for being on the Left, I am not a Communist and never was one … but have you seen how bad the Right has become?

  • Dear Mr. Kidvai,

    While we still disagree on substantial issues, I appreciate that you respond to my post which submit to LUBP blog.

    1. Lawyer’s Movement – Ok, fair enough.

    2. I am bringing you the perspective of Parachinar. Yes, current PPP government has failed in protecting us. But we all know the origins of Thall-Parachinar blockade and how we endured years of blockade by Taliban who were and are still being supported by army. I don’t know who our area will vote for in next elections but until 2007, we were solid PPP vote bank.

    When our tribes (which includes Shias and Sunnis) faught off the Taliban, the army helicoptors attacked us in 2010. In 2007, when Shaheed Mohtarma was killed, the Taliban taunted our tribe that “Today we have killed your Mother”. Your comment was based on your interaction with your Shia friends but I am trying to point out what people of all faiths need to understand. Which is that for us, Shaheed Mohtarma is greatly admired for her clear stance on the Taliban for which she was killed. Mistakes in the past she made but she took a stance.

    Now my request to you is to consider that if State cannot protect her, what difference it makes if she was Shia or Sunni or other faith. What difference it makes to us if President Zardari is Shia? Can he stop Shia Genocide? He cannot even stop his own Prime Minister from being dismissed by Judiciary.

    The real power in Pakistan is with Pakistan army. I don’t want to absolve this PPP government as they fail on important issues.

    Who has the power to stop Shia Genocide in Pakistan? Please ponder that question. I would appreciate that.

    Lastly, it makes no difference what the Shia population of Pakistan is. By some estimates over 20,000 have been killed and since a long time, the killing is systematic. In Iraq, majority population is Shia but they still get killed including 60 yesterday. However, I will not equate Feisal and your friend on the same level.

    The persistence with which your friend is pushing a unsubstantiated statistic nearly 100 years which seeks to further deflate a community facing genocide is in low taste. There are many Shia majority areas in North Pakistan where Pashtuns, Gilgitis and Baltit Shias form nearly 98% majority in some districts.

    That has not stopped Shia Genocide there or in other cities like Karachi and Quetta which both house huge Shia populations. Therefore, it is not fair to equate Feisal and your friend. The only group that is advocating murderous hatred is the one we keep discussing.

    Can you tell me of any Shia who has bombed an Eid -e- Milad Nabi gathering?

    Can you tell me of any Ahmadi who has blown off Christain houses?

    Can you tell me of any Christain, Hindu or Sikh group in Pakistan who has committed acts of terror.

    The violence is one way and that is why it is not fair or correct to equate Feisal’s stats with that of your friend.

  • Kidvai sahib,

    This is what you wrote in Tehelka:

    “I sent that article to a friend of mine to read – and he sent back this: Until 1926/27 the census in India showed Sunnis and Shias separately. However this was discontinued on the protest of Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad and the Agha Khan, in the subsequent census. The population of Shias in undivided India was 2% in the 1926/27 census. “There is no reason to believe that it could have increased to 15%” is what he said to me on the phone, later.”

    I saw no critical evaluation of such blatant lie by your anti-Shia bigot friend in your article. There was no new value nor a critical analysis was offered.

    Here’ my challenge to you: no such statistic exists, barring in speeches of Haqnawaz Jhangvi Deobandi and Malik Ishaq Deobandi.

    Show me the evidence and I will apologize to you.

    Till then you should bear responsibility of recycling anti-Shia propaganda and obfuscating Shia genocide by Deobandi militants in your blog post.

  • Full text of Mr. Kidvai’s post in Tehelka:

    The Division Gets Worse

    Quo Vadis
    For several years we have had numerous incidents in Pakistan where minorities or people of a different faith are targeted. This started years ago but has turned into a worrying trend now.

    There was a time when there were Jews living in Pakistan. Three of my Jewish friends have gone to Israel because after the Palestine-Israel war people thought their families were enemies. One friend, who was a year senior to me in the Merchant Navy, went to Israel as his family had received threats. Their synagogue and graveyard are impossible to find in Pakistan now.

    Then there were Ahmadis (neo- non Muslims) who stay here, even now, under draconian laws that make it impossible for many people. They cannot say their prayers in public, or sell their books, or quote from the Qur’an. Worse still, they can’t even wish Muslims with the standard Salaam Alaéküm because they could be jailed for it! People from any religion can say this – just like in English schools people say good morning – but Ahmadis just can’t. Muslims are happy when a Hindu or a Christian (especially a foreigner) uses these words. But an Ahmadi, now no longer a Muslim under our Constitution, can’t do so. Their graves are, frequently, removed from Muslim graveyards (although many were buried long before the laws came in).

    Many Ahmadis have left the country, but a large population has stayed here, despite having their mosques bombed. Oh, sorry. They don’t have a mosque. They have ‘a place of worship’. Mosques are the Muslim version of a place of worship. And Ahmadis cannot have minarets or domes on their ‘place of worship’, either.

    Our first foreign minister, M Zafarullah Khan, who was appointed by Mr Jinnah, was an Ahmadi. Professor Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s first Nobel Prize winner, was also an Ahmadi. In fact, the Government was so upset at his gravestone which said ” … became the first Muslim Nobel Laureate for his work in Physics …” that they had the word ‘Muslim’ officially removed. It now reads:

    The Jamaaté Islami – once strongly against Jinnah Sahab, now claiming that it was they who made Pakistan – was a group that most strongly wanted to have the Ahmadis be called ‘non-Muslims’. But they just couldn’t do it, despite a skirmish against the Ahmadis in 1953 in Lahore, where several people were killed. A martial law was declared there. Maulana Maudoodi, head of Jamaat, was sentenced to death, but was later allowed to leave Pakistan. However, Mr Bhutto did so, in a way to appease the Jamaat’s anger at him. This didn’t work, though. They wanted him dead too, and offered sweets to us on the road the day he was killed by the President’s orders. Well, not officially. But Zia was part of the team that wanted Mr Bhutto dead.

    Further, there are Hindus, especially in Sindh, who have a whole series of attacks going on against them. Recently, their young girls are been taken away and forced to become Muslims, before being married off. A look at YouTube shows how hundreds of Muslims, led by a Mulla, march into a mosque to celebrate a girl’s conversion.

    In my childhood, a school I attended was owned by Marie Colaco (a Catholic) and the Principal was Ms Thadani (a Hindu). Her nephew, Anand, was a close friend of mine. Sadly, his family had to leave for Bombay because somehow, the 1965 Indo-Pak War meant to some people (especially those having arguments with them in business) that his parents were ‘Indian supporters’. Leaving their “homeland of several centuries”, as his father told us, was what they had to do.

    Strangely, in 1971, just after the Indo-Pakistan War (which, eventually, became the Bangladesh Independence War), I had come back to Karachi, and the Navy Police was all around the ship. Officers had to take a permit every time they went down to check the draft from the jetty. No one was allowed to come aboard. My wife came to receive me and had to stay several feet away in the car. Three days later, I was sitting in my cabin and Anand walked in. Huh? I thought he was in India. Well, he had just decided to visit some family members here a few days before the war and had just come to see me on the ship since a friend told him I was here. “How did you get in? There are Navy Police everywhere!” He said, “India Pakistan mein koi farq naheen hai. I paid the guy Rs 5 and got a special pass to come over.” He laughed and added, “The partition was all wrong. Our faith in bribes is what will bring us together, soon.”

    When it comes to Christians, there were a lot of them as many English schools were Church funded. Most of them were Catholic, but Protestant schools were also there. Some of us studied in them and were never told to become Christians or ever forced into their prayers, just as you see in India. Christmas, New Year’s day, Easter were all celebrated everywhere, until someone decided that this was against the law, especially because people would drink. That was forbidden too, by Mr Bhutto, who once said in a public speech when someone remarked that he drinks: “Yes, but I don’t drink the blood of the poor.”

    But soon the Christians started to leave. It became rather difficult when the people you work with push you around, prevent promotions, make life unofficially difficult for you. Many have gone. The Karachi that used to have one of the best homes in my youth has none of the Christian people I went to school with — and there were many. Now there are mainly a host of poorer Christians, and you see what happens to them. Every few days we have one who is ‘caught for blasphemy’ and put into jail. A small child, an uneducated girl, anyone. They spend their time in the jail and are occasionally, moved from there by some foreign NGO to a country to save them. Save? I know they won’t get killed. But what about their family and friends who will live here, away from them? What about their own lack of education? How will they cope with all that? Will they have foster parents while their parents and siblings live here every day, perhaps in further fear?

    The Parsis on the other hand, have been very lucky as we have never had a crowd coming together against them. A quiet race, they become smaller every year – the young ones move away, the old die. The fact that a lot of them built Karachi is now nobody’s business. Roads, colleges, schools, foundations – many have been named after them. I asked someone in a class at Hamdard University, what NED College (now a University) meant and he said it was the name of an old British Governor who had started it initially. Thank you, Mr Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw.

    But what about the rest of the population, then? Mainly Muslims, of course. We are not counting the small amount of Bahais, Buddhists, and the Sikhs.

    I’ll begin with the Bohris, who have been slightly better off than the others. There is a smaller Bohri group that is not accepted by the majority of the Bohris (although they claim they are Bohris, they do not follow the current Syedna as their own). Very few of either side have ever been targeted, anyway. They are a small group and are into many small businesses, but not in a very commanding authority. Yet, a few days ago while the anti-Shia campaigns were picking up, one small group was attacked. Will it get worse? I don’t know. I hope not.

    The next largest group follows Agha Khan IV (descended from the Prophet of Islam, though a few Muslims argue against it). His grandfather – Agha Khan III – was a well known leader and passed the title on to his grandson, Prince Karim, instead of his own sons (Prince Ali who was married to Rita Hayworth, or Ali’s step brother, Prince Sadruddin, father of Prince Karim). This group has given a lot of money to Pakistan. There is the Agha Khan Hospital and a University. There are lots of schools all over the country for Ismailis – which is what they are called – that teach their children about their faith. They also own Pakistan’s biggest private bank: Habib Bank. I have never seen any serious attacks on them – possibly because of the money that they give here, though at one time there were local papers that wrote vehemently against them and the fact that they were getting into the education sector in the country and were not really “thorough-bred” Muslims to be given this “privilege”.

    I remember a driver of mine who used to read a morning paper every day. He once told me that I should avoid my Ismaili friends as they were anti-Muslim. I thought it was a ridiculous statement. I have known the Agha Khan people since I was a child – I used to stay a couple of minutes away from an area where their Jamaat Khana was – and I have never seen them do anything that was anti-Islamic. The next day, he brought an old paper that he had kept. A dubious maulana sahab in it had stated that when the Agha Khan people get married, they line their stairs with the Qur’an and the would-be-wife has to trample them before going for her wedding! He believed this was the reason they didn’t allow Muslims into their homes at such times.

    Before we move on to the largest majority, the Shias, let me add that occasionally, there are Sunni people who are murdered by a different sect within the Sunnis. The two major groups – Barelvis and the Deobandis – hate each other anyway. Barelvis are in the majority here and go to the graves of saints and have qawwalis and do a lot of things that the Deobandis think are anti-Islamic. A few years ago, a large Barelvi crowd had gathered in a park and the place was blasted by bombs, killing several senior Barelvi leaders. The Barelvis believed that the Deobandis carried out the attack. Sometimes the reverse also happens, but in really small amounts.

    Now we come to the Shias. There are two parts here: The Hazaras in Baluchistan and the Shias of the rest of Pakistan. They are not separate in religion, but in their coming from different groups. The Hazaras are one group, one large family in a way, and can be almost always be recognised by their looks. They are being targeted by several groups. Terrorist groups accept responsibility for the attacks and keep saying that they will kill many more. This happens mainly in Baluchistan. They are shot, taken off buses and killed, kidnapped, you name it. The reason why they are being killed is complicated and hideous. Recently, in almost a month, two large groups were killed and people sat with the dead bodies for days to protest against the Government’s inaction. Many Sunnis and Shias joined them in similar protests all over the country.

    The other group is the entire Shia population (which includes the Hazaras). Recently Feisal Naqvi wrote an article (An Unholy Alliance) in which he says: Let me state some simple figures. Shias make up anywhere from 15-25 per cent of Pakistan’s population which in turn means about 30 to 50 million people. Even the lower end of that range represents a very large number of people. I have known Feisal from the days when he used to write really funny columns in The Friday Times and I used to draw weekly cartoon strips there. I sent that article to a friend of mine to read – and he sent back this: Until 1926/27 the census in India showed Sunnis and Shias separately. However this was discontinued on the protest of Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad and the Agha Khan, in the subsequent census. The population of Shias in undivided India was 2% in the 1926/27 census. “There is no reason to believe that it could have increased to 15%” is what he said to me on the phone, later.

    These Shias are attacked by numerous Sunni groups, which you can see here mentioning Deobandis as the killers, but the people who write this are Barelvi. In addition, they are attacked by political parties that many say want to stop the election and get the Army to come in, or by political groups that had, in the last attack at Abbas Town (Karachi), guns and weapons that they wished to destroy as the Rangers were expected to ‘search the place’. (There were Sunnis in this attack too, but in a minority. The larger population were Shias.)

    President Zardari is a Shia (as was his wife, Benazir Bhutto). Many people want to know why he hasn’t spoken at all and a couple of journalists say he is part of the second group mentioned earlier. But who knows what is happening today. Everyone blames the other and no one comes out any wiser.


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