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General Zia ul Haq’s anti-PPP obsession lead to the rise of religious Frankensteins

In 1978, a year before the Iranian revolution and a year after the coup against Bhutto, State-backed religious fascists attacked and massacred Shia Muslims in Karachi (Ali Basti).

This was done on the watch of General Zia’s US-backed, military dictatorship. For decades, General Zia ul Haq and his remnants like NawazSharif supported and sponsored #TakfiriDeobandi organisations like Sipah e Sahaba at the cost of the majority Sunni Barelvi and Shia Muslim populations of Pakistan.

The formula was clear. The rise of Deobandi militancy radicalised the Sunni Barelvi population while also pushing Shia Muslims into the arms of power hungry mullahs. In 2006, the moderate Sunni Barelvi leadership was literally wiped out in a suicide attack during the Eid Milad Un Nabi celebrations. The attack was carried out by Sipah e Sahaba’s militia, the Lashkar e Jhangvi.

This set the stage for the rise of truly nasty and abusive characters like Khadim Rizvi. The soft traditions of Naat and Dhamal at shrines were discarded for the modern tactics of abuse and mob violence. Before being launched formally as the TLP, its progenitors, under the sponsorship of PML N, incited the murder of PPP’s Punjab Governor, #SalmanTaseer.

This tragedy in 2011 was the coming out party of Barelvi extremists. It was a joint project of the Nawaz Sharif dynasty and extremist Barelvi clerics. Abad Dogar (Deobandi), a PML N ticket holder with ties to Sipah e Sahaba put head money on Taseer. Taseer had been jailed and tortured by the Zia regime.

In 2011, he was standing up to the obscurantist Punjab provincial government of PML N. For supporting the cause of an innocent Christian woman falsely charged then under the controversial blasphemy laws, a murderous hate campaign was launched against Taseer.

His family’s personal pictures were released to the public by PML N ministers. Finally, his Federal security force was forcibly replaced by a provincial security force by the PML N. #MumtazQadri was strategically placed in this security detail and he murdered Taseer in cold blood. For decades, PML N and PTI have benefitted from the right-wing, political Islam constituency whose main foundations and pillars were laid down by General Zia.

In its report on TLP, DAWN boasted about how TLP supporters were dismayed by the traditional Baloch music that is a central part of PPP’s rallies. Another report boasted how PPP had fewer votes than TLP in Punjab in the most recent doctored elections. From DAWN’s perspective, it seems that these attacks on PPP by TLP, are a good thing.

Previously, the establishment depended on Sipah e Sahaba’s violence and vote banks to defeat PPP, while supporting PML N and PTI. By the 2015 elections in Gilgit Baltistan, the establishment used both the Shia political Islam party, MWM, and the Takfiri Deobandi party, Sipah e Sahaba, to ensure PML N’s victory and PPP’s defeat. In the 2018 elections, the establishment activated TLP, MWM and Sipah e Sahaba to support PTI and undercut PPP.

In their anti-PPP obsession, the establishment fully supported the rise of TLP. Today, all of Pakistan is paying the price of the electoral experiments by General Zia ul Haq. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s liberal intelligentsia does not want to discuss this because they are too busy trying to rehabilitate General Zia ul Haq.

Highlighting Zia’s role exposes both his US patronage and his successors. These #CommercialLiberals will abuse Jinnah and Bhuttos to deflect blame, and will no longer highlight the central role of Zia ul Haq in creating this mess.