Editor’s note: In the following rare op-ed, in fact first by any Pakistani columnist on the Kurram massacre (17 Feb 2012), Dr. Mohammad Taqi highlights that the catastrophe in Kurram Bazaar of Parachinar did not end just with the bombing by a Haqqani Taliban footsoldier. The paramilitary forces (FC) deployed there then attempted to crush the protestors agitating against the militant-military connivance with live ammunition, killing at least 6 more Shias. Dr. Taqi’s column is also a polite reminder to human rights organizations, politicians and journalists (columnists, anchors etc) who remain disturbingly silent on the ongoing target killing of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. End note.
Kurram: children of a lesser god
“As if some lesser god had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would?” — Alfred Tennyson.
After the Friday prayers on February 17, 2012, a suicide bomber riding a motorbike blew himself up in the Kurram Bazaar of the Upper Kurram headquarters Parachinar, killing at least 23 men on the spot. Several more succumbed to injuries later with the death toll now above 42 and over 50 people injured, many critically.
Suicide bombers brimming with Takfiri zealotry perpetuating death and destruction on the Shia ‘heretics’ is now a norm in Pakistan. And what has also become a standard pattern is the silence of the electronic, print and social media, the so-called civil society, human rights organisations, and, of course, the political parties, over the systematic genocide of the Shias.
By political parties I do not mean the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) ilk that openly consort with the anti-Shia Takfiris. And by silence I do not mean that there is not an occasional mumbled activist voice, a sporadic newspaper editorial or a fourth lead on a paper’s website, disappearing into oblivion within hours or a run-of-the-mill condemnation by the politicians. All such window-dressing measures happen routinely. For example, the Awami National Party (ANP) — the largest Pashtun political party in Pakistan — which rules in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in a coalition at the Centre, issued a 107-word statement carried in the briefs section of one English-language contemporary.
The meek statement condemned the attack, regretted the loss of life and lauded the sacrifices. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Senator Afrasiab Khattak had signed this blip. The ANP not just stakes a claim to represent all Pashtuns but is also a proponent of FATA’s merger with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Frankly, it was embarrassing to see the party with such tall claims do a really shoddy job in reaching out to the Kurramis after this massive tragedy.
One might think that a party with such grand designs would have a comprehensive plan to manage the misery in Kurram — the third largest tribal agency. But the people of Upper Kurram lament that since the present round of atrocities, murder and blockades started in 2007, not one senior ANP leader, with the exception perhaps of Latif Afridi (in his personal capacity), has ever bothered to even condole with them in person, let alone raise the issue on national fora. Another prominent Pashtun leader, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, is too busy appeasing his former APDM comrades to even bother deploring the Kurram carnage. From the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Farahnaz Ispahani, MNA, was the only one to raise the issue in parliament.
The Shia Pashtun tribes of Kurram have always faced a double whammy. For the Pashtun nationalists, the Turi and Bangash of Kurram are indeed Pashtuns but are really different because they are Shia. For the non-Pashtun Shia of Peshawar or Karachi, the Kurramis are Shia indeed but they are really different because they are Pashtuns. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) Haider Abbas Rizvi, MNA, could raise hell for getting the Hazarawals a new province but would not let out a peep about the Kurramis’ right to security. One wonders if all these groups consider the Kurramis just different or actually inferior — the children of a lesser god whose plight can conveniently be ignored.
The human rights activists, too, have been remiss in documenting the ordeal of the Kurramis. One is hard-pressed to find a single comprehensive report by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on the Kurram situation. In conversations about the targeted killings of the Shias in Peshawar and atrocities against Quetta’s Hazaras, human rights activists commonly complain that no one from those communities had come forward to lodge concern reports and furnish copies of FIRs, etc. An added refrain about Kurram is that the region’s inaccessibility makes documentation, including getting the names of the injured or dead, impossible.
The Kurramis, reportedly, are filing an inquest report about last week’s carnage, which could be of use to the human rights groups. The media has not published the names of those killed in the blast and activists may yet complain of difficulty in fully documenting the tragedy. I, therefore, want to provide the names of the 42 men killed in the Parachinar blast, which are: Johar Ali, Syed Qaiser Hussain, Ali Raza, Yaqoob Ali, Murtaza Jamal, Shaukat Hussain, Muzahir Hussain, S Sabir Hussain, Jan Agha, Shujaat Hussain, Hidayat Hussain, S Ishtiaq Hussain, Habib Hussain, Jabir Hussain, Jamil Hussain, Saffar Ali, Irfan Ali, Ghulam Hussain, Haider Abbas, Bahar Hussain, Rasheed Hussain, Wajid Hussain, Manzoor Ali, Qaiser Hussain, S Gulzar Hussain, Masoom Shah, Noor Alam Khan, Ikhtiyar Hussain, Rashid Ali, Kamran Ali, Mushid Hussain, Zeeshan, Qasier Ali, Shujaat, Kamran Ali, Abid Hussain, S Arif Hussain, Wahab Ali, Syed Muhammad, Turab Ali, Shahid Hussain and one unknown.
The catastrophe in Kurram Bazaar did not end just with the bombing. The FC forces deployed there then attempted to disperse and/or contain the protestors agitating against the militant-military connivance. But the security forces did not use any conventional non-lethal measures of riot control like teargas, rubber bullets or water cannons: the FC fired live ammunition on the crowd and killed six Pakistanis. To assist the human rights activists with documenting, let me state, with specifics, that those killed by the state were: Qaiser Hussain s/o Muhib of Boshehra, S Gulzar Hussain s/o S Sardar Hussain of Shalozan Alishari, Noor Alam Khan s/o Hamid Hussain of Chapir, Ikhtiyar Hussain of Chapir, Rashid Ali s/o Alimat Khan of Janikhail, Syed Arif Hussain s/o Syed Meer Hussain Jan of Mendanak Sehra.
If there is any silver lining in the present disaster it is what was conveyed to me by both the Sunni and Shia leaders of Kurram, who said: “The peace accord can still be salvaged if the perpetrators, including Fazl-e-Saeed Zaimusht, are brought to book swiftly…Sunni and Shia both want peace…it is the third force imposed upon us by ‘you know who’ that is the source of trouble…and if ‘they’ want it they can finish these terrorists off in a week.”
But we all know that the ‘you know who’ would not act unless the media, human rights activists and, of course, the political parties lean on them in unison, and soon. The Kurramis should not hold their breath though — maybe a lesser god had made their world.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at http://twitter.com/mazdaki
Kia tum bhool gaye? Pakistani media’s silence on Shia genocide