The recent wave of cold-blooded targeted killings of Shiites Muslims at multiple locations throughout Pakistan is almost too horrific to digest. More than 250 Shias have been brutally murdered in the last three months alone; a similar number of Shias are injured or permanently maimed.
In September 2011 in Mastung (Balochistan), February 2012 in Kohistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and April 2012 in Chilas (Gilgit Baltistan), a similar pattern of segregating Shia passengers from Sunnis, followed by their brutal murder was repeated.
Massacre in Mastung happened next to a Pakistan army check post, massacre in Kohistan was conducted by militants wearing Pakistan Army uniforms, and the Chilas massacre happened right next to the local police station. According to a recent statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission, it is hard to refute the accusation that military is involved in killing of Shias in Pakistan.
In all of these massacres, attackers repeated the atrocity of lining up and identifying only Shiite passengers, who were segregated from Sunnis and murdered on the spot.
In the most recent incident, on 3 April 2012, where the banned Deobandi group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) ordered several passenger buses to stop near Chilas, and proceeded to machine-gun down all those identified as Shiites is a clear show of genocide in progress. Eye-witness accounts claim that those who ran were either shot or bludgeoned to death with rocks, several were burnt with acid or submerged under water.
The target killing of Shia Muslims in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. On June 6, 1963, over a hundred Shiites were martyred and twelve injured by the Wahhabi-Deobandi extremists in the Terhi town, near Khair Pur, on the sacred day of Ashura (10 Muharram) during the military regime of General Ayub Khan. On that tragic day 118 Shiites lost their lives; their only crime: participation in Muharram rituals.
During General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial Law, 1977-1988, the Shiite persecution and target killing became more systematic element of the state’s policy.
In the last six decades, we have witnessed the gradual conversion of Pakistan from a secular state (Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947), to an Islamic state (Objectives Resolution in 1949) to a Sunni State (General Zia-ul-Haq’s promulgation of Sunni Islam) to a Deobandi-Wahhabi State through the Pakistan Army’s willing participation into anti-Soviet Union Jihad in Afghanistan, which was financed, unfortunately, by U.S. during its myopic Cold-War mentality, and by Saudi petro-dollars and indoctrinated by a Jihadi Wahhabi-Deobandi ideology. While the US had perhaps short-sighted geo-strategic reasons to participate in anti-Soviet Union resistance in Afghanistan, it was a mistake to allow the Saudi-ISI duo to produce a rabidly violent and intolerant breed of Salafi-Deobandi Jihadis.
Formation of the Siph-e-Sahaba-Pakistan (a Jihadi-sectarian Deobandi organization) in early 1980s by Pakistan Army was intended to counter and harass Pakistan’s Shia Muslims in order to suppress their opposition to the Wahhabi-ization of Pakistan and also to reinforce the Deobandi-Wahhabi Jihad Enterprise in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The systematic murder of Shiite Pakistanis can be tracked from mid-1980s to the present date. Gruesome details and data are available on Shia activists’ websites such as the World Shia Forum, Shaheed Foundation and Shia Killing.
Here is an overview of most recent statistics in the last three months:
- January 2012 – 58 killed: https://lubpak.net/archives/70763
- February – 71 killed: http://pakistanblogzine.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/71-shia-muslims-target-killed-in-pakistan-during-february-2012/
- March – 30 killed: http://pakistanblogzine.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/shia-genocide-report-30-shia-muslims-target-killed-in-pakistan-in-march-2012/
- April: More than 110 killed so far (till 10 April 2012)
There is a consistent neglect of this targeted Shiite killing bordering on apathy from Pakistani and international Human Rights groups, civil society and media (both right wing Urdu media and liberal elites in English media), some of whom may have been paid off or/and harassed by the Pakistan Army/ISI.
How can this be allowed to continue? The answer: the Pakistani Army and ISI along with the Supreme Court and some members of the civilian government (e.g., Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Balochistan CM Raisani etc) are too much invested in protecting the Jihadi-sectarian militants of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, i.e., Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat /ASWJ-SSP and its strategic depth Frankenstein, to stop it. Fear of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, SSP-ASWJ and Taliban (Wahhabi-Deobandi militants) turning on Pakistan itself, sets up the Perfect Storm for the massacre of perceived infidels, the Shiites, along with other persecuted groups e.g., Ahmadis, Sunni Barelvis, Christians, Hindus etc. However, the number of Shias killed is far greater than any other faith-based target killing in Pakistan. Routinely maligned, and erroneously aligned with separatists or Iranian-links in a smear campaign, the Shiites for the most part, are middle class, intelligent, tolerant, peaceful and productive members of Pakistan society on all levels of occupations, from common workers, and entrepreneurs, to medical, judicial, commerce and government officers.
And yet, Jihadi-Deobandi SSP/ASWJ militants align with Salafist LeT/JuD and Pakistan Taliban to engage in what can only be described as a systematic elimination of all Shiites, reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s ruthless murder of Ukrainians in intensity varying only in the numbers killed. However, the death toll of Shias in Pakistan is rising on a frequent basis.
The recent massacres occurring of Shias in Pakistan suggest either authorities’ incompetency, fear or perhaps some law enforcement agencies are complicit with the killers. Perpetrators that kill and attack in plain sight are never investigated, arrested or prosecuted. The violence is not limited to one region or ethnicity (Shias are found in various ethnic groups in Pakistan), but has spread through southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkha, and may be linked to organized target killing of Shias in Karachi (Sindh), Quetta in Balochistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan.
The Pakistani civilian government has a mindset of “hands-off” in terms of Shiite rights protections, despite President Zardari’s Shiite background. The principle being that the military formed the Jihadi-sectarian militants as proxy warriors and let them handle it- but, further, Zardari, from the Bhutto dynasty, should be understood also as being aware of assassination as a danger as no other president prior to him, were he to cross the line against the ISI/ Pak Army. Demonstrators and others who speak out are in real and present danger. The Pakistan Army still ignores atrocities in Parachinar, Gilgit Baltistan, and Balochistan. The Pakistan military is too much of a threat to citizens that speak out, including the media, to be accountable for its abuses and what is an outright genocide on Shiites being perpetuated throughout Pakistan.
As an American, I have written on the topic of Shia genocide and the role of the military establishment in Pakistan – thus proving that there is no monolithic viewpoint in America and that we welcome criticism of the US foreign policy. There are many moderate Americans like me who want to highlight the situation of Shias in Pakistan where they are facing genocide at the hands of the Islamist (Wahhabi-Deobandi) Jihadis that are being nourished by some sections of the military establishment.
However, a blanket, reactive criticism of US foreign policy is not the correct way to work together either. In the United States, there is a very strong Saudi-Ikhwan lobby that is trying to make us do its dirty work in Syria and wants us to align ourselves with Al Qaeda. While I have no love lost for a police state like Syria, I am uncomfortable that the Saudis want to drag my country into supporting the Al Qaeda mercenaries that are attacking Syria from Turkey and Jordan.
Furthermore, the rot in the situation is not just from my end. At my end, there are many Americans who are deeply critical of the US State department being influenced by the Saudi-Ikhwan lobby. However, in Pakistan, the Jinnah Institute FP elite report was an eye opener in that it included 53 prominent journalists, analysts who, without specific dissent, endorsed recommendations that Mullah Omar and the Haqqani Taliban network needs to be supported Post 2014! Barring a few journalists of integrity and the LUBP blog, the mainstream media (including a bulk of liberal elites) lent their full support to these horrific recommendations – recommendations which are an open invitation to the Taliban to take over Pakistan, purge it of all non-Wahhabi-Deobandis and take it back to the Stone Ages.
While the United States must not engage with Taliban, why is it that Pakistani intelligentsia provides it with no choice but to engage with the Taliban. It is now imperative that before the US is pushed further into the Saudi embrace, it must realize that several in Pakistan’s seemingly liberal intelligentsia (much of which works as a tool to raise anti-US sentiment in Pakistan) is not the honest partner it claims to be. The Jinnah Institute and other similar reports emanating from ISI-sponsored think tanks should be chucked in the can.
Appeal to international community and human rights organizations
An appeal to the justice system and Human Rights Organization would be in order. However, currently one would be hard pressed to consider Pakistan judiciary’s indirect role in enabling the Shia genocide. Aside from known killers being pardoned due to military pressure, the judicial over-reach and unwarranted actions over and above the affairs of the legislature and the executive prove that the military has influenced, if not intimidated the judiciary as well as the so-called establishment “free press.” Reports are that General Kayani has been involved in pay-offs to Mullahs and press to distort the killings as historically expected Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence. This is a distortion of the State-sponsored Shia genocide particularly in view of the fact that majority of Sunnis have dissociated from ASWJ-SSP and other Jihadi-sectarian militants.
Because the corrupt Supreme Court will not go against the Army/ISI which tacitly still supports ASWJ-SSP-LeJ, which has grown in wealth and numbers, independent of any control over it now; elements in the Pak Army are in league together with these groups. It appears that the Pak Army remains concerned over cracking down on ASWJ/LeJ/SSP and LeT/JuD in fear of risking all these splinter groups joining in unison with the Pakistan Taliban would once again start attacking the state with impunity (as they did against General Musharaf). Pak Army also remains complicit with LeT over its obsession with India, so, much easier to allow atrocities on Shiites, and insist on the mainstream press to mislabel it as sectarian unrest.
Foreign correspondents in Pakistan are perpetuating the same silence and misrepresentation to international media. State sponsored Shia genocide is misrepresented as Sunni vs Shia conflict, ignoring the fact that Sunni Barelvi Muslims (majority of Sunnis) have rejected fringe Deobandi militants who are a part of SSP-ASWJ and Taliban, and also the fact that Shias are being killed by the ISI, not Sunnis.
In the last few months, the situation has reached the stage of a human rights crisis. If the international media, human rights groups, US, EU, UN and the international community in general do not pay urgent attention, the Jihadist militants will be further encouraged by no interference, in which case, the atrocities of this type generally escalate, and may turn into another Rwanda or Armenia.
About the author: Rusty Walker is an Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Mr. Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan. Here is a link to Mr. Walker’s other articles published on LUBP: https://lubpak.net/archives/tag/rusty-walker