Editor’s note: LUBP editors have taken a lead since 2008 in clearly highlighting and condemning the Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan at the hands of Jihadi-sectarian militants, some of whom are also supported by Pakistan’s military establishment. In fact since 2008, we have been maintaining an extensive database on Shia genocide which is archived on our pages under the same tag: https://lubpak.net/archives/tag/shia-genocide. Our fellow bloggers at Pakistan Blogzine and Al Ufaq too have been highlighting the same topic which remains otherwise ignored or obfuscated by Pakistan’s mainstream media (by right-wing dominated Urdu press and pseudo-liberal dominated English press, with a few notable exceptions). In September 2011, Pakistan Blogzine published a letter to Pakistan directors of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch requesting them to pay due attention to Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan. We have also been highlighting intellectual dishonesty in misrepresenting Shia genocide in Pakistani and international media. Below we are cross-posting Dr Mohammad Taqi’s article on this topic which was published recently in Daily Times. (End note)
Shia genocide: nameless crime, faceless victims – by Dr Mohammad Taqi
“Genocide is any act that puts the very existence of a group in jeopardy” — Professor Henry Huttenbach.
When Winston Churchill in his August 24, 1941 speech described the extermination of the Jews and Jewish Bolshevists by the Nazis in the occupied Soviet territories, his vivid depiction of the “methodical, merciless butchery” was quite accurate. Still, even the eloquent Churchill had no specific term for the atrocities going on and had to conclude, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” It would be over a year before the Jewish lawyer Professor Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide for the crimes against humanity that Churchill was alluding to.
The Shias of Pakistan, along with scores of other vulnerable groups, have been under an unrelenting systematic assault since the height of the Pak-Saudi-US jihad against the erstwhile Soviet Union. But over the last several years the methodical, merciless butchery has reached a point that is gruesome even by Pakistani standards of viciousness and yet the slaughter of the Shias in Quetta, Kurram, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi and Peshawar has remained a nameless crime. It is a media norm to use euphemisms and sanitised phraseology to describe the mass murder of a beleaguered community.
But not identifying the crime is not the only thing happening. There is a systematic effort by the mainstream media to obfuscate the religious — and in some cases ethnic — identity of the victims. In a recent Twitter exchange with a young Hazara boy, a top Pakistani television anchor [Hamid Mir] wrote, “Hazaras should not call them Shias; they are Pakistani Muslims and their blood is equal to all the other Pakistanis [sic].” It appears to be a pretty benign comment unless one considers the implications of reporting a nameless crime, now with nameless and faceless victims.
However, before I proceed further, let there be no doubt that those massacred recently in Quetta used to identify themselves as Shia Muslims and belonged to the ethnic Hazara community. Their names are: Ms Bakht Jamal, Zafar, Alam Khan, Ghulam Sakhi, Hafizullah, Nazir Hussain, Mubarak Shah (Spini Road attack March 29, 2012), Ejaz Hussain and Ali Asghar (Kirani Road attack April 2, 2012), Qurban Ali, Muhammad Zia, Muhammad Hussain, Shabir, Nadir Ali, Saeed Ahmad (Prince Road attack April 9, 2012); Muhammad and Ms. Fatima (Sattar Road and Kasi Road respectively, April 13, 2012), Abdullah, Juma Ali, Muhammad Ali, Syed Asghar Shah, Eid Muhammad (Brewery Road April 14, 2012), and Suleiman Ali (Kawari Road April 16, 2012). This list is neither exhaustive nor includes the injured.
This same anchor in a subsequent tweet laid the blame for the massacre of the Hazara Shias on the presumed enemies of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. So now one does not know the crime, the victim or the perpetrator — without which little, if any, meaningful remedial, preventive or punitive intervention can take place. What Professor Roger Smith et al had written about the genocide-denying scholars is also apt for such media obfuscation: “Where scholars (in the present case the media) deny genocide in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have most dire reverberations. Their message in effect is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over … (they) contribute to the deadly psychohistorical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.”
Why does the media not identify the victims — and the perpetrators — for who they are? The answer is not simple and has its roots in the media persons being poorly informed, fearful of the perpetrators, or downright complicit. Many well-meaning people are genuinely unaware of who some of the victims are. A leading editor, in an otherwise balanced editorial, had called the victims of the Quetta violence as ‘Hazarajat’, a term for the traditional geographic homeland in Afghanistan of the Hazara tribes but never used for the people. Also most Pakistanis have had little or no direct interaction with the small closely-knit Hazara community of Quetta and find them to be some sort of curiosity. But the foregoing remark by the anchorperson is also ominous in that it dispenses with any acknowledgment of diversity and upholds boilerplate conformity that the Pakistani state has been perpetuating almost since its inception.
The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as ‘only’ Muslim. There are schools upon schools of Islamic jurisprudence that have significant doctrinal differences. Setting some sort of benchmark to qualify for the state’s protection spells disaster for the groups that are numerically and logistically handicapped. More importantly, the Islamisation of Pakistan and indoctrination of the armed forces under General Ziaul Haq has made Wahhabism and its certain variants as the de facto state creed. The inherent problem in using religion as the pivot of the national polity is that the adherents of the myriad interpretations of religion compete with each other and with everyone else — by armed means eventually — to assure that their model prevails. While the Shiite and others were only outnumbered before, after the Wahhabist militants became the veritable arm of the Pakistani security establishment, they were outgunned too. When the Pakistani state consummated its compact with the jihadists, neither party signed a ‘for external use only’ clause. By virtually sharing the right to use violence with the non-state actors, the Pakistani state empowered them to define — and enforce — what the good ‘Pakistani Muslim’ should be.
Before discussing the role of deep state-supported militants in silencing the media, activists and politicians, it is pertinent to mention another deflection tactic used by genocide deniers, i.e. the use of terms like sectarian warfare. When the former French president Francois Mitterrand was asked about the genocide in Rwanda, his infamous response was, “Genocide or genocides? I don’t know what one should say!” Mitterrand was effectively laying the groundwork for defending the French-supported Hutus through ‘double genocide theory’, implying that violence was mutual. Similar false narratives that allege Iranian support for the Shias and present the Shias’ genocide in Pakistan as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rife.
The false narratives notwithstanding, we are not in the presence of an unnamed crime. As this newspaper of record wrote in its April 16, 2012 editorial: “Quetta in particular has become the theatre of this sectarian genocide.” The genocide of the Shias has put their very existence in jeopardy throughout Pakistan.
“When people’s lives are at risk from persecution, there is a strong moral obligation to do what is reasonably possible to help. It is not enough to seal up the windows against the smell”– Jonathan Glover.
But as far as the Shia genocide goes, sealing up the windows is precisely what seems to be happening in Pakistan. The media, mullahs, most politicians and, most importantly, the military, are all complicit in this conspiracy of silence. The activists, on the other hand, remain weak, under threat and consumed by semantics to highlight, forcefully and meaningfully, the systematic extermination of the Shia. The ordinary Pakistani’s apathy is reminiscent of the second part of Glover’s quote: “The world would be a terrible place if the whole truth about this aspect of us was what Norman Geras had called ‘the contract of mutual indifference’: we leave other people in peril un-rescued and believe that others will do the same to us.”
The overarching reasons for the complicity, silence, indifference and thus inaction are the fear of the perpetrators and a desire to seek their political favour. Shortly after the recent spate of killings of the Shia Hazara community, there was a large political rally in that city by the up and coming party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).
To the utter dismay of the Quetta Shia community, the leader of the PTI, Imran Khan, failed to condemn from the podium the persecution of the Shia. Khan, instead, quietly showed up at the Hazara Shia Imambargah in Nichari, Quetta, to offer routine condolences.
Contrarily, the PTI President, Javed Hashmi proudly claims to have christened the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) — a conglomerate of assorted jihadist and religio-political groups including the reincarnation of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The PTI’s vice-president Chaudhry Ijaz is seen unabashedly rubbing shoulders on the DPC stage with the SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jamat-ud-Dawa leaders. Similarly, Imran Khan loudly praises the Musharraf crony, General (retired) Ali Jan Orakzai, whom the Kurram Shia consider the architect of their persecution. The PTI consorting with jihadis and issuing meek condolences has everything to do with its quest for electoral gains in Punjab where the India-oriented jihadist groups are the virtual kingmakers now.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has played an equally dubious and dirty role in its tacit support of the Punjabi militant groups. In the PML-N’s case, a doctrinal transformation of its leadership due to influence from and/or to appease its Saudi mentors, an increasing recognition of jihadist power in Punjab and quite significantly, the fear factor played a role in the party’s change of heart from hunting down the militants to its leaders actually paying tribute at the tombs of SSP’s terrorist leaders. Ironically, the SSP/LeJ terrorist late Riaz Basra had once not only masterminded a bomb attack on Nawaz Sharif, then the prime minister of Pakistan, in January 1999, but also came within arm’s length of him.
Owen Bennett Jones chronicles in his book, “Riaz Basra showed his contempt for the police’s capabilities when he turned up at one of Nawaz Sharif’s political surgeries (khuli kacheri). Having slipped in with the petitioners who wanted to see the prime minister, Basra positioned himself directly behind Nawaz Sharif and got one of his accomplices to take a picture. Three days later, the staff at the PM house received a print of the photograph. The faces of Sharif and Basra, within a few feet of each other, had been circled and underneath there was an inscription — it’s that easy.” Interestingly, the Punjab government, on the orders of the Punjab High Court, had been giving Basra’s then-imprisoned successor Malik Ishaq’s family a monthly stipend! Little wonder then that Ishaq has been thumbing his nose at the law enforcement agencies for years now, including at the DPC rallies.
The fear instilled in the media, human rights activists and the politicians is however not just because of the ruthlessness of the Punjabi Taliban, a la SSP, LeJ and LeT, et al. There is an acute awareness, especially in the political class, that these groups have been given the most favoured jihadist status by the Pakistani security establishment. Just like the Jalaluddin Haqqani terror network on the western frontier, the India-oriented, Punjab-based jihadists receive a kid-glove treatment from the deep state operatives, complete with protection or rescue from police custody and operational freedom.
The Iran connection and nonsense peddled about the imaginary tit-for-tat sectarian warfare are red herrings to divert focus from the compact between the Pakistani military establishment and its jihadist proxies used as lynchpins of the Pakistani foreign policy agenda. The seeds of this symbiosis were sown right at the inception of Pakistan, with each subsequent military regime continuing to do its part in grooming the relationship. The adoption of Islam-based national ideology under Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq’s wholesale Islamisation, Pervez Musharraf’s duplicitous policy of using jihadists while milking the west for ‘enlightened moderation’, and ultimately General Kayani’s overt India-centricity has provided the Islamist terrorists a continuity of patronage to the extent that now the tail may be wagging the dog.
The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn had written, “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.” The Pakistani brass had made a conscious decision to not just deploy ideology but religious ideology to further its domestic and foreign policy agenda, and along the way, chose a particularly virulent strain of exclusivist religious extremism whose thirst would hardly be quenched by Shia blood. To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, Pakistanis perhaps view the sectarian cleansing and genocide as direct threats to their furniture. They are oblivious that the exclusivist ideologies like Takfir or Nazism never stop at one victim group — or stop on their own.
In the face of public indifference, lack of political will and the state might protecting the perpetrators, honest witnessing and reporting takes on an unprecedented importance and urgency. Had the Jewish people thrown into gas chambers been identified merely as Germans or Poles, the world conscience might have never been awakened. It is therefore imperative that the Shia victims are identified and named accurately. And equally important is to name the perpetrators, when possible. When mass media misrepresents or obscures information about these atrocities, it becomes incumbent upon the human rights activists to report that neither the crime is nameless nor the victims faceless — it is a Shia genocide. They should be the last ones to seal up the windows.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at http://twitter.com/mazdaki
Source: Daily Times, 19 and 26 April 2012.