By Ambreen Agha
May 18, 2015
As long as we rely upon the hammer when a file is needed and press Islam into service to solve situations it was never intended to solve, frustration and disappointment must dog our steps..
The Munir Report, 1954
On May 13, 2015, at least 45 Ismaili Shias, including 16 women, were killed and another 24 were injured in Safoora Chowrangi in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, when terrorists attacked a bus carrying Ismaili Shias. The Police disclosed, "The gunmen stopped the bus and first fired at it from outside. Then they entered inside the bus and opened fire indiscriminately. After that they checked to see if anyone was left uninjured." One of the wounded women narrating the spine-chilling incident said, "As the gunmen climbed on to the bus, one of them shouted, 'Kill them all!' Then they started firing at everyone they saw." According to reports, six terrorists riding motorcycles carried out the attack using 9mm pistols.
Leaflets, written in English, left in the bus were headlined, "Advent of the Islamic State!" and used a derogatory Arabic word for Shi'ites, accusing them of "barbaric atrocities ... in the Levant, Iraq and Yemen". Later, a statement distributed on social networking site Twitter by a group calling itself Khorasan Province Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack: "Thanks to God 43 apostates were killed and close to 30 others were wounded in an attack by the soldiers of Islamic State on a bus carrying people of the Shia Ismaili sect . in Karachi."
Jundullah, a splinter group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS / also known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS) on November 12, 2014, also claimed responsibility for the attack, declaring, "These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim). We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shias and Christians." Significantly, Fahad Marwat, a 'spokesman' of Jundullah, in his pledge had asserted, "They (Islamic State) are our brothers, whatever plan they have we will support them."
On April 16, 2015, an American woman, 55-year-old Debra Lobo, an Associate Professor of Community Health Science at Karachi's Jinnah Medical and Dental College, was shot at and injured in Karachi. IS leaflets were found at the incident site, one of which read, "We shall lie in wait until we ambush you and kill you wherever you may be until we confine and besiege you in America and then God willing, We Will Burn America!!!"
Islamic State has, indeed, made deep inroads in Karachi and across Pakistan. General John Campbell, the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission, the new US and NATO mission in Afghanistan, warned on January 18, 2015, that IS was recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan: "We are seeing reports of some recruiting. There have been some night letter drops, there have been reports of people trying to recruit both in Afghanistan and Pakistan..."
Exploiting old faultlines of Shia-Sunni rivalry and the anti-Shia sentiment in Pakistan that has been legitimized by state-backed orthodox Sunni ulama and their religious organisations virtually since the creation of Pakistan, the IS has easily found sympathizers, supporters, and fighters in its 'global war' against Shias.
Meanwhile, sectarian attacks in Pakistan continue unabated. According to partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the country has recorded at least 2,988 sectarian attacks, resulting in 5,119 deaths and 9,745 persons injured, since 1989. 2015 has already recorded 27 such incidents, with 199 fatalities and 242 persons injured (all data till May 17, 2015).
Out of 4,116 persons killed in such attacks since 2001, 2,461 were identified as Shias. Among them, at least 72 Ismailis (including, Bohra Ismailis, who are a sub-sect of the Ismaili Shias) have been killed in 15 such attacks since 2012.
The first attack on Ismailis recorded by SATP dates back to September 18, 2012, when two bombs exploded on a road between two apartment buildings, Qasr-e-Kutbuddin and Burhani Bagh, in Block C of the North Nazimabad Town in Karachi, commonly called Bohra Compound, killing seven and injuring another 22. Sindh has been the primary centre of violence against Ismailis. Out of the 15 targeted attacks against this sect, 13 have occurred in Karachi alone. The remaining two were reported in the Hyderabad District of the Province. In one such attack in Hyderabad on November 6, 2012, at least three people, belonging to the Bohra community, were killed and three sustained injuries, when unidentified terrorists opened fire at a shop on Risala Road in the District.
Significantly, on February 2, 2014, TTP had issued a chilling 50-minute video message of "armed struggle" against the Ismailis and the indigenous Kalash tribe of Chitral Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), escalating the threat against minorities. The Kalash retain a range of pagan beliefs and are thought to be the descendents of the armies of Alexander the Great. They maintain distinct cultural traditions that make them vulnerable targets. The 'spokesperson' in the video identified a charitable organisation headed by the Aga Khan, the Ismailis' spiritual leader and threatened their elimination, calling on Sunnis to support their 'cause':
The Aga Khan Foundation is running 16 schools and 16 colleges and hostels where young men and women are given free education and brainwashed to keep them away from Islam... The foundation's schools and hospitals, which are free for members of the public, are espionage tools in the hands of foreign powers.
Sectarian demagoguery has been visible in pamphlets and videos released by the terrorist formations. On March 20, 2015, a handbill by extremists belonging to the Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jama'at (ASWJ) was found in Bahadurabad area of Gulshan Town, declaring "open war" against Shia Muslims and Sunni-Sufi Muslims, as well as the Pakistan Army, media and Christians. On January 24, 2014, TTP had launched its Urdu website, umarmedia.com, which uploaded videos threatening Shiite Muslims in Pakistan and declaring a war against them. The website included the TTP flag, verses from the Quran, statements and videos containing sectarian, hate and propaganda material. The website was registered on the internet on November 24, 2013, with an address in Queensland, Australia.
The latest attack comes despite almost two years of a high-profile 'operation', launched by the Federal Government on September 5, 2013, against gangsters and terrorists in Karachi, and led by the Rangers, a paramilitary force controlled by the Army. The cosmetic nature of the 'operation' in Pakistan's commercial capital has, in fact, widened the space and expanded targets for Islamist fanatics. The terror attacks continue with the proliferation of sectarian jihadi-terrorist groups, amidst the ongoing operation, which has had miniscule impact on overall security. The systematic targeting and killing of large numbers of Shias, including their sects and sub-sects, is a part of the unfettered extremism that dominates Pakistan.
With IS joining the sectarian terror outfits operating within Pakistan under the umbrella of benign state neglect, the threat of sectarian violence in Pakistan has multiplied exponentially. As Pakistan lurches from one crisis to another, the Islamist extremists flex their muscles at beleaguered minorities. Pakistan persists in its catastrophic game of deceit, encouraging and even supporting majoritarian terrorism and terrorism against the country's neighbours, ceding spaces to global terrorist formations such as al Qaeda, IS and their proliferating local collaborators that constitute an increasing threat to the nation-state itself.
Source: South Asia Intelligence Review