By Dr Mohammad Taqi
April 26, 2012
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
“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.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore