By Zeeshan Hussain
March 4, 2013
Karachi’s Abbas Town has been struck again and Sunday’s attack has caused the most casualties and damage. As while it is far easier to speak of and listen to death tolls, it is extremely difficult to imagine the plight of those who have lost their loved ones sitting right beside them in their homes. In the blink of an eye, dozens of families have been destroyed, emotionally as well as financially. Innocents are under the debris and their family members are looking for them. In the midst of the turmoil, MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s statement has brought a bitter truth to light – that establishment-backed banned organisations are playing havoc with the lives of the people and state agencies have been keeping mum over the surreptitious mass slaughter of Pakistan’s Shia community. Finally, this grain of truth that had been held back for the longest time has being publicly uttered by a politician.
Although no specific banned organisation has claimed responsibility of the attack so far, historically the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi accepts having engineered such bombings in its quest to accomplish its anti-Shia agenda. In fact, the conflict between the Sunni and Shia communities in its recent form can be traced back to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and General (Retd) Ziaul Haq’s collusion with the United States and Saudi Arabia in its war against communism in Afghanistan. Iran, a predominantly Shia country, has an ideological clash with Saudi Arabia, a state with an overwhelming majority of Sunnis, and has also been in America’s bad books over the revolution, as well as the subsequent nuclear program. Pakistan factors in the equation in the sense that the country, it seems, has become a land where proxy wars can easily be funded and fought – gradually losing its options to come out of declared and undeclared alliances.
In the 1990s, the Shia and Sunni clashes in Pakistan damaged thousands of families. Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi was murdered and the LJ announced to take revenge from Shias living all over the country. With the ban on militant organisations in 2003, LJ split and regrouped in the form of different groups which attached themselves to organisations like al Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Although it does not have a global agenda, the LJ is contributing to it by partaking in the mass killings of Hazaras and perhaps of other non-Hazara Shias as well. There are those that argue that the so-called Iranian-backed Hazaras pose a threat to ‘religious laws’ that the Afghan Taliban wants to introduce after capturing NATO-dominated areas. And further on, state agencies that are likely to have invested in the future of Taliban in Afghanistan seem to be keeping quiet over these killings.
Along with Pakistan and Afghanistan, the renewed Shia-Sunni conflict is also evident in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain have predominantly Sunni ruling elites who are known for persecuting the minority Shia community; whereas, the ruling elites of Syria and Iran are accused of persecuting the Sunni minority communities in those countries. While the contentions between the two groups is not new to our societies, the apparent inaction of state agencies, which usually claim having informed law enforcement agencies of possible threats of attacks is a reason to worry.
In the wake of Sunday’s bombing, a man was arrested and it was reported that he had confessed being involved in the attack, adding that his two other companions had fled from the scene. We often come across these references but never do we hear of the detained suspects once they are handed over to investigative agencies. Of late, Usman Saif Ullah Kurd and Badini were found involved in the Alamdar Road blast in Quetta and the truth is both these terrorists had escaped from a jail situated in a highly secure zone.
Rehman Malik says the LJ has its roots in Punjab and that the Punjab government should arrest the 534 people whose list has been provided to the government, however, Asif Zardari yesterday said some political parties had interests attached with these banned outfits. The president’s statement can be viewed in the light of Ludhianvi’s claims that he had no ties to the LJ and its activities, as well as the fact that both Ludhianvi and Malik Ishaq have close links with the Punjab government.
It is astounding that in such circumstances political parties have been mulling over, nay, actually working to initiate a dialogue with the TTP. The very premise that we’ll achieve peace by negotiating with the Taliban is wrong as for that we would need complete cooperation from the state agencies. People in Swat, Waziristan, Quetta and now in Karachi have been crying that attacks are launched when security officials are stationed only a few yards away from the scene but the media is diverting the attention from the real issue by implicating analysts in the question as to whether we should start a dialogue with the Taliban or not. When the valid question to be asking is, whether the state will take action or will it compel members of the country’s Shia community to take up arms?
Zeeshan Hussain is a TV producer, with a special interest in politics, literature and philosophy