By Dr Mohammad Taqi
February 26, 2015
The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was founded in September 1985 in Jhang and armed with such poisonous Fatwas and deadly weaponry it has unleashed a reign of Takfiri terror on the Shias for the past 30 years
The predominant narrative in Pakistan now seems to be that India and its intelligence agency RAW is responsible for all acts of terrorism, including the vicious attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The federal defence minister, Punjab’s home minister and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief have all blamed India for stoking terrorism in Pakistan via Afghanistan. Many analysts and ex-officials like the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf and his interior minister, General Moinuddin Haider, have been playing up Indian involvement in Pakistan. The logic put forth is that since Pakistan has started acting against the TTP,the “Indians want to distract the Pakistani security forces and keep Pakistan internally weak”. That Pakistan’s social, political, ethnic and sectarian rifts can be exploited by any hostile power is not moot. However, pinning all violence, including the weekly massacres of the Shias, on India and Afghanistan is a convenient cop-out for the state and its functionaries at a time when they should be hunting down the perpetrators.
Instead, the culprits are being mainstreamed and projected into living rooms through prime time television exposure. The patron-in-chief of the virulently anti-Shia outfit, the Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamat (ASWJ), Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, was interviewed by a private television channelthis past weekend. Citing various edicts (fatwas), Ludhianvi indulged in takfir (apostatising) of the Shias without any hard follow-up questions being asked by the said anchor. Whether or not an arch bigot should have gone unquestioned or given prime time space to begin with is another debate but the edicts that Ludhianvi alluded to have been issued by Deobandi seminaries such as the Jamia Islamia Binori Town, Karachi and Dar-ul-uloom Haqqaniah, Akora Khattak, which are the alma maters of the who’s who of jihadist terrorism. The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was founded in September 1985 in Jhang and armed with such poisonous fatwas and deadly weaponry it has unleashed a reign of takfiri terror on the Shias for the past 30 years while the Pakistani state sat on its hands. Theses seminaries have groomed the leaders who apostatise and have indoctrinated the cadres who carry out killings with impunity because the state either deflected the blame as it is doing now or, even more ominously, gave them patronage.
Names like Jhangvi’s Tigers and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), eponymously named after SSP founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, were first heard of in 1995 when the SSP’s executioners led by Riaz Basra killed the founder-president of the Shia group Imamia Students Organisation, Dr Muhammad Ali Naqvi, along with five others on Multan Road, Lahore. Before that, Basra had been arrested for the 1990 murder of Iranian diplomat Sadeq Ganji but escaped from police custody. The formal announcement of the LeJ ostensibly parting ways with the parent outfit, the SSP, came in 1996. Basra, Muhammad Ajmal aka Akram Lahori, Malik Ishaq and Sheikh Haq Nawaz brought together six of the SSP’s execution squads and founded the LeJ. Under the thin veneer of plausible deniability, the SSP and the LeJ remained joined at the hip. The SSP was nominally banned by General Musharraf in 2002 but has continued to operate openly under the ASWJ name. The ASWJ leadership neither pretends that it is any different from the SSP in agenda or organisation nor has it severed ties to the LeJ. In fact, the SSP/ASWJ leader, Azam Tariq,had offered to pay diyat (blood money) for the murder of another Iranian diplomat to get the LeJ man, Sheikh Haq Nawaz, off death row. Azam Tariq’s son, Muawiyah Azam Tariq,had vowed publicly to spring LeJ honcho Malik Ishaq from Multan prison if the government did not release him. Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi has attended rallies along with Malik Ishaq where they made rabidly anti-Shia speeches. In the aforementioned interview, Ludhianvi backtracked on his speeches by saying that it was just “hawaee firing” (aerial firing or blowing hot air) but the fact is that wall-chalking, distributing fatwas and such vitriol have set the stage for Shia massacres as the ones perpetrated on Quetta’s Hazara Shias.
Generals Musharraf and Moinuddin Haider,and Prime Minister (PM)Nawaz Sharif know full well that almost all of the LeJ top leaders and cadres trained in Afghanistan in camps run by Kashmir-oriented Pakistanis Qari Saifullah Akhtar, FazlurRahman Khalil and Maulana Masud Azhar, all of whom were alumni of the Binori Town madrassa (seminary) just like their host, Mullah Omar, and the SSP’s late leader, Azam Tariq. India or the US was nowhere near the Durand Line when the Pakistani security establishment turnedboth its sides into a jihadist viper pit. Musharraf and Mr Sharif were targeted by these very same groups and, according to Sindh police officials, General Moinuddin Haider’s brother, Ehtishamuddin Haider,was killed by the LeJ. As Hillary Clinton had said, “It is like that old story: you cannot keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”These vipers, however, do not just have regional designs or associations; their ambition is global and links transnational.
General Musharraf writes in his autobiography,In the Line of Fire, “On February 21, 2002, the horrifying videotape of Pearl’s murder was released. It did not show the faces of his murderers. In addition, we had nobody. Then, in May 2002, we arrested someone named Fazal Karim, an activist of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the militant wing of the Sunni sect known as Sipah-e-Sahaba. We had arrested him for other reasons, but when we interrogated him we discovered that he was involved in Pearl’s slaughter. He also told us that he knew where Pearl was buried. He was asked how he knew. Chillingly, he replied — without remorse — that he knew because he had actually participated in the slaughter by holding one of Pearl’s legs. But he did not know the name of the person who had actually slit Pearl’s throat. All he could say is that this person was ‘Arab-looking’. The man who may have actually killed Pearl or at least participated in his butchery, we eventually discovered, was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, al Qaeda’s number three.” That the mastermind of the Pearl murder, Omar Saeed Sheikh, had also trained in the exact same camps as the LeJ underscores the vicious nexus between Pakistani sectarian outfits like the LeJ/SSP/ASWJ, al Qaeda and the Kashmir-oriented jihadists. The officials deflecting the blame away from the jihadist and sectarian mass murderers are actually throwing a lifeline to their venomous nexus and condemning the Shias to another 30 years of takfiri terror. The vipers, however, are bound to turn back on their benefactors.
Dr Mohammad Taqi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he tweets @mazdaki