Dr Ayesha Siddiqa
By Dr Mohammad Taqi
21st Feb, 2013
There is no indication that the dark night of Takfiri terrorism is about to lift its heinous shadow from Quetta’s Shia Hazara. Are 40 days enough of a respite for the Hazara to be digging mass graves for their loved ones again? The terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) appear to think so. Just as the Hazara Shia were about to commemorate the Chehlum — the 40th day of mourning — of those killed in the January 10 Alamdar Road bombing, death rained again on Hazara Town this past weekend. Over 110 Hazaras — about half of them women and children — perished. Toothless condemnations from spineless politicians have already poured in. But those really running the show in Balochistan are quiet. For them the Shia genocide in Pakistan is simply the cost of doing business, a price that has to be paid for the ‘greater good’.
In the past, this ‘greater good’ was merely wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir but over the last few years the same formula is being applied in Balochistan. We have previously noted here that the LeJ was inducted into Balochistan by its khaki patrons to undermine the Baloch movement just like Gulbudin Hikmatyar and the Taliban’s ilk were used to undercut the Pashtun nationalist movement. The idea is to neutralize the Baloch nationalist struggle and keep the Baloch people and their resources under the praetorian thumb. If these jihadi terrorists take out a few ‘heretic’ Shia along the way, the patrons look the other way. If such ‘collateral damage’ happens to be in Quetta city, better yet. From the security establishment’s perspective nothing throws a spanner in the Baloch liberation struggle better than a war in and over Quetta. A free-for-all between the LeJ Balochistan — now largely manned by ethnic Baloch/Brahuis — the Hazaras and the Pashtuns, provides a reason for increasing the military’s presence in Balochistan to hunt down the nationalists while protecting the jihadist assets.
However, the state-sponsored narrative remains that a few fringe jihadists gone rogue are targeting the Shia. And then there is the ubiquitous smokescreen that the Shia genocide in Pakistan is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pro-army analysts were the first ones to paint the target on the Hazaras’ back. Baseless claims were made about Iran funding the Pakistani Shia, especially the Hazara. The fact is that Iran has not provided a single gun to the Pakistani Shia let alone run a training camp. Contrast this with the scores of Saudi-funded madrasas-cum-camps littering the length and breadth of Pakistan. Not one government/public installation has ever been targeted by any Shia. And never mind that the martyred leaders like Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Bashir Bilour were anything but Iranian proxies. Still the obfuscation goes on, including unfortunately by otherwise enlightened writers. Even the international media outlets like the BBC hesitate to identify the victims for who they are: the Shia and why they are being killed: because of their faith. When questioned on twitter a BBC Urdu producer taunted that it is easy to say things bluntly when sitting in the USA. Well, the last time I checked the BBC was still based in London. A few hours later, the BBC Urdu website did add the word Shia in its story on the Quetta carnage!
When the eminent scholar and defence analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqa wrote a piece, “Who’s afraid of the Karachi Literature Festival?” describing why she was declared persona non grata and debarred from the Karachi Literary Festival (KLF), another BBC producer tweeted: “Just because she was not invited she is making it a public issue.” One finds such remarks and taunts in poor taste and symptomatic of a bigger problem, i.e. the laziness and hyper-nationalism pervasive in sections of the Pakistani media creeping into reputable international media outlets. Dr Siddiqa has herself stated that she was kept out of the KLF because she was perceived as a stern moderator by the pro-Pakistan army author Anatol Lieven at last year’s KLF.
I am afraid that Dr Siddiqa is looking at just the tip of the iceberg. Dr Siddiqa’s 2007 masterpiece Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy clearly did not win her any friends amongst Lieven’s friends. Dr Siddiqa has described the Pakistan army as the country’s largest business conglomerate that holds large — at times the largest — chunks of the banking, industrial, real estate, agriculture, transport and construction sectors of the Pakistani economy. Little wonder that Islamabad Club and major hotels refused, under duress apparently, to hold her book’s launching ceremony. But perhaps Dr Siddiqa’s cardinal ‘sin’ is that she has described the military as an economic class that is out to keep its chokehold on the nation’s resources through whatever means necessary in the name of welfare of the servicemen ostensibly, but really for the preservation and enhancement of the privileged officer class. This effectively redefines the military-nation relationship paradigm as a predatory phenomenon, where the security establishment is robbing the nation blind.
The western capitals were ecstatic about the latest edition of the Pakistan army Green Book showing that outfit’s thinking is changing vis-à-vis the internal threat from extremists. The compendium emphasising information warfare opens with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s message about attaining politico-military objectives through Information Operations and without using force. But before one gets ones’ hopes too high and starts looking for Hakeemulla Mehsud, Malik Ishaq or Mullah Fazlullah’s names among the internal enemies, chapter one serves as a serious reality check for anyone under an illusion that the army think is changing, when it identifies the ‘enemy within’. This chapter titled, “A treatise on Indian backed psychological warfare against Pakistan”, is written by a Brigadier Umar Farooq Durrani who slanders Dr Ayesha Siddiqa for among other things, taking “material marked as top secret to India”. After reading the drivel against Dr Siddiqa, things started falling into place. Keeping her, and a few others like her, out of the KLF and mainstream media is not coincidental, as that BBC producer would want one to believe. I recalled Iftikhar Arif’s immortal lines: Yeh raat yoonhi to dushman naheen humari keh hum/Darazi e shab-e-gham kay sabab se waqif hein (The dark shadows do not persecute us without reason/[They hound us] For we know the cause of this darkness long-drawn-out).
The Supreme Court’s suo motu notice, though welcome, will lead us nowhere. I do not foresee an end to the shadows looming over the Shia unless the political leaders miraculously muster the courage to hold the military’s feet to the fire.
PS: The announced ‘targeted operation’ against unnamed targets in Quetta will remain futile without naming them and identifying and nabbing their cohorts elsewhere in Pakistan.