By Mujahid Kamal Mir
3 September, 2012
After all these years, the identity of the people benefitting from this sectarian and ethnic strife in Pakistan still remains an enigma
Senator Iqbal Haider of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and Sarvat Ejaz Qadri of Sunni Tehreek openly accused the Pakistani state of massacring Shiites and Barelvi Sunnis, especially in Karachi and the Gilgit-Baltistan area. Two weeks ago, 22 Shiite Muslims were brutally murdered by the same elements in Babusar while they were travelling in buses from Rawalpindi to Gilgit. The gunmen first identified them as Shiites and then killed them at point blank range. Thousands have been killed in Parachinar, Quetta, Karachi and other areas. “The army never tries to stop them,” said Senator Haider, adding that he conducted his own research on this issue and discovered that the Taliban militants from Afghanistan could enter Gilgit-Baltistan unhindered, unopposed by Pakistani security forces.
The same question when put to a retired army officer who has served in the echelon of military intelligence agencies, playing a pivotal role in General Musharraf’s regime in various capacities, the crux of the conversation was an eye-opener for me. He is of a view that the problem is not a simple one. It is multi-dimensional and too confusing for common man to understand. In the murky corridors of power, nothing is what meets the eye. No one in Pakistan’s top brass whether political or military is interested to rein in these elements, primarily because they are viewed as a strategic asset by the state. However big a collateral damage they might cause to a certain sect, they will still come in handy as and when required by the agencies against the archenemy. Albeit there are some rogue elements that have become too big for their boots but nothing that cannot be handled or suppressed, agencies be willing. As for the cross-border terrorism, the likes of which was seen in Chilaas, Babusar, Dir, cannot be controlled by the military completely because of a difficult terrain and the Pak-Afghan porous border. The operatives, trained in all sorts of warfare and espionage techniques, cross over from Afghanistan and can have all kinds of logistic and ammunition support available on the Pakistani side, which they use to do gruesome acts of terrorism and return or stay here, as they may please. Army apparently seems to be doing the best it can, but the monster has become too big to be controlled by just force. It has to be reined in through different strategies, which surely the people at the helm of affairs should consider seriously if they want to rescue Pakistan from the mire, which at the moment, is clear and present danger . How successful they are remains to be seen, though drones have been a great success but they have a negative impact as well, but then again, there are certain state agreements that have to be abided by.
“In my time I advised General Musharraf regarding certain precautionary and preemptive measures to be taken up and to bring the leadership of rightwing extremist organisation into mainstream through dialogue as they too have followers in hundreds of thousands and cannot be left out. However, the idea did not sit well with the decision-makers. Had serious efforts been made to bring the leadership of Sipah-e-Sahaba (RA) and Tehreek-e-Jafaria on one table and an agenda carefully prepared by taking into account apprehensions and considerations of both the parties with emphasis on strict implementation, this problem would have been sorted out. Again, the will to achieve was missing and the unrealistic approach of banning the organisations instead of bringing them on negotiations table took its toll. In my opinion there is nothing that cannot be achieved through negotiations. Sipah-e-Sahaba now ASWJ though vehemently denies its association with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi but it is an established fact that the leadership of ASWJ still holds considerable influence on the Lashkar’s operatives whether here or in Afghanistan. As for the agencies are concerned, it is not so easy to retract what has been done in the last four decades, there is no erase or rewind button, but the prime objective of agencies at heart is to protect Pakistan’s interests at all costs against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and no price is big enough to achieve the objective. One prime factor that cannot be ignored is the foreign element. If your house is on fire, your enemy will only add fuel to it so the enemies of the state are playing a major role in aggravating the situation, which is already deplorable. They bring in stockpiles of money and ammunition to distribute it among the elements who act as brokers to hire mercenaries and suicide bombers. In my time the rate for a young suicide bomber was Rs15, 000. We had all sorts of proofs, which we have given to the media as well as our neighbours. The problem is that this regime is not only corrupt but also inept and has no credibility in public to implement tough decisions as well as give it back to the neighbours diplomatically when they accuse Pakistani agencies of acts like the Mumbai attacks. Without taking any names, I can assure you that every political party in this country whether inside the parliament or outside the parliament is working on agencies direction, however vehemently most of them will publicly deny it, even speak against them in public and media, the fact remains that the funds and power still lie at agencies discretion. The kind of data agencies have of all these people however pious, revolutionary and upright they claim themselves to be, if printed might take twenty five acres of storage capacity at least. No one, not even a single politician, in this country can take on the agencies because they know that their careers will be completely decimated with the kind of things agencies hold against them. Army after the Musharraf’s era has taken a step back though, but everything is being monitored carefully and closely. Whether its the emergence of an old party in a new veil or religious parties, most faces would remain the same because they have delivered the purpose in the past. Difa-e-Pakistan council being a prime example, comprising of all religious parties including extreme hardliners who consider Shiites as heretics and openly express their sentiments in no uncertain terms. Just look at the people sharing stage at their rallies and figure out for yourself. There shouldn’t be any doubt that the same people or their cronies, give or take a few, will be at the helm of affairs with a new spearhead as many have already changed lanes and the rest who matter will do as and when directed. Pakistan’s youth have always been rudderless, especially the illiterate chunk, which is vulnerable to religious extremism, easily swayed by the mere mirage of ‘Islamic revolution’ or ‘Winds of Sociopolitical change’, which in reality is another attempt at maintaining the status quo marketed in a different package.” the former military man said.
There is an organised genocide of Shias, which comprises of 20-25 percent population of the country and scattered killings of Barelvis, which is a majority sect among the rest of Pakistani Sunni population slowly in process right under the very nose of the state. Additionally, leadership of ASWJ also accuses state of playing a major role in the killing of its founding leadership and workers, which according to them rake up in thousands too. After all these years the identity of the people benefitting from this sectarian and ethnic strife in Pakistan still remains an enigma but one thing is for sure that this country is slowly but surely heading towards balkanisation, a model in which a state is fragmented into many parts. The reality is chilling: organised militias of each sect and sub-sect takes up arms and run amok against all others not subscribing to their ideology of the religion. Realism already exists in short supply in Pakistan and whomever is intelligent enough to read between the lines can easily make out that the country is heading from a catch-22 situation to a catch-44 one.
Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “An eye for an eye will eventually make the whole blind” never seemed more apt.
The writer is a businessman and a social activist based in Lahore.