By Tufail Ahmad
As the genocide of Pakistan's religious minorities unfolds, it is also becoming increasingly difficult for any serious analyst to imagine how Pakistan will emerge from this human catastrophe in next few decades. Through the length and breadth of Pakistan – from Karachi through Quetta, Lahore, Parachinar and Gilgit – Shia Muslims are being systematically murdered, about 300 of them this year alone. "Stop genocide, stop Shia killing" are some calls for help in the images of Shia Hazaras holding placards, which are beginning to appear in international press. Christian colonies are being burned in advance knowledge of local police; Hindus from Baluchistan and Sindh are being forced to convert or migrate to India; Ahmadi Muslims are under round-the-clock cultural surveillance of Islamist forces in Pakistani society.
As Pakistan sinks deeper into a swelling flood of hate and bloodshed, the scale of lawlessness is so widespread that most Pakistani families know someone whose relatives have been killed. In this hour of Pakistani people's suffering, two trends are noticeable: first, leaders of the free world – the United States, the UK, Europe and the United Nations – are silent amid this tragedy; second, the Pakistani government leaders are failing to see their people's priorities, notably instead of demanding that India hand over the body of Pakistani citizen Ajmal Kasab, they have time to pass a parliamentary resolution condemning India's hanging of Afzal Guru, an Indian citizen convicted of his role in the 2001 terror attack on Indian parliament.
"Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must, at that moment, become the center of the universe," observed Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Genocide must be a concern of everyone everywhere. Pakistani jihadist organizations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which also operates as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are indeed responsible for systematic murders of Shia Muslims, but blaming them in research and media reports is not enough, not at this point; even a debate about legal definition of genocide is irrelevant; it is too late. The international silence on the situation in Pakistan requires a multilateral response; some conscientious individuals in Western governments and at the UN must take the lead now.
The international response must take into account the fact that Pakistan will not be able to govern itself in the near future for the following reason: at the rate Pakistan is educating its children, it will only be possible for it to offer primary education to all children by around 2050. Effectively, it means: the mass of educated people needed to run a large modern nation of Pakistan's size will not be achievable in the next few decades. The number of intellectually astute people to run the country is limited; their names can be read in mainly the English-language press of Pakistan. In the Pakistani military too, top-level generals have lost their way in the maze of the Islamist ideology and lower-ranking officers, even when meaning to take a right path, lack a basic level of intellectual competence to process information essential to govern a large country. Western analysts who take comfort in expressions of support for Pakistan's civil society must understand that no such society exists on a scale that could be consequential.
A religious virus is stalking Pakistani society, preventing people from distinguishing what is right and what is wrong. Over the past half a century, Pakistani leaders fed regular doses of hateful ideas into the minds of school and college-going youth and many of them such as elite security commando Mumtaz Qadri who murdered Punjab governor Salman Taseer are today proudly owning up murders and are garlanded in appreciation by the educated class of lawyers. For a moment, let's not blame General Zia-ul-Haq, the Islamist military ruler who was a product of Islamism taught since the creation of Pakistan. Instead, look earlier to secular leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who surrendered before the country's Islamist forces, declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims, signaling to militant religious organizations how much they can hope to achieve even when secular parties are in power. Yesterday, they demanded Ahmadi Muslims to be legalized as non-Muslims; today, they are demanding Shias to be declared non-Muslims; tomorrow, they will demand that Barelvis be declared non-Muslims. This is Islamism; and it is murderous.
The secular leaders of Pakistan constitute the problem. Not long ago, the Pakistan Peoples Party and Awami National Party, soon after they came to power in 2008, approved a shari'a-for-peace agreement with Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, unleashing his jihadist fighters on the people of Malakand who ordered total ban on girls' education and began enforcing shari'a rule. If such a government policy step is taken, jihadist attacks on innocent girls like Malala Yousafzai are the outcomes to expect. Once again all mainstream Pakistani leaders are courting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for an agreement, the only distinction this time is that the secular parties are also joined by the religious groups led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Also, in Punjab, where 60 percent of 180 million Pakistanis live, government leaders such as Law Minister Rana Sanaullah are known for collaborating with Malik Muhammad Ishaq and Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, the militant leaders of SSP, the primary organization behind the killings of Shia Muslims, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
There is a danger of genocide lurking in Pakistan's near-future. Recently, the SSP released the first issue of a magazine called Al-Rashideen in English language, indicating to the Western world that it is ready to play a larger role. The magazine, whose cover page declares that "Iran must fall before Palestine can be liberated," is focussed on "Muslim youngsters whose first or second language is English." It produces a number of hateful articles against Shia Muslims, republishing speeches of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi and Allama Sher Haideri, as well as an important article by Jaish-e-Muhammad commander Maulana Masood Azhar, who cites numerous verses from the Koran in justification of jihad. For those concerned about human suffering in Pakistan, there is no distinction between the Jaish-e-Muhammad or SSP and others.
The danger that stares in our face is the ability of Pakistani state to sleep-walk through these bloody years, surviving ultimately in a shape in which jihadist organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad cement their clutch on Pakistani society in a permanent form, like Hezbollah has done in Lebanon and Hamas is doing in Gaza. Ultimately, some youth from these organizations will join the Pakistani military and rise to senior positions of captains, lieutenants and generals. On March 12, 2013, Director of the US National Intelligence James R. Clapper gave a testimony to the US Senate Committee on Intelligence, warning that Lashkar-e-Taiba "will continue to be the most multifaceted and problematic of the Pakistani militant groups" and has the "long-term potential to evolve into a permanent and even Hamas/Hezbollah-like presence" in Pakistani society and government institutions. It's only a matter of time when this murderous ideology spills over into the neighbouring countries.