Pak­istan No So­lu­tion in Sight

The Hazara com­mu­nity is de­mand­ing from the government swift ac­tion against ter­ror­ist fac­tions.

Southasia - - Contents - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

The un­abated killing of hun­dreds of in­no­cent peo­ple in the name of re­li­gion in a coun­try where peo­ple claim to be the fol­low­ers of the Qu­ran is enig­matic. The oft-re­peated as­ser­tion that ‘Pak­istan came into be­ing in the name of Is­lam’ has led to a grad­ual “theo­cratic” state where ev­ery sect strives to im­pose its in­ter­pre­ta­tion on oth­ers - even if it re­quires us­ing force.

On the one hand, many in Pak­istan quote the Qu­ran as stat­ing that “if one kills an­other ex­cept as a pun­ish­ment for mur­der or for spread­ing dis­or­der in the land it shall be as if he has killed the en­tire hu­man­ity” [5:32]. On the other hand, com­plete apathy pre­vails over the loss of pre­cious hu­man lives on a daily ba­sis in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try. The Qu­ran clearly says that “if one saves the life of a sin­gle per­son it shall be as if he has saved mankind en­tirely,” but many out­lawed sec­tar­ian out­fits plead that it is their re­li­gious duty to kill all those who do not agree with their brand of Is­lam.

The wan­ton bomb­ing on Fe­bru­ary 16, 2013 in Hazara Town, Quetta that killed 95 and wounded over 200 Hazaras - in­clud­ing women and chil­dren - elicited coun­try­wide protests, bring­ing to the streets peo­ple seething with anger, out­rage, shock, dis­may and grief fol­lowed by sit-ins in var­i­ous cities that par­a­lyzed nor­mal life. At the global level, the re­ac­tion was equally strong. The UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, while con­demn­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks on re­li­gious and eth­nic mi­nori­ties in Pak­istan, called for swift and de­ter­mined ac­tion against those claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity and per-

pe­trat­ing such ac­tions. Ear­lier, ral­lies in Aus­tralia, US, UK, Aus­tria, Nor­way, Den­mark and Canada marked an in­ter­na­tional day of protest against the un­end­ing wave of at­tacks on Hazaras in Pak­istan.

Hazaras, pri­mar­ily pro­fess­ing the Shi’ite faith, have been per­se­cuted and dis­crim­i­nated against for cen­turies. They were ex­pelled from Cen­tral Asia to Afghanistan, to Pak­istan and else­where. More than 900,000 Hazaras live in Pak­istan, with thou­sands re­sid­ing in Quetta. The Hazara com­mu­nity have faced per­pet­ual per­se­cu­tion in Afghanistan at the hands of Tal­iban - and oth­ers be­fore them. The Tal­iban in Afghanistan ruth­lessly at­tack Shias, burn vil­lages and kid­nap com­mu­nity mem­bers, driv­ing the Hazaras into Pak­istan. In Pak­istan, ex­trem­ist Sunni mil­i­tant out­fits, al­lies of Pak­istani Tal­iban, have un­leashed sec­tar­ian at­tacks on the Hazaras, al­leg­ing that they re­ceive Ira­nian sup­port.

In the wake of two brazen at­tacks on the Hazaras in Quetta, both within 40 days, a strong de­mand was made from the be­reaved fam­i­lies, the Shia com­mu­nity and the pub­lic at large for im­me­di­ate ac­tion against the ex­trem­ist mil­i­tant group, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi that openly ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for th­ese at­tacks. In Quetta, thou­sands of Hazaras - men, women and chil­dren – staged sit-ins de­spite the bit­terly cold weather, re­fused to bury the dead un­less ac­tion was taken against the per­pe­tra­tors and the city was handed over to the army. Through their peace­ful protests and de­mands for a fun­da­men­tal con­sti­tu­tional right to live, the weak and the help­less Hazaras have won the sup­port of mil­lions of their fel­low coun­try­men and hu­man­ity at large.

The Hazara Town tragedy jolted the en­tire na­tion and the Supreme Court con­se­quently took suo moto ac­tion of the in­ci­dent. While the government failed to crack down on ex­trem­ists even af­ter im­pos­ing Gov­er­nor’s rule in Balochis­tan and de­spite re­ceiv­ing cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion from in­tel­li­gence agen­cies of well-planned, ghastly at­tacks, as usual, it shifted the blame on for­eign play­ers as the In­spec­tor Gen­eral Po­lice said, “Some hid­den hands want to desta­bi­lize the coun­try by en­gi­neer­ing a Sunni-Shia con­flict.”

Pro­ceed­ings be­fore the Supreme Court and news re­ports con­firm that the dev­as­tat­ing bomb­ings could have been pre­vented if mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence and po­lice of­fi­cers had suf­fi­ciently fol­lowed up on ev­i­dence gath­ered against the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Fi­nally, the government, un­der tremen­dous pres­sure, launched an op­er­a­tion on Fe­bru­ary 19 against the LeJ and claimed to have killed and ar­rested some of its mem­bers. In the wake of this op­er­a­tion and as­sur­ances given to the lead­ers of the Hazara com­mu­nity, most mourn­ers agreed to bury their loved ones.

On Fe­bru­ary 20, buri­als of blast vic­tims took place amid tears and sor­row in the Hazara Town grave­yard. Thou­sands of Hazaras par­tic­i­pated in the mass funeral that was marred by vi­o­lent protests and ae­rial fir­ing. Though sit-ins in ma­jor cities of the coun­try also ended, the tragedy left many unan­swered ques­tions. The most vi­tal one was that who was fi­nanc­ing the ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant out­fits like Lashkari-Jhangvi and what are their aims and ob­jec­tives? Many ques­tion as to why in­tel­li­gence agen­cies did not act af­ter know­ing that a huge quan­tity of chem­i­cals was trans­ported from La­hore were asked by the me­dia. While there are no two opin­ions about the com­plete fail­ure of the government, law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, the un­solved mys­tery is why Lashkar-i-Jhangvi that openly kills Shias is not dealt with the same iron hand as na­tion­al­ists are treated by the FC and other para­mil­i­tary law en­force­ment agen­cies? The an­swer to this mind-baf­fling ques­tion takes us back to Zia’s era of big­otry. Pak­istan has faced per­pet­ual crises of all sorts with re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance be­ing the worst amongst them. The in­creas­ing role of the clergy in pol­i­tics has cul­mi­nated in the geno­cide of the mi­nor­ity Shia sect and forced con­ver­sion of peo­ple of other faiths.

The so­lu­tion lies in what was as­serted by the Army Chief in his ad­dress at the 65th In­de­pen­dence Day pa­rade at the Pak­istan Mil­i­tary Academy on 2 May 2012. Gen­eral Ash­faq Pervez Kayani said, “the army can­not suc­ceed in its en­deav­ors against ter­ror­ists with­out sup­port of the peo­ple.” He clearly in­di­cated that ter­ror­ists were en­joy­ing sup­port from within, be­sides get­ting funds from out­side. De­spite such a bold state­ment from the Army, the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, in­stead of seiz­ing the moment to usher in much-needed strate­gies, paid no heed to Kayani’s points. Kayani stated that (i) the fight against ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism is our own war and we must fight it whole-heart­edly (ii) if we re­main di­vided we may head to­wards a civil war (iii) the war against ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism can­not be fought by the army alone; and (iv) it is im­per­a­tive for the en­tire na­tion to unite be­cause the army can­not suc­ceed with­out the co­op­er­a­tion of the peo­ple.

The se­ri­ous­ness of the gov­ern­ments — fed­eral and pro­vin­cial — and the par­lia­ment can be gauged from the fact that nei­ther spe­cial laws were en­acted nor anti-ter­ror­ism com­bat units formed in the last five years to deal with the grow­ing men­ace as has been done by other states fac­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges. The re­sult is be­fore us - car­nages like Hazara Town, at­tacks on sen­si­tive mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and daily killings have be­come rou­tine oc­cur­rences. The en­tire state ap­pa­ra­tus is crum­bling and if im­me­di­ate re­me­dial mea­sures are not taken, the day is not far when it will col­lapse com­pletely. The Hazara Town tragedy is only a symp­to­matic re­flec­tion of the ac­tual mal­ady.

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