Identity, Equality, Unity
Editor’s Note: A debate that took place on a Facebook forum highlights the nature and reasons of Shia genocide in Pakistan. The conversation was initiated by a repetition of oft-repeated theories that are deeply insensitive to the victims who in this case happen to be Shia Muslims in Pakistan. One is disappointed to note that such conversations are not the exception but sadly the norm amongst Pakistan’s educated elite which wants to justify and rationalize Shia genocide while discounting its own sectarian prejudice against Shias, Pakistan’s most target killed faith group, with more than 19,000 deaths in last few decades.
Only recently, an international survey report by Pew stated that only 50% of Sunnis in Pakistan consider Shias as Muslims. This also explains why there is either complete silence or massive misrepresentation of incidents of Shia genocide in Pakistan. The latest incident of misrepresentation is not by daily Ummat or Zare Momin but by “liberal” Express Tribune which incorrectly reported the Shia massacre of Gilgiti passengers in Naran as a Sunni massacre. The news item was later corrected after a massive protest on Twitter by alternate media activists.
There is an unfortunate tendency to dilute the suffering of those who are on the wrong side of the policies dictated by the military establishment. It is time that Pakistan’s rights activists and persecuted communities realize that civil society is not necessarily objective when it comes to Shia Genocide but in fact often peddles the manufactured discourses of the State – barring the exceptions ofcourse.
One of the most commonly used tactics to misrepresent and indirectly justify the ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakistan is to present it as a Saudi-Iran Proxy war. This is a false binary that not only confuses the issues but seeks to paint all Shias as Iranian fifth columnists therby painting a target on their backs (Refer to Silence of the Liberal Lambs by Dr. Taqi)
This false symmetry also diverts from the culpability of the Pakistani State and is an insensitive tactic to dilute the suffering and misery of the targeted Shia communities in Pakistan. Most importantly, if Shia Genocide in Pakistan is an outcome of a Saudi-Iranian Proxy war, what about the Pakistani State apparatus. It is quite clear whose side they are on (Refer to Khaled Ahmad’s “When the State Kills”, The Friday Times, September 2011).
The counter arguments provided are an example of the deflective and obfuscating tactics of Pakistan’s educated civil society elite. In order to add a proper structure to this debate
This ongoing persecution of the various Shia sects in Pakistan and elsewhere is indeed tragic. What is not being said often enough, however, is that this slaughter, which isn’t quite genocide yet, is a manifestation of the proxy war being fought there between the Arabs and the Iranians. This war has been ongoing ever since the Arab Imperialists of the 7th century invaded Persia and forcibly converted the Persians to Islam. The Persians never liked the ensuing cultural subjugation and have forever been looking to undermine the Arabs ever since.
And paying the price for this war are the Shia in Pakistan who, through their emotional and, increasingly, cultural attachment to Iran, are being targeted as if they were the undeclared proxies of Iran. And those that are targeting them are largely on the employ of Saudi Arabia. Of course the Iranians are not entirely blameless in all this. In fact, historically, in the context of South Asia, Iranians (read nader Shah) and their surrogates (read Ahmad Shah Abdali), have massacred more Sunnis in Delhi than the rest of the various war-mongering Central Asians put together. What any of this has to do with the price of tea in China can perhaps be expanded upon by the literati in this group. My sense is that memories of such atrocities linger and beget badness.
The point, you ask? Whenever the violence raining down upon the hapless Shias of Pakistan is spoken of, mention also needs to be made of Saudi bloody Arabia and the mullahs of Iran without whose unholy machinations none of this would be happening. And Pakistan’s Shia President also needs to be held accountable for the madness being perpetrated under his watch.
This is blaming the victim. Is it the fault of Shias for either being “hapless”, “massacred more Sunnis in Delhi than the rest of the various war-mongering Central Asians put together” or their “cultural attachment to Iran”. If you think it’s the Shia’s own fault why bother protecting them? By the way there’s genetic evidence that there’s more of the Middle East haliotrop in the Shia population of South Asia then in other populations. Doesn’t that kind of blow great big hole in the whole Arab imperialism stuff – how did the persecuted minority end up being the one with the ME genes.
This is full of essentialist assumptions that can never really get us anywhere, “Arabs”, “Persians”, as if these were absolutes with no space for nuance or deep cultural interaction across historical time; likewise it’s full if emotive anachronisms, “Arab imperialists”, as if transposing 19th and 20th European imperialism back to 7th-8th Persia had any relevance at all.. No, it’s about much more than all that; it’s about what happens when one takes a stand for the truth in the face of the forces of this world, har zamaan ‘ashoora, ve har makaan karbela’ ast….
“har zamaan ‘ashoora, ve har makaan karbela’ ast….” Indeed! The very fact that the Persians have taken ownership of Husain’s Alamo goes to the point I was making. I rest my case.
If it was the manifestation of an Arab-Iran war, it would logically have been a two-way affair in Pakistan rather than one way Shia Genocide.
Your unique and irrationally biased logic is like putting salt on the wound. The reason and motivation for Shia genocide is within the Pakistani Sunni terrorist psyche and the vast majority of people are mute spectator of all such brutalities. The Judiciary and security agencies have tacit support to those killers. All heinous terrorists have been let off by judiciary perhaps with the support of security agencies who are responsible for investigation and collect authentic evidence.
The initial question itself has glaring inconsistencies. Ahmed Shah Abali is responsible for anti-Shia pogroms in Kashmir – an area which before his raids into India had a Shia-Hindu flavour.
Similarly, both Nader Shah and Abdali did not base their attacks and raids into the Indian Sub-Continent due to their Shia “leanings”. Quite the opposite actually.
Please refer to the virulent anti-Shia polemics of Shah Abdul Aziz/Shah Waliullah during the 18-19th century (Tuhfa-e-Isnasharia) Abdali’s anti-Shia pogroms in Kashmir contradict this simplistic view of history. The Persian influence in India did not seek to dominate; rather it sought to syncretize itself with the Hindu-Buddhist culture of the sub-continent. It extended to pre-Safavid times. Similarly, there is a strong Shia sentiment in varous Arab countries including Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria with smaller minorities in Egypt and Jordan. It is a false binary to conflate anti-Shiaism as a Saudi-Iranian proxy battle. Post 1980, some Shia clerics do look towards Iran – a flawed strategy. In this regard, many of them have been pushed into it while some seek favour for their own benefits. This is an unfortunate development and will only harm Pakistan’s Shias,
Furthermore, historical Sindh included much of what is Southern Punjab today. In this area, Shia sentiment is nearly a thousands years older than the Safavid era in Persia. For Sindhis, Mohammad bin Qasim was a marauder who was sent by Hajjaj bin Yousuf to kill the (Arab) descendants and partisans of the Holy Prophet’s family who had been provided refuge and protection by Raja Dahir of the Chach dynasty. Iraq, which has a Shia majority, has been this way since the time of Imam Ali ibne Abi Talib. Today, from Indonesia, Malaysia to Nigeria and even in Belgium, Shias are being targetted by fellow muslims.
Is the massacre at Karbala also because of the Ahlul Bayt’s association with the Iranians/Persians? Were subsequent Shiite Imams killed due to same association, the sinister Iranian connection??
This is False neutrality at its worse!
Shias are killed in Pakistan because our civil-military bureaucracy dominated State supports/funds/protects/patronizes Non-State actors for its “strategic” objectives both within and outside of Pakistan. And it is not just Shias who are their victims but Ahmadiyya muslims, Sunnis (Barelvis, moderate Deobandis), Christains, Sikhs : All these groups are suffering at the hands of non-State actors. This is not a revelation and please refer to the excellent Peshawar Declaration of 2010 which details a similar hypothesis. Ali Basti (Golimar, Karachi) was attacked in 1978 by IJT-JI facists nearly two years before Iranian Revolution. Since atleast 1949, the Pakistani State has been acceeding space to Islamofascists and during the 1950s (anti-Ahmadi pogroms) and 1960′s, the Jamaati-e-Islami fascists were an auxilllary of the State culminating in the 1971 Genocide in Bangladesh where JI collaborated with the West Pakistan army against its own people. I was simply pointing out the flaw in your initial comment where you presented the anti-Shia pogroms in Kashmir and the rape and plunder of India by Abdali as some sort of a Persian (read Shia) action on Sunnis. I don’t understand this obsession with misrepresenting the violent actions of State-backed element as an Iran-Saudi proxy war.
Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan are being killed by State-sponsored ASWJ-LeJ terrorists. These groups like ASWJ-LeJ terrorists represent their sponsors (KSA, ISI) not Sunnis. This is not Sunni vs Shia sectarian violence as is being misrepresented by the majority of Pakistan’s media.
The current simplistic discourses being used by the Pakistani media fail to explain the massacre of Sunni Barelvis and moderate Deobandis at the hands of ISI-sponsored ASWJ-LeJ terrorists. In peddling the ISI’s manufactured false binary (Saudi vs Iran), he lost the plot. Some common fallacies often shared by Taliban apologists and (fake) liberals.
Furthermore, it is the repeated airing of the trite, simplistic, misdirected, reductionist theory of the “Saudi-Iran proxy war” that takes attention away from the role of the State actors. On the contrary, it is the military establishment that continues to support these State actors, the Judiciary that goes out of its way to release brazen mass killing Jihadists and the media that gives them both airtime and legitimacy (Ludhianvi, Aamir Liaquat, Farid Paracha, Orya Maqbool Jan, Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi) and also goes out of its way to give airtime to Taliban apologists like Hamid Gul and Imran Khan! Those who want to deny the role of these State actors are the same ones who keep hammering away their insensitive and deeply flawed thesis of “Saudi-Iran proxy wars” to dilute the sufferings of ALL those who are being killed by the Non-State actors.
If Shias are being killed by Sipah-e-Sahaba/Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi bcos they are somehow all Iranian fifth columnists, then what about the Ahmadis who are being killed by the same SSP/LeJ murderers?
Is the killing of Ahmadis part of a Timbuktu-Brazil proxy war in Pakistan? Or are the pogroms against the Sikhs in Pakistan by the Taliban due to a proxy conflict between Real Madrid and Barcelona??
As for the President being a Shia, what is the point?? Jinnah was a Shia as 15-20% of Pakistan’s population. If one thinks that this President or any other legitimately elected leader can overnight end this “Strategic Depth” that is responsible for nearly all the terrorism in Pakistan, policy, they being willfully obtuse.