The conclusion of the Hazara sectarian killings issue in Machh, followed by six days of protesting by the bereaved, is this: one man’s ego prevailed over the plight of many. Politics prevailed over humanity. And obstinance of power, prevailed over the languish of broken hearts.
The Hazara killings in Machh, on January 3rd, may have been perpetrated by the Islamic State, at the behest of foreign enemies who wish to destabilise Pakistan across sectarian lines; but it is not the killings that caused a rift in Pakistan society—instead, it is the callousness of the Prime Minister that did.
The plight of Shia Hazara community
But, keeping aside fleeting political sentiments, Hazara killings in Machh are symptomatic of a deeper sectarian malady that festers at the core of our socio-political structure. This is not a one-off incident. It cannot be merely viewed through the lens of cross-border terrorism. Instead, any constructive conversation about the tragedy in Macch, must be seen through the prism of unconscionable sectarian atrocities, committed against the Hazara community, over the past twenty years. According to local sources, since 2000, there have been more than 78 incidents of targeted killings of Hazara, in Balochistan. And each one of these was carried out on the basis of sectarian (Shia-Sunni) divide, which has remained largely unaddressed by the State of Pakistan.
The recent wave of violence in Balochistan is being viewed in terms of the regional security narrative and upcoming CPEC projects. It has been argued that inimical forces, from across the border, are perpetrating this violence to thwart Pakistan’s cooperation with China, and undermine CPEC initiatives. That may be true, to a large extent. However, such a narrative must not be used to diminish the specific and targeted plight of the Hazara community, which stems from a singular article of their faith—Hub-e-Ali (A.S.). The Shia Hazara community was being targeted much before the CPEC projects were ever conceived, and their plight is likely to continue (if unattended) much after the regional Great Game is won or lost.
Violence against Shia citizens of our country, from Parachinar to Sehwan Sharif to Noorani Shah and Shikarpur, reflects a systematic killing of Shias across Pakistan, by organisations and individuals who continue to slip through the (purposefully) porous grasp of our law enforcement agencies. In fact, according to official statistics, since 2001, more than 7,000 Shias have been targeted and killed in Pakistan.
The systematic genocide of Shias in Pakistan, and in particular members of the Hazara community, usually commands no more than a momentary space in our news cycle. The majority of our nation and its political elite, feign concern over such killings, up until the next press conference by some two-bit politician captures our attention. And just like that, the coffins stretched on Alamdar Road in Quetta, or the overall plight of Shias in Pakistan, will fade into the criminal recesses of an impotent society.
Is the State complicit?
Why is the killing of peaceful Shia citizens no longer a soul-wrenching episode in Pakistan? More pertinently, why is the killing of Shia (and other religious minorities) a mere inconvenience for our polity, deserving no more than a token statement of meaningless condemnation? Why is our political, military, and judicial leadership mute on the systematic elimination (genocide?) of anyone who beats his chest to the call of ‘Ya Hussain (A.S.)!’?
Why is it that (despite the killing of Malik Ishaaq) our counter-terrorism efforts have never expanded to specifically focus on organisations such as SSP, LeJ, and ASWJ? Why is it that individuals like Maulana Ludhianivi, or his cronies, continue to find space within the corridors of power? Why are militant leaders, who openly propagate the killings of Shias, allowed to actively participate in the public and national discourse? Why does ‘Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir!’ continue to be graffitied across our urban and rural centres? Why have the madrassas and organizations that actively incite hatred against Shias, been bestowed with State land in Karachi? Why are leaders of such organisations given political protection in Punjab? Why is their evil dominion tolerated in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad?
There can be no denial of the fact that the State of Pakistan does not care much about the lives or security of Shias. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that our State and its institutions are complicit in the killing of Shias. Despite thousands of innocent deaths, there has never been any action, suo moto or otherwise, by the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the killing of Shias. As coffins lay on the streets of Quetta and Parachinar, no judicial or political conscience was jolted into action. No sustainable military action was specifically initiated against Sunni militant outfits. And the few (powerless) individuals, who had the moral integrity to voice support for the Shia community, were quickly silenced under threat of violence and retribution.
An unspoken bias against the community
A careful look at our national paradigm would reveal that Shias are not welcomed in the stratosphere of our State’s decision-making process. Despite almost 20 percent of Pakistan’s population being Shia, a far smaller fraction finds itself in the national and provincial legislatures. Even fewer are inducted in the Cabinet. Fewer still are part of the bureaucratic and Khaki top-brass. And hardly any one is elevated to the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan.
There is an unspoken bias against Shias being inducted within our corridors of power. And the few Shias who, from time to time, have made their personal mark in the fields of medicine, academia, literature or law, have (for the most part) been targeted through a systematic effort to eliminate their influence in our society.
If we were to pause for a moment, and ask ourselves as to why the Shias are being massacred in our land, there would be no answer forthcoming. We would realise that there is no event in our national or Islamic history that justifies hatred towards those who believe in the infallibility of the Prophet (S.A.W.W.) and his progeny (A.S.). In fact, even a cursory reading of history or religion would make it painfully clear that, over the past thirteen hundred years, hub-e-Ali (A.S.), even when it was silently professed, was met with violence and militancy. And, in the present day and age, this militancy is at its fiercest in Pakistan.
Here is the truth: even if all the Shias, across the world were to be shot at a point blank range, Hussain Ibn-e-Ali (A.S.) would be the Haq and Yazid would be the Baatil. Even if hub-e-Ali (A.S.) were to be declared a crime (nay, a sin!), in every jurisdiction across the world, the love of Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.) will remain (according to Quran and Hadith) the eternal key for hereafter. Even if all the Shias were to drop dead, this very moment, Imam Mahdi (A.S.), the last surviving son of Ali Ibn-e-Abu Talib (A.S.), will usher in the final reckoning.
When that happens, as it must, those who killed Shias, those who supported this barbarity, those who remained silent, and those who looked the other way, and those who did not come to hear their plight, will be made to answer. And there, before the Seat of Eternal Power, our worldly excuses and mountains of ego, will find no favour.
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. This article originally appeared in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.