violence against minorities in pakistan
The violence against minorities in Pakistan
Notwithstanding the unprecedented success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan as a state has failed to protect minority communities as the violence against them is still going on unabated. During Moharram — the holy month of Muslims that commemorates the great sacrifice of Husain, the grandson of the prophet of Islam, who stood against the tyrannical and oppressive regime of Yazid — unarmed, peaceful Shia mourners were targeted twice.
On October 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an imambargah (congregation hall) in the village of Chalghari, district Bolan of Balochistan province, killing 11 and critically injuring more than a dozen people. After one day, another sick-minded man indoctrinated with the ideology of terror detonated himself in Sindh’s Jacobabad district during a procession killing 22 in cold blood and injuring another 30.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a notorious banned outfit with a history of dreadful attacks against Shia Muslims in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for both these horrible acts. Officials from both provincial as well as federal governments, in a flurry of pre-written statements and condolence messages, were quick to condemn the attack with their shallow words. But everyone knows this is neither the first incident nor the last against Shia Muslims in Pakistan and the perpetrators and masterminds will face the same fate of getting off scot-free by being labelled as ‘unknown’ assailants.
Other than target killing and countless minor incidents against Shia Muslims over the decades, the first suicide attack against them was carried out in July 2003 when three armed terrorists, including a suicide bomber, attacked a Shia mosque in Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan, during Friday prayers, leaving 53 dead and 57 others critically injured. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), ever since July 2003 at least 28 suicide bombings have been carried out against Shias throughout Pakistan, including in the cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sheikhupura, Hangu, Parachinar and Orakzai. Hundreds of people have been killed while scores have been permanently crippled.
The same is the story of non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. A number of attacks have been carried out against the Christians and the Ahmedis by the same mindset that targets Shias. One may quite rightly ask where the state of Pakistan has been during this whole saga of terror and tyranny. Well, the answer is simple: the state of Pakistan either remained absent or was a mere, silent spectator. Notwithstanding the red-handed arrest of many culprits at the crime scene, no official account has ever been given about the perpetrators, backers, financers or masterminds of these heinous crimes or the fates of the apprehended murderers either. Despite setting up military courts, none of the murderers involved in the killings of minority communities have been brought to justice. A majority of the terrorists executed so far have been convicted in anti-state activities or attacks against civil, military officials or law enforcement agencies. This gives a wrong impression especially to the marginalised communities in Pakistan of how their blood carries less weight and that the civil and military authorities do not care about their blood being spilled like water on the roads, streets and in places of worship in Pakistan.
There could be dozens of motives behind violence against minority communities in Pakistan: a) it could have an international dimension as part of the big game being played in the Middle East b) the international dual between the Shias and the Salafis being fought in the Middle East c) the local agenda of marginalising certain castes, creeds, religions and sects, and d) the clandestine operations of rival intelligence agencies to foment violence and hatred to destabilise the country. Whatever the cause, the government cannot deny its failure in fulfilling its constitutional obligation to protect its citizens’ lives, honour, properties and beliefs.
The Chief Minister (CM) Sindh and the CM Balochistan should have to answer to why foolproof security to the mourners was not provided in the far-flung rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Whose responsibility is it to protect people’s lives and honour? Is their only responsibility to enjoy perks and privileges, and live a luxurious life on the national kitty without delivering better? If they cannot protect the people, they should say goodbye and go home. Even if the sectarian violence were being fomented by a ‘foreign hand’ it cannot be done without the collaboration of a ‘local hand’. To stop the foreign hand why does the government not chop off the local hand? The LeJ has publically claimed responsibility for various massacres. Does it require rocket science on the part of the government to understand who provides the ideological bases to the LeJ or where the LeJ recruits its foot soldiers from?
According to experts on counterinsurgency, to confront militancy based on a certain ideology, the first and foremost step is to confront the ideology and provide an alternative narrative to prevent innocent minds felling prey to violent ideology that stems new militant recruits. Those responsible for providing ideological bases to militancy in Pakistan are roaming free providing sanctuaries and militant recruits to terrorist outfits. If the civil and military leadership is serious in its fight against the militants, why have some holy cows been left untouched despite their overt involvement in extremism and militancy? What do we have as an alternative narrative against the extremists?
We plea the freedom of Indian held Kashmir on every international forum and urge the international community to take action against gross human rights violations in Kashmir. But do we have any right or moral ground to criticise others when we have failed our own country when it comes to protecting minorities and leaving them at the mercy of terrorists? The National Action Plan (NAP), which seems like more of a national in-action plan, was put in place a year ago by the government but, ironically, instead of curtailing hatemongers, it is being abused to suppress the fundamental rights of peaceful citizens in Pakistan. Both oppressor and the oppressed are being gauged with the same yardstick. If the federal and provincial law enforcement agencies had used half of the official means they use to abuse the NAP, both the tragic incidents in Bolan and Jacobabad could have been averted. Does the NAP stand for curtailing the fundamental rights of the people or ensuring people’s right to life and freedom of thought and expression in a peaceful manner?
The right to life and freedom of thought and expression, and religion are inborn human rights also included in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every member at the UN has an international obligation for the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s government is responsible for fulfilling its constitutional obligation to protect all its citizens irrespective of their faith. As a responsible state, it is also the international obligation of Pakistan to protect minority communities and ensure their inborn fundamental right to life is observed in its true essence.
The writer is an IT professional and passionate writer and speaker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org