They’re targeted because they are ethnic Hazaras. No, they’re killed because
they’re Shi’ites. No, Hazaras.
No, Shi’ites. This is an actual debate
going on between those who wish to whitewash the sectarian hatred long brewing
in Pakistan, and those who are cognizant of anti-Shi’ite hatred pervading among
militant Sunni terrorist groups.
Intolerant ideologies like Wahhabism and
Deobandism flourish in Pakistan, and Sunni extremists do not hesitate to
manifest their hatred and blood lust for the Shi’ite minority.
months massacres of Shi’ites have taken place with horrendous death tolls
including children and women.
The maimed and injured are
Activists are calling this the “Shia Genocide,” and repeatedly
the Pakistani government has failed to prevent bombings and attacks against
them. Moreover, the government is coming under intense pressure to proactively
protect the country’s Shi’ites, and bring terrorists to justice.
immediately point to Lashkare Janghvi (LeJ), an outlawed Sunni-militant
organization that usually claims responsibility after each massacre in both
Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times (January 2012) mentions former US
secretary of state Colin Powell as designating LeJ a terrorist organization, and
said “the group’s involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, a
Wall Street Journal correspondent, in 2002 ‘has been confirmed.’” In recent
years, LeJ has allied itself with the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida.
February 19, the Asian Human Rights Commission stated: “This recent blast on
February 17 is the second one.
The first one took place on January 10,
and killed 90 persons. Then in the short space of just one month and seven days,
another blast occurred which cost the lives of 107 persons. In both incidents
more than 500 persons were injured.
The second bombing took place despite
the presence of the army and one of its units, the Frontier Corp (FC) which was
assisted by more than three intelligence agencies working under the military
The Commission’s report emphasized the Pakistani government’s
heavy investments in recent years in intelligence agencies, both civilian and
Yet, suicide attacks and other kinds of violence occur on
nearly a daily basis. The armed forces in particular are secretive and keep
civilians at a distance when it comes to “national security affairs,” which
The Commission’s report contends that the Pakistani
military “treat the terrorists as friends-in-arms, hoping for their assistance
in the event of trouble after the withdrawal of the allied forces from
Afghanistan. It is evident that retired army officers are providing training to
NOW, WITH the steady rise in ruthless attacks targeting
Shi’ites, the media and government are compelled to address the issue. There is
even mention of hard-line Saudi Sunni influence in Pakistan’s ideological and
national security matrix, often fueling the anti-Shi’ite
Saudi ideological inspiration, institutional support through
building madrassas, and financial support to various militant groups dates back
to the General Zia ul-Haq era, around the time of the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan (1979), when he implemented an ultraorthodox Islamization of
LeJ operates openly in Pakistan, running hundreds of mosques,
promoting its venomous anti-Shi’ite ideology, referring to them as infidels and
authorizing them to be fair game as targets. Operating in Punjab province, LeJ
officials solicit funds unhindered, and according to the Commission’s report,
“the law minister of the Punjab government is notorious for providing protection
to the militants of banned organizations and these groups support him in the
Until recently, LeJ’s leader Malik Ishaq, roamed freely in
Pakistan, despite boasting about killing Shi’ites, and he visited Saudi Arabia
often, “where he gets VIP treatment and [is] given huge rewards for his ‘the
service to Islam.’” Following the last two recent attacks, Pakistani Shi’ites
staged protests demanding government action, while refusing to bury their dead.
The February 17 remote-controlled bombing in a busy Quetta market caused nearly
90 deaths and 200 injuries.
While many Pakistanis are sympathetic to
Shi’ite victimization, still many others wallow in denial. The utility of denial
and argumentative attitudes is beyond comprehension. The polemics of ethnic
Hazara identity versus sectarian Shi’ite identity are also
What’s the point? Innocent children, women, and men are dead
The Pakistani government showers the Shi’ites with many
promises, but with each new bombing, the promises ring hollow.
writer, a PhD, is an associate professor in the National Security Affairs
Department at the US Naval War College. The views expressed are her own.