Is Shia genocide an adequate term to describe the plight of Pakistan’s Shia Muslims?

Related posts: Misrepresentation of Shia genocide

Shia genocide: what’s in a name? – by Dr. Taqi

“If this isn’t Shia genocide, what is?” – by Zofeen Ebrahim

Participate in international campaign to stop Shia genocide in Pakistan: Sample letters

An increasing number of journalists, bloggers and rights activists in Pakistan and abroad are using the term “Shia genocide” to describe the ongoing massacres and target killings of Shia Muslims currently taking place in Pakistan since late 1980s. Here is a detailed database of incidents of Shia genocide in Pakistan:

There are, however, at least some people who are reluctant to use this term due to various (personal, political or legal) reasons.

This post offers an overview of various definitions and opinions on this matter in order to assess whether massacres of Shias in Pakistan qualify to be classified as genocide.

According to Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn:

“Genocide is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator” (The History and Sociology of Genocide , 1990).

The intent of Pakistan’s military-dominated State (army, its various intelligence agencies, subservient civilian bureaucracy and government) in massacre of Shia Muslims is evident through it ongoing support to the Jihadi-sectarian militants. Here is an archive of about 300 articles and reports on this topic:

While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
— Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II

This Convention, to which Pakistan has been a party since 1957, applies to killings of members of a racial or religious group as such with intent to destroy that group in whole or in part.

Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:

1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and

2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.”

Article III describes five punishable forms of the crime of genocide:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide. ”

It is a crime to plan or incite genocide, even before killing starts, and to aid or abet genocide: Criminal acts include conspiracy, direct and public incitement, attempts to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.
Punishable Acts

The following are genocidal acts when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence:

Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.

Causing serious bodily or mental harm includes inflicting trauma on members of the group through widespread torture, rape, sexual violence, forced or coerced use of drugs, and mutilation.

Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.

The law protects four groups – national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.

A national group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by a common country of nationality or national origin.

An ethnical group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common cultural traditions, language or heritage.

A racial group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by physical characteristics.

A religious group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common religious creeds, beliefs, doctrines, practices, or rituals.

As explained above, the crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action. “Intentional” means purposeful. Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts.

Intent is different from motive. Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorrial integrity, etc.), if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.

In Article II, the phrase “in whole or in part” has been subject to much discussion by scholars of international humanitarian law. The phrase “in whole or in part” is important. Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members – mass murder. But an individual criminal may be guilty of genocide even if he kills only one person, so long as he knew he was participating in a larger plan to destroy the group.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Trial Chamber I – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2001) ICTY8 (2 August 2001) that Genocide had been committed. In Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Appeals Chamber – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2004) ICTY 7 (19 April 2004) paragraphs 8, 9, 10, and 11 addressed the issue of in part and found that “The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough to have an impact on the group as a whole.”

In the context of Shias of Pakistan, it is empirically recorded that a large number of Shia doctors, lawyers, literary personalities, religious leaders, political leaders, merchants have been killed in the last three decades. Overall, this has has a visible impact on the economic and social status of Shias. Today, there is not a single Shia family in Pakistan which has not lost a relative or a friend in target killing by LeJ-ASWJ militants.

In Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic – Appeals Chamber – Judgment – IT-98-33 (2004) ICTY 7 (19 April 2004) there is also this paragraph:

“In addition to the numeric size of the targeted portion, its prominence within the group can be a useful consideration. If a specific part of the group is emblematic of the overall group, or is essential to its survival, that may support a finding that the part qualifies as substantial within the meaning of Article 4 [of the Tribunal’s Statute].” In paragraph 13 the judges raise the issue of the perpetrators’ access to the victims: “The historical examples of genocide also suggest that the area of the perpetrators’ activity and control, as well as the possible extent of their reach, should be considered. … The intent to destroy formed by a perpetrator of genocide will always be limited by the opportunity presented to him. While this factor alone will not indicate whether the targeted group is substantial, it can—in combination with other factors—inform the analysis.”

Clearly the above description is applicable to the contexts of Toori Shias of Parachinar (more than 3000 of them have been killed in the last few years), Shia Hazaras of Quetta (about 600 have been killed), and non-Shia Hazaras of Quetta (about 200 have been killed). Non-Hazara Shias have suffered the most in terms of the ratio of population. Out of a total population of 20,000 non-Hazara Shias of Quetta, at least 200 have been killed which constitutes at least one per cent of their total population.

Stages of genocide:

Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, has described “The 8 Stages of Genocide” to explain that genocide develops in a number of stages that are “predictable but not inexorable”. Following is an explanation of each stage, its suggested preventive measure and a brief mapping to the situation in Pakistan.

1. Classification: People are divided into “us and them”. Right from its creation in 1947 Pakistani state has been dominated by Sunni Deobandi scholars. For example, despite the fact that the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah was himself a Shia Muslim, his State funeral was not allowed to be led by a Shia Imam. A private family funeral was led by a Shia Imam while the Stat funderal was led by a Sunni Deobandi cleric. This was an official declaration that Shias were “them”, not “us”. The process was expedited through the adoption of the notorious Objectives Resolution by Pakistan cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan which publicly expressed the country’s commitment to the Quran and Sunnat, thus rejecting the Shia Muslims notion of commitment to the Quran and Ahl-e-Bait. Further Othering of Shias was institutionalized during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime (1977-1988) which blatantly tried to impose a Sunni, in particular Deobandi-Salafi, ideology and laws on Pakistani society. It is during the same period that violent Jihadi Salafi-Deobandi organizations (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb-e-Islami, other Jihadi groups aligned with Jamaat-e-Islam, Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) etc) were cultivated, founded and trained by Pakistan army for global Jihadist operations in Afghanistan and India. Almost all of these organizations are vehemently anti-Shia treating Shia Muslims as infidels. It is during the same period that Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) was created in Jhang in order to control and punish Shia Muslims and other deviant and minority sects. Preventive measure: “The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend… divisions.”

2. Symbolization “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…”. Usually Shia Muslims are ridiculed as Rafizi, Kafir, Sabai, lesser Muslims, a deviant sect. Their religious traditions are frowned upon and ridiculed. Preventive measure: “To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden as can hate speech”.

3. Dehumanization “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.” Shias are variously described as the worst infidel, as insects, vermins. Shia activists are ridiculed as trolls, viruses. Preventive measure: “Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen.” No Pakistani or international leader of significance has condemned Shia genocide. Instead vague terms are used to misrepresent, justify or deny it. Known terrorists and militants of banned organizations are allowed to roam freely inciting violence against Shias.

4. Organization “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…” There is ample evidence of Jihadist training camps where Pakistan army trained Jihadi Deobandi and Salafi militants, several of whom are also a part of ASWJ – LeJ. Preventive measure: “The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on government, particularly Pakistan army generals, involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations”

5. Polarization “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…” “Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups”. In Pakistan’s context, there is evidence that human rights groups are either under resourced or themselves under direct threat from Pakistan army to maintain their silence on Shia genocide and other atrocities.

6. Preparation “Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity…” “At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. …” There is evidence of segregation of Shias due to their racial features (e.g. Hazara Shias), physical marks of self-flagellation (a Shia tradition) on their backs, identification through names and castes and subsequent massacres in Gilgit-Baltistan, Quetta and Kurram Agency.

7. Extermination “It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human”. “At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection.” In Pakistan’s context, this situation is particular applicable to the context of Shias of Parachinar, Hangu, D.I.Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi and Quetta.

8. Denial “The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…” “The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts” Given Pakistani courts subservience to Pakistan army due to various reasons, there is no chance that the perpetrators of Shia genocide will be punished by them.

Legal precedence

The term Bosnian Genocide is used to refer either to the genocide committed by Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995,[49] or to ethnic cleansing that took place during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War (an interpretation rejected by a majority of scholars).

In 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judged that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide.

On 26 February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Bosnian Genocide Case upheld the ICTY’s earlier finding that the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide.

It may be noted that less than 8000 Muslims were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. In contrast, more than 10,000 (up to 19,000) Shia Muslims have been killed in Pakistan in gradually increasing slow motion genocide in the last few years, which is still happening.

Ways to dilute Shia genocide:

Misrepresenting ‪Shia Genocide is not much different from Ahmadinejad’s antisemitic attempt at misrepresenting Jewish Holocaust.

Several people in Pakistani media and society use ethnic terms (Hazara), sectarian terms (Sunni vs Shia), diluting terms (ShiaKilling) to misrepresent Shia genocide. There’s so much effort to ignore or misrepresent Shia genocide in Pakistan.

1. Denial. Shias are not being particularly killed. Everyone is being killed in Pakistan, no one is safe.

2. Justify: Shias are being killed because they insult the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet). Shias are being killed because in Iran, Shias are killing Sunnis.

3. Misattribution: Shias are being killed not by LeJ-ASWJ-Taliban but by agents of RAW, Mossad and CIA.

4. Shias are being killed because their is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both Sunnis and Shias are being killed. This is Sunni vs Shia sectarian violence.

5. This is ethnic, not sectarian. Hazara genocide is taking place in Quetta which has nothing to do with Shia genocide. There is no Shia genocide. The issue has been blow out of proportion.

It is now amply documented and established that majority of peaceful Sunnis reject and disown ASWJ-SSP terrorists. Both Shias and Sunnis (Barelvis and moderate Deobandis) are being killed by the same groujp (ASWJ-SSP). Therefore, presenting Shia genocide as sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias is an intellectual dishonesty. In a similar vein of dishonesty, media used to call frequent ambush of Talibans on Shias of Parachinar, Hangu and DI khan as “Tribal feud”.

We encourage our readers to review Saroop Ijaz’s bold and clear article on Express Tribune (4 March 2012) on this topic. Saroop writes:

The Shia Muslims are being systematically murdered in Pakistan. Use the word ‘genocide’ and people would begin to protest and bring forth the dustiest of legal definitions. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is slightly less contentious and is now occasionally being used in the case of the Hazara and other Shia. Reflect on the full import of the term for a moment, it has the implication that some people are merely filth and murder is a way to cleanse the impurity. Repulsive thoughts; are they not, but this is the mindset that is plainly looking us in the face. It is not ‘sectarian strife’ or ‘conflict’, since that would presume the existence of at least two parties with a semblance of parity. The euphemisms would be silly and disingenuous at all times, but what makes them wicked is that it is either fear or prejudice which leads to their usage. To admit or be open to the possibility that the Shia are being slaughtered through an orchestrated scheme, in a country with the second-highest Shia population in the world is to be open to the realisation of just how deep the rot has spread.

Similar views were expressed by Dr. Taqi:

What Professor Roger Smith et al had written about the genocide-denying scholars is also apt for such media obfuscation: “Where scholars (in the present case the media) deny genocide in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have most dire reverberations. Their message in effect is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over … (they) contribute to the deadly psychohistorical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.”

Why does the media not identify the victims — and the perpetrators — for who they are? The answer is not simple and has its roots in the media persons being poorly informed, fearful of the perpetrators, or downright complicit. Many well-meaning people are genuinely unaware of who some of the victims are.

Before discussing the role of deep state-supported militants in silencing the media, activists and politicians, it is pertinent to mention another deflection tactic used by genocide deniers, i.e. the use of terms like sectarian warfare. When the former French president Francois Mitterrand was asked about the genocide in Rwanda, his infamous response was, “Genocide or genocides? I don’t know what one should say!” Mitterrand was effectively laying the groundwork for defending the French-supported Hutus through ‘double genocide theory’, implying that violence was mutual. Similar false narratives that allege Iranian support for the Shias and present the Shias’ genocide in Pakistan as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rife.

The false narratives notwithstanding, we are not in the presence of an unnamed crime. As this newspaper of record wrote in its April 16, 2012 editorial: “Quetta in particular has become the theatre of this sectarian genocide.” The genocide of the Shias has put their very existence in jeopardy throughout Pakistan.

But as far as the Shia genocide goes, sealing up the windows is precisely what seems to be happening in Pakistan. The media, mullahs, most politicians and, most importantly, the military, are all complicit in this conspiracy of silence. The activists, on the other hand, remain weak, under threat and consumed by semantics to highlight, forcefully and meaningfully, the systematic extermination of the Shia. The ordinary Pakistani’s apathy is reminiscent of the second part of Glover’s quote: “The world would be a terrible place if the whole truth about this aspect of us was what Norman Geras had called ‘the contract of mutual indifference’: we leave other people in peril un-rescued and believe that others will do the same to us.”

The Iran connection and nonsense peddled about the imaginary tit-for-tat sectarian warfare are red herrings to divert focus from the compact between the Pakistani military establishment and its jihadist proxies used as lynchpins of the Pakistani foreign policy agenda. The seeds of this symbiosis were sown right at the inception of Pakistan, with each subsequent military regime continuing to do its part in grooming the relationship. The adoption of Islam-based national ideology under Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq’s wholesale Islamisation, Pervez Musharraf’s duplicitous policy of using jihadists while milking the west for ‘enlightened moderation’, and ultimately General Kayani’s overt India-centricity has provided the Islamist terrorists a continuity of patronage to the extent that now the tail may be wagging the dog.
The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn had written, “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.” The Pakistani brass had made a conscious decision to not just deploy ideology but religious ideology to further its domestic and foreign policy agenda, and along the way, chose a particularly virulent strain of exclusivist religious extremism whose thirst would hardly be quenched by Shia blood.

To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, Pakistanis perhaps view the sectarian cleansing and genocide as direct threats to their furniture. They are oblivious that the exclusivist ideologies like Takfir or Nazism never stop at one victim group — or stop on their own.

In the face of public indifference, lack of political will and the state might protecting the perpetrators, honest witnessing and reporting takes on an unprecedented importance and urgency. Had the Jewish people thrown into gas chambers been identified merely as Germans or Poles, the world conscience might have never been awakened. It is therefore imperative that the Shia victims are identified and named accurately. And equally important is to name the perpetrators, when possible. When mass media misrepresents or obscures information about these atrocities, it becomes incumbent upon the human rights activists to report that neither the crime is nameless nor the victims faceless — it is a Shia genocide. They should be the last ones to seal up the windows.

Apparently, the portraying of Shia genocide as Sunni-Shia sectarian violence or ethnic violence etc is aimed at deflecting the responsibility of Shia genocide from the real killers: i.e., Pakistan army, which has recently enabled further Shia genocide through the tacit support to the Defence-e-Pakistan Council, an alliance of Islamist religio-political groups comprising anti-Shia Jihadi-sectarian terrorists.

Shia genocide discourse

Only recently, a network like Al-Jazeera called it Shia genocide,

Other leading newspapers e.g., Dawn, Express Tribune, Daily Times, The Hindu etc have described it as Shia genocide.

Anita Joshua (The Hindu)

Zofeen Ibrahim (Dawn)

Khuldun Shahid (Pakistan Today) ,

Dr Mohammd Taqi (Daily Times) ,

Saroop Ejaz (Express Tribune)

Pakistan is also being placed in Shia genocide watch list now

All such aforementioned writers are few of the most respected names in media. Never have they shied away to use the term Shia genocide because they are aware of the magnitude of the problem and plight Shias are faced with. The term Shia genocide has been used by key political leaders and scholars, e.g., Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Husain Haqqani, Dr. A.Q. Khan etc.



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