The tide of Shia genocide in Pakistan – by D Asghar

The ones in our land who are denying what is rightly termed as ‘Shia genocide’ are actually aligning with the wrong side of history

When a fellow writer on Twitter retweeted a remark as satire, it just resonated with me and perhaps with many others, very loud and clear. In the wake of shameful killings of many Shias in Quetta, it said, “Remember Pakistan was created to protect the interests of Muslims of the subcontinent.” Very sadly, looking at the entire former subcontinent, where Muslims are in most peril is no other place than Pakistan. No, I am not going to bore the readers with the usual rhetorical history and the reasons for all this mess. By now, most people know about the root causes and those who do not either are downright ignorant or fail to overcome their tall egos to embrace the reality. When people in our parts of the world deny the existence of the Holocaust and Hitler’s extermination of Jews, they demonstrate their mental calibre. What happened after that is a known fact. A mighty, well-armed and ferocious Hitler was unable to wipe out the Jews. So the ones in our land who are denying what is rightly termed as ‘Shia genocide’ are actually aligning with the wrong side of history. Those who are hell bent on exterminating the Shias of Pakistan must take a lesson or two from history. I am afraid it is wishful thinking on my part. The history that I am referring to is rejected as a fabrication of Yahood and Nasara (Jews and Christians) by the faithful.

When an acclaimed and one of my favorite writers Mohammed Hanif said, “Had Mr Jinnah, the great Quaid-e-Azam been with us right now, he would be running for his life for being a Shia,” he is absolutely on the dot. My intent is not to regurgitate what I have been advocating for a few years at various venues. As these lines are being written, the protestors have not left the Alamdar Road in Quetta for the last four days. Hats off to the protestors, who have refused to bury their loved ones so they can get the attention of a toothless government and perhaps demonstrate their heart-wrenching plight to the entire world. It is beyond unfortunate that a PPP-led government that has been a victim of this gruesome scourge of terrorism itself has been quite incapable and ineffective. When it comes to playing the victim at Garhi Khuda Buksh on almost all anniversaries of their slain leaders, they do not hold back one bit. But when it comes to taking any concrete measures to prevent such attacks, they act as besieged spectators. Even if the so-called long march and this horrific incident are perhaps interrelated and part of some grand conspiracy to dislodge the democratic setup, it is disheartening to see the otherwise slick and smart president perhaps acting helpless.

It took an opposition leader, Imran Khan, to reach Quetta to show solidarity with the victims to move the prime minister and his associates to follow his lead. This prime minister sets a very poor example. The honourable president’s dismal reaction is also very perplexing and equally depressing. One can only hope that both leaders of the state can be with the people to chant in the same manner: ‘Balochistan Khappay’ and ‘Shia genocide is unacceptable’. As I said on twitter and I will repeat here, there comes a time where all politics and careful moves have to take a backseat. The inefficiency and inability to mingle with the victims, to alleviate their concerns and to take effective and corrective measures to prevent such horrific incidents from being repeated in future will haunt the present government at the ballot box. Make no mistake, the opposition will capitalise on this disaster and sway public opinion in their favour. But mark my words, they will not be able to accomplish much either, if they ever make it to Islamabad. Here are a few of the reasons. Society, as a whole, is so immune to religious bigotry and hatred that it is all considered business as usual. So long as militant groups with prefixes like Lashkar, Jaish and Sipah are operating with blanket impunity, there is no hope. Unless the general public and above all the clergy and their religio-political parties stop fanning the rampant discriminatory behaviour, all these sit-ins are futile. Until and unless textbooks preparing the future leaders with half-baked truths are revised, the future of this nation remains bleak.

It may hurt a few, but what the heck. Every time such incidents occur, the social media goes abuzz with who has and has not condemned such genocide. It is beyond foolish to expect that those who are killing people based on their perverted logic give heed to what any of these good for nothing politicians say or their condemnations. The hate mongers say it clearly that they will continue their agenda, come what may. So without a comprehensive counter-religious fanaticism plan and a targeted anti-terrorism policy, no matter who sits in the Aiwan-e-Saddar, it will be the same old but painful story. The ill-equipped law enforcement agencies cannot match the sophisticated explosives and weaponry of the terrorists and hate mongers. Try whatever rule — elected, governor, or this land’s most revered, the military, it is a recipe in futility. By the way, citizens who are fuming on social media or yelling at the sit-ins, a word for you as well. The slogans will not do a darn thing until you fork out your fair share in taxes to demand corrective measures. A country where a fraction of the population pays its fair share in taxes has to be living in a fool’s paradise to expect miracles. Simply put, you get what you pay for. Nothing in this world is free. It never has been and never will be.

The writer is a Pakistani-American mortgage banker. He blogs at and can be reached at He tweets at

One response to “The tide of Shia genocide in Pakistan – by D Asghar”

  1. By Waris Husain
    Sectarian violence
    The government and the army must fulfill their international duties, and more importantly their duties towards the Shias of Pakistan who are citizens equal to all

    Responsibility to protect

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    A Rangers official stands alert during the January 14 strike against the killing of Shias

    On January 10, nearly 100 people were killed in a terrorist attack in a Hazara Shia neighborhood in Quetta. The twin bombing claimed by sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is part of a series of orchestrated attacks on Shias all over Pakistan.

    About 375 Shias were killed because of their faith either in terrorist attacks or ride-by shootings in Karachi in 2012 alone. Over the last decade, the attacks have shown a genocidal intent. In 2004, 56 Shias were killed during a procession, where it was known they would take part in a religious ceremony. Last year, 20 young Shia men were stopped on a bus and murdered in front of their families after the assailants discovered their faith. In another horrific instance, the Taliban kidnapped a group of Pakistani servicemen, released their Sunni captives, while slitting the throat of the Shia ones.

    The state must also deal sternly with incitement to violence through speech or writing
    The Genocide Convention, which was one of the first international conventions to have nearly unanimous support around the globe, defines genocide as killing or injuring “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.” Public statements by anti-Shia sectarian militant groups also depict genocidal intent.

    But since the Genocide Convention was written in the post-World War II era, it did not conceive of non-state actors, like terrorists, carrying out genocidal acts. Therefore, for the most part, the convention only punishes states or countries for carrying out genocide, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) confirmed this in the Genocide Case.

    In this case, concerning the murder of 25,000 Bosnians by Serbians, the court held that Serbia was not guilty of committing genocide, because the murders were carried out by non-state actors over which Serbia did not have “effective control”.

    The rule that came out of the decision seemed to be that a nation will not be held guilty for genocide unless they had effective control over the people carrying out the genocidal acts. When applied to Pakistan, this decision would mean that the state could not be held liable for the genocide of Shias or Hazaras unless it could be proven that the government had “effective control” over sectarian groups.

    It is also debatable whether the hundreds of Shias that were killed last year in Pakistan, or the thousands who were targeted over the past decade, constitutes genocide comparable to Rwanda, which left 500,000 to 1,000,000 dead. However, this debate belies the point that Pakistan has an international legal responsibility to ensure that the Shias don’t face the same fate as the Tutsis or the Bosnians.

    A principle that has recently emerged in the international law is called the responsibility to protect, and it was used by the ICJ to hold Serbia liable in the same cases described above. Although the court found that Serbia was not guilty of the direct commission of genocide, they held that Serbia violated its duty to protect Bosnians from the fate they suffered.

    The question posed by the court for this crime was whether the state “has the capacity to influence the actions of a person likely to commit or already coming genocide,” which is far easier to prove than “effective control.” While it would be hard to prove that this PPP-led civilian government has the “capacity to influence” the same terrorist groups that killed their party leader just a few years back, but could the same be said about the army?

    As such, a state’s duty to protect people from genocide does not wait until thousands of people are exterminated at one time, but rather a state is responsible to protect “at the instant that [it] learns of, or should normally have learned of” serious risks that genocide will be committed.

    While the increasing killings of Shias and Hazaras have gone unnoticed by the public, the recent Quetta bombings are proof for Pakistanis and their state that a campaign to eradicate their fellow citizens is already in effect and moving quickly. However, although militant groups have been laying the foundation for a murder campaign to target a certain group, the peaceful sit-ins supporting Shias and Hazaras from Lahore to Quetta show a glimmer of hope that the public will not sit by tacitly.

    The government and the army must capitalize on the growing public pressure to provide security for Shias and Hazaras by prosecuting the culprits behind the Quetta massacre and all others who commit hate crimes.

    Public incitement to violence or sectarian enmity through speech or writings should also be dealt with harshly by the state as a crime in itself.

    The constitution will also have to be reexamined to ensure that it does not allow for religious differentiation which can be used by genocidal actors in the future. Without taking these institutional steps, the government and the army risk violating their international duties, but more importantly, their duties to the Shias of Pakistan, who are citizens and humans equal to all.