Over 60,000 Pakistanis have been killed by the extremists over the past few years. In the wake of Pakistan’s getting sucked into the war-on-terror after 9/11, for the Pakistan Army in particular, allies were switched to enemies and vice versa in a dizzyingly complex history, which is not the topic here. Suffice it to say that the roots of Jihadists’ rise lie in fatal miscalculations of the Army and the State in the past dating from the so-called ‘Afghan Jihad’. Thereafter, a decade of disastrous government policy has ultimately strengthened the very threat of Islamist militancy it officially intends to eliminate. The militants carry out their violent operations with utmost impunity, wherever they deem fit, with deeply destabilising consequences for an already chaotic Pakistan. The bomb attacks and killings according to experts have become bigger and more sophisticated. The targets also have become more diversified and include civilians and security forces, mosques and churches, men and women alike. About a 100 people, including over 50 from the Army and Police, have been killed in the past twenty four hours as I write these lines.
In the meanwhile the killing of the country’s Shias continues unabated. The latest episode in this seemingly endless tale of horror was the killing of 25 Shia pilgrims in Mastung yesterday. The dead included a number of women and children. Call it ‘ethnic cleansing’ or call it ‘genocide’, the semantics doesn’t alter the fact that Shias in Pakistan are being killed just for being Shias. Hardly a day goes by when a Shia is not killed somewhere in the country for his or her faith. The list goes on and on…
Defining genocide matters far less, analysing how it can be prevented is the real point. The legal definition of genocide is contained in the 1948 Genocide convention; in simple terms, it is the intentional, collective destruction of an entire human group based on national, racial, religious or ethnic identity.
It is necessary to think about the ingredients of genocide, which are:
•incitement to ethnic/religious hatred
•demonization of the target group
•radicalisation along ethnic or religious lines
•distribution of weapons to extremist groups
•preparation of lists of those to be exterminated
Pakistan’s decent into chaos and hell has meant that Shia Genocide has become a sideshow in a country being torn apart by terror. Sideshows in a war, by definition, are not centre focus either for policymakers or those who might call them to account in the media. With that kind of neglect, policy becomes erratic, often made on the hoof with little discernible strategy or careful analysis. Pakistan government’s policy about thwarting existential threat to the country’s Shias has not only been spectacularly counterproductive, it has also been grossly irresponsible. As a result, the sideshow can be even more brutal than the main theatres of war. And the tragedy is Pakistan`s.
Gone are the days when the officials at all levels of the State calculated that the costs of getting involved in rooting out Shia Killing exceeded the costs of remaining uniformed. It was a gross miscalculation and has come back to haunt Pakistan in the form of Jihadist extremism and sectarian schism now becoming a grave existential threat to the country.
We can still redeem this place as a country and a more rational nation to live in. The Pakistan Army seems to have a clear newer understanding that there will not be a Military Industrial Empire anymore unless jihadists are stamped out now. It is the political will to act and to mount an effective response to mass atrocities, let alone to root out the evil, which is blatantly absent.
On behalf of the dead and dying of Pakistan, all we are reduced to doing is to make noise.