The Shi’a question


Why fair game?

Even if genocide is an inappropriate term to explain continued persecution of the Shi’a, it can no longer be denied that the minority has long been a victim of institutional cleansing in this Islamic Republic. Their target and mass killings precede the TTP phenomenon by a good two decades. And for far too long those associated with power have been seen openly cajoling ‘proxies’ and ‘assets’ that prove useful elsewhere but come with a caveat – that the Shi’a, too, are fair game; something that the government has not had too many problems with, be it democratic or dictatorship.

Even though it has taken tens of thousands of deaths, the time has come for the government to come clean on this issue. How much longer will Islamabad look the other way as home grown warriors, supposedly to clandestinely liberate Kashmir, Afghanistan, etc, indulge in an ugly orgy of death and destruction at home, each time targeting helpless, innocent minorities; Christians, Ahmedis, Hindus, and especially the Shi’a? And the Shi’a are a minority only technically, otherwise they are a sizeable presence, and have been actively engaged in all essential parts of government, bureaucracy and academia since independence. Their leaders, seething with anger, cannot be faulted for holding the present government responsible for the unprecedented hike in attacks.

The government, meanwhile, is still without an actionable plan. It has been over two months since the APS tragedy, yet the enemy continues to outwit and outmaneuver the security apparatus. And the most important aspect of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations, a national narrative that brings people together, is still nowhere on the national priority list. The much trumpeted National Action Plan (NAP), therefore, is already in danger of becoming irrelevant. The government is reminded that this fight is as much a war of will as of bombs and bullets. And so far it has not proved up to the task. It must provide protection to the Shi’a, and other minorities, or at least admit failure in leading the nation in one of its darkest hours.