Just over a week ago a massive bomb was detonated in a packed bazaar on the outskirts of Quetta, killing at least 92 people and seriously injuring more than 200.
Last month a double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road, Quetta took the lives of 108 people
These were the latest in a crescendo of genocidal attacks on the Shia Hazara community in Pakistan since the turn of the century, which was considered in a packed meeting I chaired at the House of Lords yesterday, February 25.
According to published accounts, these atrocities have left over 1,100 dead and 1,300 injured. In fact the total is far larger, many of the crimes being ignored or under-reported by the media. The total number of Shia deaths by assassination and massacre in 2012, more than half from the Hazara community from their own detailed records, was 1,450.
The extremist Sunni Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) claim responsibility for these atrocities. Their spokesman Abu Bakar Siddiq telephoned journalists to say they would continue to kill Shi’as regardless of the imposition of Governor’s Rule or the deployment of the army. They declare that not a single Hazara will remain alive in Balochistan.
In Karachi, the LJ’s genocidal hatred of the Shi’a is directed against the Dawoodi Bohra community, and targeted killings are reported from Rawalpindi, Gilgit, Faisalabad and other cities and towns. What is happening is a concerted and deliberate attempt to wipe out the entire Shia population of Pakistan Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but with particular concentration on leading intellectuals. That is genocide, as defined in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention.
Former LJ leader Malik Ishaq, who is suspected of involvement in dozens of murders, was released by the Lahore court in September 2011. He is now vice-president of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a Deobandi entity which succeeded the banned terrorist Sipah-e-Sahaba.
The ASWJ has an electoral pact with Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League to contest the forthcoming general election, so they will almost certainly have MPs in the next Parliament
Last Friday, in a belated response to demands by the governor of Balochistan for the central government to act against the terrorists, the police finally arrested Malik Ishaq on unspecified charges.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for swift and determined action against the LJ, but taking one assassin off the street is not going to halt their campaign to exterminate the kufr (infidels) and turn Pakistan into an ethnically and religiously pure Islamic Caliphate.
In all the years since violent racist organizations like the LJ have flourished, not one of their members has been convicted in a court of law. Nor has the Parliament legislated to make racial or religious hate speech a criminal offence
Worse, their ideology has infected the mainstream Barelvi sect, as evidenced by the widespread sympathy expressed by their members for the bodyguard who cold-bloodedly assassinated Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Taseer had merely called for clemency for a poor mother of five, sentenced to death on baseless charges of blasphemy. The growth of intolerance is exemplified not only by the blasphemy law, used to persecute religious minorities, but also by the targeted killing of its critics.
To produce the terrorists who kill anybody that disagrees with them, as well as Shias and other minorities, there has to be an aberrant interpretation of Islam. In Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in other countries of south, central and southeast Asia this is being propagated in madrassas that receive organizational help and financial support from Saudi Arabia. The cries of agony of the Hazaras, like the canary in the mine, should alert us to the even wider dangers they signal.
* Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury, is a working peer, and Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group. He blogs here.