Eric Avebury writes…We must heed the cries of the Hazaras

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.

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7 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Feb '13 - 12:37pm


    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.

    Yes, now, imagine the outcry if this had been Israelis killing Palestinians in Gaza.

    The double standards from the crowd who’ll march out under those circumstances stink.

  • Richard Dean 26th Feb '13 - 1:01pm

    What action is being suggested? It seems very difficult for most of us here in the West to understand what is going on, but we do need to do that if we are to know what practical things can be done to improve the situation. How does Islam get misinterpreted in this way? Are we supporting the right sides? One of our persistent mistakes in the past has been to be colonial about things, which of course just makes things worse.

  • Charles Beaumont 26th Feb '13 - 2:54pm

    The bottom line here is “fitna”: sectarian violence within Islam (largely between Shia and Sunni but also increasingly between different types of Sunni). The underlying proponents of fitna are Salafists, whose continued rise is a project of the Saudi government, with similar objectives being pursued by other Gulf monarchies financed by petrodollars. In Pakistan the state and particularly the ISI has been in a Faustian pact with Sunni extremists for decades, tacitly supported with Gulf money. LJ enjoys logistic and technical support from the Pakistani state because it is erroneously viewed as a strategic asset against India. Lord Avebury is entirely right to draw attention to this terrible slaughter, but the solution lies in Pakistan moving on from its paranoid obsession with India, which is used to justify state support to various terrorists (including the Taliban).

  • I find the insinuations by some that what goes on in Pakistan is, of its nature, incomprehensible and belongs to a different order of things than that inhabited by Civilized People to be both disturbing and of the same nature as Chamberlain’s avowed opinion that Czechoslovakia was “a far away country” and that the Czechs and Germans were “people of whom we know nothing”. Pakistan is not an unfamiliar country and its political, ethnic, and religious scenery have been extensively studied.

  • I think Charles Beaumont has summed it up pretty well though I might use a slightly different term for this situation. While the term fitna is indeed used to describe what we in English call sectarian violence, fitna has a wider usage as well implying either sedition or social discord and need not be violent.
    What has seen a rise in Pakistan (and other Muslim countries) as of late is the idea of takfeer (= calling someone a kaafir, i.e. infidel!). Anyone who disagrees with these violent terrorist groups under discussion is branded by them a kaafir (infidel) and is waajib-ul-qatl (liable to be killed). This lethal combination of takfeer and qatl (homicide) makes them particularly dangerous.
    One may therefore call these extremely intolerant, violent groups ‘takfeeri extremists’ who are against everyone and everything not in line with their ossified thinking resulting in a particularly narrow and literalist reading of scriptural literature. Their ‘godfather’ is the 13th-14th century theologian and bigot, Ibn Taymiyyah ( http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H039.htm ) of the Humbali School of Sunni Islam. He attacked all Muslim thinkers who placed reason at least at par if not above revelation; philosophers like Ibn Sina (Avicenna in Latin, http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H026.htm ) and al-Faraabi (Abunaser in Latin, http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H021.htm ) and Sufis (mystics / mystical philosophers) like Ibn al-Arabi (http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H022.htm ). Thus the absence of pluralism amongst all those who follow Ibn Taymiyyah’s very narrow and restricted aganda .
    Like LJ (lashkar-e-jhangvi = The Army of Jhang – a place near Lahore, Pakistan, where this ultra-militant, extremely violent movement was born), the SSP (banned) and its phoenix-child, ASWJ (ahl-e-sunnah wal jamaa’ah) and the TTP (tahreek-e-taalibaan paakistaan = The Pakistan Talibaan Movement) have the sole aim of wiping out religious minorities like the Shi’as as well as others, such as Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians etc., but their ire is particularly against the Shi’as who, comprising between 15-20 % (no reliable census exists) of the population of the country and having a healthy acceptance of pluralistic ideas and an alternative interpretation of Islamic ideals, constitute the biggest obstacle against turning Pakistan into a Taliban-dominated, tyrannical Caliphate. The Sunni-Sufis in the country too are treated as unwelcome and so targeted.
    The genocidal agenda of these extremist groups is directed not just against the Shi’a Dawoodi Bohra community but even more so against the much larger Shia Ithna ‘Ashari (The Twelver Shi’a) community of which the Hazaras represent about half a million at least. Quite ironically, Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a Twelver Shi’a (though politically he was very much of a secularist). In the eyes of these ‘takfeeri extremists’, therefore, Jinnah being a Shia was also an infidel!
    The alarming rise of these violent groups is the spread and increasing reach of ‘petrodollar Islam’ – the virulent Wahabi Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia that has taken root in Pakistan, esp. within its military intelligence, the ISI, which is a law unto itself and has come to dictate the foreign policy of the country as regards Pakistan’s neighbours, India, Iran and Afghanistan. All a legacy of the tyrant, Zia-ul-Haq, who promoted the Wahabi-centric Talibaan movement bankrolled by Saudi Arabia in the 80s which continues to financially support the spread of the highly intolerant Wahabi Islam worldwide .

  • Ed Shepherd 27th Feb '13 - 9:09pm

    “Yes, now, imagine the outcry if this had been Israelis killing Palestinians in Gaza. The double standards from the crowd who’ll march out under those circumstances stink.”
    But the bombings in Quetta are being carrried out by terrorists carrying out illegal actions in opposition to the government of Pakistan. If you want there to be an “outcry” about these actions, who should the outcry be aimed at? How much would a brutal terrorist group take of a protest march in Europe? If the Israeli government were to kill hundreds of people in such circumstances, there would be an outcry because it would be the actions of a recognised government extensively funded by the West and using many weapons supplied by the West. The subsequent “outcry” would be aimed at changing Western governments’ support for the Israeli government. The two situations are in no way comparable. Most people would condemn the actions in Pakistan but it is impossible to influence terrorist groups by holding protest marches in Europe. It is (theoretically) possible to influence the actions of Israel by protesting in Europe. Has anyone ever met anyone who supports the terrorist acts in Quetta but takes part in protests against the killing of Palestinian non-combatants by the Israeli military? No? Thought not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Feb '13 - 11:20pm

    Ed Shepherd

    If the Israeli government were to kill hundreds of people in such circumstances, there would be an outcry because it would be the actions of a recognised government extensively funded by the West and using many weapons supplied by the West.

    So if something offensive is done by some group of people who are not a recognised government, let’s say, a bunch of cartoonists, there would be no big outcry, because everyone would say “Oh, they’re just a bunch of cartoonists, not anyone important”?

    The subsequent “outcry” would be aimed at changing Western governments’ support for the Israeli government.

    I would think that any protest march against Israeli atrocities in Gaza would be aimed primarily at embarrassing Israel, at making them feel ashamed of their actions, and so leading them not to do such things again. I see absolutely no reason why we should suppose a vigorous protest aimed at embarrassing terrorist groups should not be just as effective – in fact if done by people vigorously asserting “We are Muslims and we reject what you say you are doing in our name – it is NOT what our religion is about” I should think it would be rather more effective than protest marches against Israel by the sort of people who usually dominate such things.

    Has anyone ever met anyone who supports the terrorist acts in Quetta but takes part in protests against the killing of Palestinian non-combatants by the Israeli military?

    How do I know if someone who takes part in protests against the killings of Palestinian non-combatants by the Israeli military does not support the terrorist acts in Quetta? Sorry, but if they can be moved to protest vigorously against the former, but not against the latter, I have to question whether they are really against the latter, because it seems to me someone who finds both just as distasteful would be equally motivated to protest against both.

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