Parachinar and Sectarianism: Are Shia Becoming Next Bengalis?

The tragic situation in Parachinar has turned from bad to worst. First, the people are attacked repeatedly and agencies appear to be completely outfoxed as even in most secure areas, still terrorists are able to carry out attacks easily. The most recent attack which killed scores of innocents was virtually ignored, as PM preferred to condole those killed in Bahawalpur accident, and COAS preferred to spend his time at LoC.

Meanwhile, as the poor people of Parachinar protested their treatment, their cries were virtually ignored by major media groups adding to confusion and making the people feel helpless and abandoned. Then, the insult became injury as self-styled social media ‘defence analysts’ began a campaign to defame and threaten these Pakistani citizens as ‘traitors’ because they are Shia.

Faran Jeffrey CommandEleven.com sectarianism

After remaining silent, ISPR was forced to confront the anti-Shia sectarianism being projected across social media by these accounts with links to Army.

ISPR press release

However, it must be noted that the meaning of the official statement is unclear as it does not note who exactly Army is holding responsible for spreading sectarian hatred. Actually, this message is being promoted even by those spreading sectarianism.

So what is the message exactly? Those pro-Army accounts who are terming Shia as ‘traitors’ obviously believe that Army has endorsed their hate speech. This only puts Shia citizens in even more dangerous position.

To clear the air, ISPR needs to issue an official clarification to inform whether they endorse or condemn the sectarian hate speech being spread by Zaid Hamid, Faran Jeffrey, and other Army-linked social media commandos. Otherwise, is it the case that Army is reading from the same playbook that tried to silence Bengalis and then Mohajirs by spreading the narrative that they are ‘traitors’ to Pakistan?

Bahawalpur and Parachinar: Where Is Accountability?

Parachinar attack

Across media, there has been a common reaction to the tragedy in Bahawalpur. How do we hold those responsible accountable? However, as much as it is receiving the most attention, Bahawalpur was not the only city to suffer an immense tragedy.

Death tolls from twin terrorist attacks in Parachinar and Quetta have climbed to 85, with hundreds more injured and more deaths to possibly come. Meanwhile, four police officers were killed during iftar by unknown gunmen in Karachi.

The treatment of these events in the public discussion is worth noting. Here is what Dawn had to say about Bahawalpur:

Bahawalpur tragedy is numbing not only because of the vast number of dead and injured, but also because it was totally avoidable.

This raises the question, have we become numb to terrorist attacks because we have decided they are not totally avoidable?

Parachinar in particular is a warning sign. It is a heavily guarded place that has been the target of repeated attacks. After an attack earlier this year, Army established 24 new security posts in Parachinar in April. Two months later, terrorists once again carried out an attack. Is it unavoidable?

In its editorial on Saturday, Dawn hit the nail on the head perfectly:

The problem appears to be that any particular attack is not regarded as a failure of defensive networks and that none has led to meaningful accountability or change in standard operating procedure.

With Bahawalpur, the question might be who to hold accountable. In Parachinar and Quetta, the questions are much more difficult. Is it even possible to change ‘standard operating procedure’? Are we willing to accept the victims as mere ‘collateral damage’ (as an ex-DG ISI termed the victims of APS massacre) of our national security policies? It’s hard not to believe that this decision has already been made in higher quarters.

After years of denying that we provided sanctuary to Taliban, PM’s advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz finally admitted what everyone already knew: We had been hosting Taliban on Pakistani soil for long. So too FO has claimed that there are no anti-Iran militants on Pakistani soil, despite the obvious. So too we see ex-ISI men gathered around LeT chief Hafiz Saeed rallying for jihad against India.

It is hard not to believe that jihad and militancy is part of our official national security policy. But if it is not, it is hard to believe that we are doing everything possible to eliminate jihadi mindset and militancy from society. The question is not who to hold accountable, though. That is obvious. The question is whether accountability is even possible.

What do you think?

Musharraf

Arrest Militants Not Scholars

Protest release Dr Riaz AhmedIn January, several bloggers including Professor Salman Haider mysteriously disappeared. After initial outcry about the fate of the disappeared persons, soon they were facing allegations of blasphemy. Soon later, the missing were returned just as mysteriously as they disappeared. There has been no official report of what happened to these bloggers and activists, but according to Ahmad Waqass Goraya there is no question that he was picked up and tortured by state agencies. The state has never admitted any involvement in the incidents, however even after the international embarrassment the Islamabad High Court has now instructed FIA to investigate the victims further and if possible bring them back to Pakistan to prosecute them under laws. While the entire nation was distracted by this case of kidnapping and torture of liberal activists, terrorists carried out a bomb attack that killed 25 and injured almost 100 innocents.

In February, terrorists struck again, this time killing at least 99 people including innocent women and children in a week of bloody attacks across the country.

Week of deadly attacks

Soon after these attacks, Defence Minister demanded a Parliamentary Commission to investigate an article by Husain Haqqani, and Pakistan Rangers arrested two Karachi University professors who were preparing to give a press conference. One professor Dr Riaz Ahmed has been remanded to jail on accusation of supposedly possessing an unlicensed weapon but the real issue was mentioned by SI Shahid Pervez Khan who told the Court that the professor was advocating on Facebook for the release of so-called ‘blasphemous’ bloggers even though the bloggers have faced no charges and no evidence has been given against them. So why security agencies are arresting these scholars?

There have been at least 17 terrorist attacks already so far this year, over double the number during same period last year. Civil and military leaders are on the same page and both claim that terrorists have been defeated even though they are ramping up attacks. Worst, both civil and military leaders have shown more interest in harassing and targeting scholars than actual militants who are carrying out attacks and killing people. If terrorism is going to be defeated in reality and not just in slogans, state agencies will have to carry out operations against extremist militants, not scholars.

Another suicide blast in Parachinar despite ‘strict security’

Parachinar bombing In January, a suicide blast tore through a vegetable market killing dozens and injuring nearly 100 innocents. COAS Gen Bajwa visited the site, and ‘strict security arrangements‘ were made to prevent another attack. Today, less than ten weeks later, another suicide attack has been carried out in a Parachinar market, this time outside a main imambargah. According to police officials, there were multiple attackers who not only used bombs but also fired randomly into crowds of innocents.

Many questions will be asked, but one that must not be overlooked is what happened to the ‘strict security arragements’ that were made after the last terrorist attack only a few weeks ago? Were these withdrawn once the Army chief had left? Or were they never really made in the first place? Or were the security arrangement made, but they were not good enough to stop the terrorists?

We have had enough ISPR videos, enough bold statements, enough victory announcements. What we have not had is the truth. The national leadership including both civil and military leaders need to take the people into confidence. We have had every success explained in full detail, but nobody can explain about the constant failures? If anyone is reading this, please listen. We want to trust you and give our full support, but to do this we need you to trust us and give us your full support also. Right now we are mourning another attack. We are filled with questions and doubts. We do not need to be reassured. We are past that now. We need to know what you are going to do differently, because what has be done till date is obviously not enough.

 

Zarb-e-Azb and the limits of military power

Parachinar Lashkar-e-Jhangvi attack

Army’s anti-terrorism campaign has been a huge success. We know this because we are reminded of how successful the Army has been by their crack media team such as the series of Tweets from General Asim Bajwa declaring operation Zarb-e-Azb “a phenomenal success” further projected by media that has been recruited as just another wing of ISPR. Gen Bajwa’s Twitter profile proclaims that “Truth Prevails”, and as far as we know everything that the Army’s top PR manager says is the truth, and the successes and sacrifice of our brave soldiers should be appreciated. However, without denying the great successes of Gen Raheel and Zarb-e-Azb, if “Truth Prevails”, we must also face the limits of military power in finally ridding our country of the menace of terrorism.

Continue reading