Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shia Massacres Undermine State and Destabilize Pakistan

Pakistani government leaders, major political parties and the military are busy playing blame game while the Taliban militants and their sectarian allies such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are engaged in continuing mass casualty attacks in various parts of the country.

The unfolding tragedy of Hazaras, a small ethnic minority in Pakistan, symbolizes the plight of both ethnic and religious minorities in the country. The failure of the state to protect them undermines the state itself and destabilizes Pakistan.

The media's role in it has not been helpful either. Some of the top talk show hosts and TV anchors are spinning various conspiracy theories and laying the responsibility with foreigners. Some blame America while others point fingers at India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Here are several questions that come to mind:.

1. Can the problem be solved by blaming each other and foreigners for the mess? Or is this merely an excuse to do nothing?

2. Can the PPP, PML (N), PML (Q), ANP, MQM and PTI have basic consensus to demand that the Pakistani military act against the militants?

3. What can the PML (N) in Punjab do to stop the Jhang-based LeJ from carrying out attacks in Quetta, Karachi and other parts of the country?

4. Does military really need LeJ to deal with Baloch insurgents? What can the military do to make amends for its past dalliances with such militants and crack down hard on them?

5. What can the PPP-led coalition do in terms of legislation and budgeting to strengthen the hands of the police and the courts in fighting militants?

6. What can the media do to develop national consensus to act decisively against the militants who kill and maim innocent civilians?

7. What can the police, the prosecutors and the judges do to protect the people from blowback from military action to remove militants from the streets where they inflict harm on innocent civilians.

8. What else can Pakistanis themselves can do to protect their own people? To get some of the answers, please watch the following video:

How to Stop the Massacres of Hazara Shias in Pakistan? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Here's a video of Topi Drama's "We have blood on our hands":

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Blowback From Drone Attacks in FATA

Rising Tide of Intolerance Threatens Pakistan

Fighting Agents of Intolerance in Pakistan

Muslim Scholars Must Fight Hate in Pakistan

South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision

Pakistan Must Defeat Agents of Intolerance 

Celebrating Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Birthday


Hopewins said...

Good article. I congratulate you. Well done.

Just a few points:

1) "Can the PPP, PML (N), PML (Q), ANP, MQM and PTI have basic consensus to demand that the Pakistani military act against the militants?"

Why have you not included the Jamaat-e-Islami (and their affiliated Difah-e-Pakistan Council with Hamid Gul) in this "consensus"?

2) "Does military really need LeJ to deal with Baloch insurgents? What can the military do to make amends for its past dalliances with such militants and crack down hard on them?"

The military may not have a high-level "policy" on exactly how to deal with individual events on the ground. This is usually left to lower-level field officers, subject to the condition that they "produce results". So while Kiyani may not be aware of it, lower officers may be using the LeJ to kill wanted Baloch separatists as a form of "outsourcing" that gives them "plausible deniability". If this is so, it is difficult to prove and very, very hard to stop.

3) "What can the police, the prosecutors and the judges do to protect the people from blowback from military action to remove militants from the streets where they inflict harm on innocent civilians?"

Not too much. The state of radicalization, in both extent, depth and duration, is so deeply embedded in our society that it is now IMPOSSIBLE to even conceive of a return to the relatively more normal state of the pre-Zia days without a MASSIVE and PROLONGED conflict between the forces of reasonable modernity and the forces of irrational recidivism. This will be a LONG WAR that will have to be fought by a whole generation. And it is not entirely clear as to which side is more likely to win. The fate of Pakistan hangs in the balance....

Oostur said...

Good post. I share your sentiments.
Like to add one thing.
I was in Pakistan three months
ago and noticed several TV stations broadcasting all kinds
of extremist stuff. Some are
out of Middle East. Pak govt.
Must shut down those.

Najam said...

While killing of Hazara Shias was an unfortunate incident Please do not forget that there have been killings of Punjabi settlers in Queeta ,as well as killing of very large number of Sunni Ulemas and seminary students in Karachi.I did not see any condemning these incidents or for that matter killing of girl students of Jamia Hafsa..

Coming to killing of Shias,I think that partially they are also responsible for growing hatred against them among common sunnis

Riaz Haq said...

Najam: "While killing of Hazara Shias was an unfortunate incident Please do not forget that there have been killings of Punjabi settlers in Queeta ,as well as killing of very large number of Sunni Ulemas and seminary students in Karachi.I did not see any condemning these incidents or for that matter killing of girl students of Jamia Hafsa.."

You are playing the same blame game that is responsible for inaction in the face of continuing tragedies in Pakistan. Pakistanis need to stop this nonsense and go after the killers who roam free after proudly claiming responsibility for mass murder . No one will be safe unless such killers are brought to justice in Pakistan.

Imran said...

The bottom line is why doesn't someone care in Pakistan? Why are people totally silent on all these challenges? Why don’t the major political parties distance themselves from them ? I strongly believe the the major political parties are using the LeJ and other similar outfits as their militant wings. Terrorism in the name of Kashmir, India, America is totally hoax, it is being used for political favors / gain influence with in and outside the party.

The most interesting part of this pathetic strategy is that when everything is lost, point the gun at the military ! Sure they made what the country is today, but for heaven's sake don’t make them use their guns on Pakistanis. Its going to create a complete anarchy …..

Looking back at the string of the events for almost a decade now, first these militant groups went against the Hindus, then the Christians… nothing much happened except the world started pressuring the government to curb the violence, faced with the growing pressure, government had to comply…. They then found the ultimate target to show power, demonstrate un checked terror and there was no one to stop them – unfortunately Shais are bearing the brunt of it….

I did watch the video, there nothing much in it except 'this is the last chance'. This is exactly what Shehzad Roy hears on the 9 o'clock news every 10 years 'Pakistan bohat nazuk waqt se guzr raha hai ' …

Fayez said...

If the purpose of the blame game is to find an excuse to do nothing, that would be unfortunate and unacceptable. But if the purpose is to get to the root cause so that we can address the root of the problem rather than just symptoms then that's a good thing.

Roland said...

A light goes out in Lahore

Dr Omar Ali

Professor Syed Ali Haider, professor and chairman of ophthalmology at
Lahore General Hospital and renowned vitreo-retinal surgeon got up on
Monday Amorning to take his son to school. His son Murtaza Haider was
11 years old. In front of Forman-Christian college, literally yards
from the house of the deputy prime minister of Pakistan, gunmen on a
motorbike opened fire on them. Dr Ali Haider and his 11 year old son
were shot dead, both with gunshots to the head. There are "no
witnesses". No one took down a description of the killers, much less
the make and model of their motorbike. Nobody has been caught. It may
be that nobody will be caught. Or it may be that someone will be
caught, and as in hundreds of previous cases, will be released.It is
even possible that the government of Punjab will for a few years pay a
stipend to the killer's family just in case they have to lock him up.
They have done that in the past. The quality of mercy is not strained
in Punjab.
But there is no great mystery about why Professor Ali Haider and his
11 year old innocent child were shot in the head. They were shot
because they were Shias and a small but powerful faction of Pakistan's
Sunni majority has declared them "kafir" (infidel). They were also
shot because he was a prominent, highly educated, highly esteemed
member of the community. What use is a message if it is not heard? The
killers wanted to be heard, loud and clear. It will not be a stretch
to imagine that they are also proud of their act; satisfied that their
op went off without a hitch. At their post-murder celebration they may
have told stories and laughed; perhaps some of the laughs and stories
were about the boy and how his eyes looked just before he died. It was
right in front of the deputy PM sahib's house, so they probably did
not have the time to make a video. But they do that too. They make
videos, and then post them on youtube with songs in the background.
They are not ashamed. They are looking forward to doing it again.
So who did they manage to kill this time? Syed Ali Haider was born in
Multan, the son of Dr Syed Zafar Haider and Dr Tahira Bokhari. Dr
Zafar Haider had then recently returned after more than ten years of
training and working in England and was a junior professor of surgery
at Nisthar Medical College in Multan. His son went to school at Burn
Hall school in Multan. He graduated from Government college Multan and
joined King Edward Medical College Lahore in 1981. A shy and
unassuming young man, he was serious and studious; he stayed out of
the limelight even as his father taught at the same college as an
almost legendary professor of surgery (and the country's most famous
specialist in the surgical problems of the thyroid and parathyroid
glands), and his mother took over as professor and then head of the
department of anatomy at the same institution. After graduation he
went to UK and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in
Edinburgh, home of countless famous surgeons and physicians. He then
did a fellowship in vitreo-retinal disorders at Oxford university
before returning to Lahore and joining the medical school there. He
not only returned to work and teach in Lahore, he tried to convince
many others to do the same.

Hopewins said...

^^Najam: "..Coming to killing of Shias,I think that partially they are also responsible for growing hatred against them among common sunnis"

This is exactly what the Nazis said about the Jews.

This is exactly what the Neo-cons say about the Muslims.

This is exactly what the Israelis say about the Palestinians.

This is exactly what the Indians say about the Kashmiris.

This is exactly what the Russians say about the Chechens.

As long as this kind of thinking holds sway amongst educated Pakistanis, there is NO HOPE of any kind of future for Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on Imran Khan attacking Nawaz League of collusion with terrorists:

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf has criticised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for its reported nexus with extremist groups in the country and sought an explanation.

Commenting on a reported statement by Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat that the PML-N had approached him for seat-adjustment arrangement in the coming elections, a PTI spokesman alleged that the PML-N had been associated with extremist groups for a long time.

He said Maulana Ludhianvi’s statement nullified repeated denials by PML-N leaders that they had no interaction with extremist elements.

“People still remember a public statement made by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after successive terror attacks in Lahore, requesting the Taliban not to target his government because the PML-N and Taliban had the same ideology,” the PTI spokesman said, adding that PML-N’s policy had endangered lives of innocent people.

He said people remembered how the Punjab law minister had accompanied leaders of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and attended its rallies.

He also cited reports alleging that the family of an SSP leader, who had been sentenced to death, had been given stipend from the state exchequer.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a news report about Obama's nominee for US Defense Secretary saying India has been "financing problems" for Pakistan in Afghanistan:

Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel suggested in a previously unreleased 2011 speech that India has “for many years” sponsored terrorist activities against Pakistan in Afghanistan.

“India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan” in Afghanistan, Hagel said during a 2011 address regarding Afghanistan at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, according to video of the speech obtained by the Free Beacon.


Hagel appears to accuse India of fueling tensions with Pakistan, claiming it is using Afghanistan “as a second front” against Pakistan.

“India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border,” Hagel says in the speech. “And you can carry that into many dimensions, the point being [that] the tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years.”

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Here's a news report about Obama's nominee for US Defense Secretary saying India has been "financing problems" for Pakistan in Afghanistan..."

Aha! I knew it. This is the second proof this year after the Indian Home Minister's admission of Hindu terrorist camps in India.

It should now be clear to all that it has been India all along who has been responsible for:

1) Mass Killings of Hazaras
2) Bombings of Sufi Dargahs
3) Attacks on Mowlid Processions
4) Suicide bombings of Ashura Processions
5) Assasination of Taseer & Bhatti
6) Attempted murder of Musharraf
7) Killing of Benazir
8) Suicide attacks on ANP officials
9) Bombings of MQM workers
10) Death-threats against Sherry Rehman
11) Assasination of General Alavi
12) Killing of Safwat Ghayur

I don't know why people unneccessarily blame innocent Pakistani when it is obvious that it is India who is behind all this.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "It should now be clear to all that it has been India all along who has been responsible for..."

It's quite probable that foreigners, including Indians, are fishing in Pakistan's troubled waters to advance their own agendas. But this does not absolve the Pakistani state of responsibility to protect its citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET Op Ed by Ejaz Haidar on the targeting of Shias in Pakistan:

..A more relevant question is: if the group that is involved in these killings has not only been ID-ed but IDs itself, what is stopping the state from acting against it, and effectively?

This is where the problem begins.

The LeJ was begotten from the dark womb of the Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The SSP, banned by Pervez Musharraf, has reincarnated itself as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. It has a certain political presence. It is technically not the LeJ, even as de facto it is. LeJ terrorists, along with the hardline splinter group of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), have over the last five years, come to form the backbone of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) conglomerate. The TTP is an entity that political parties now — the ANP included (in desperation) — want to talk to, even as the state considers the LeJ a terrorist entity.

So while the LeJ is a terrorist organisation providing manpower to the TTP, the state is being pressured to talk to the latter and give it the legitimacy of an insurgent group.

But this is not all. In Punjab, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is in talks over seat adjustment with the ASWJ, the Dr Jekyll to its Edward Hyde, the LeJ. Leaving aside the PML-N’s petty lying about the issue, it is a fact that it wants to placate the LeJ through a dangerous liaison with the ASWJ. The general impression is that this is being done to win votes. That’s only partially true. The primary reason is that the PML-N doesn’t want mayhem in Punjab, its central vote bank, where it wants to win and win big through a lot of development work (even if lopsided) by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The Faustian bargain is meant to keep the LeJ, and by extension the TTP, at bay. In other words, the PML-N is doing this for the same reasons that the ANP wants to talk to the TTP. The problem with this short-term approach is just that: it is short term and allows these groups the respite and the space to strengthen themselves and emerge as even more potent contenders against the state.

What about the army and the ISI; how do they look at this phenomenon?

Short answer: they are greatly worried. Next question: what are they doing about it?

Short answer: not much.

Central question: why the hell not? This requires a longer answer and some perspective.

Fact 1: The total strength of the army is about 550,000 troops. Out of this, around 110,000 are deployed in the operational areas in the west. Approximately 60,000 to 70,000 are deployed along the Line of Control as part of 10 Corps and Force Command Northern Areas. The rest are in peacetime locations, to be mobilised to defend the eastern border when required. Additionally, there are a number of other command and staff duties to be performed.

Fact 2: Armies generally operate on the 33.33 per cent principle. At any time, 33.33 per cent are deployed, the same percentage is in training and equal numbers, more or less, are resting and retrofitting. Pakistan’s internal war has thrown this awry. The deployment has gone up to 44 to 45 per cent, training retains the same percentage and the resting and retrofitting has gone down to about 12 percent. The ops areas tenure has upped from 22 months to over two years and a high percentage of units are now awaiting second and third rotation to the ops areas. Evidently a killer.

Fact 3: The Pakistan Military Academy has had to raise the 4th Pak Battalion because the internal war has taken a heavy toll of young officers. The officer-to-soldier kill ratio is very high, upped from 1:16 to 1:14 and now stands at 1:8. This means a shortage of YOs. (Some officers consider it a matter of pride; I consider it a weakness but that’s a separate topic.)....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times blog post by Huma Yusuf on conspiracy theories in Pakistan:

As the security situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate, trading conspiracy theories has become the new national pastime. Nothing is more popular on the airwaves, at dinner parties or around tea stalls than to speculate, especially about American activities on Pakistani soil.

According to many Pakistanis, the C.I.A. used a mysterious technology to cause the devastating floods that affected 20 million people in 2010. Washington had the teenage champion for girls’ education, Malala Yousafzai, shot as part of a campaign to demonize the Pakistani Taliban and win public support for American drone strikes against them. The terrorists who strike Pakistani targets are non-Muslim “foreign agents.” Osama bin Laden was an American operative.

The Pakistani penchant for conspiracy theories results from decades of military rule, during which the army controlled the media and the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency controlled much of everything else. The lack of transparency and scarcity of information during subsequent democratic rule has further fueled rumors.

Mostly, however, conspiracy theories persist because many turn out to be true.

A few years ago, Pakistan’s independent media denounced the presence in Pakistan of C.I.A. agents and private security firms like Blackwater. While U.S. and Pakistani government officials denied any such infiltration, private television channels broadcast footage of the homes of Westerners, allegedly Blackwater agents. One right-wing newspaper, The Nation, even named one Wall Street Journal correspondent as a C.I.A. spy, forcing him to leave the country.

For a time liberal Pakistanis condemned this as a witch hunt and decried poor journalistic ethics. But soon the international media disclosed that Blackwater was in fact operating in Pakistan at an airbase in Baluchistan used by the C.I.A.

Then it was revealed that the American citizen who shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011 — an American diplomat, the U.S. government claimed initially — turned out to be a C.I.A. agent, just as many conspiracy theorists had surmised.

And what about those U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt? It turns out those suspicious Pakistanis were right to imagine that their own government was complicit. That became clear when, in November 2011, to protest a NATO airstrike that killed Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani government ordered the C.I.A. to leave the Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan, from where the drone attacks were being launched.

Other rumors concern India, Pakistan’s long-time rival. Zaid Hamid, a jihadist-turned-policy analyst, alleges that the Indian spy agency R.A.W. funds and arms the Pakistani Taliban. Some Pakistani officials accuse New Delhi of facilitating the separatist insurgency in Baluchistan.

This paranoia was confirmed this week by Chuck Hagel, the new U.S. secretary of defense. A video clip from 2011 that circulated during his confirmation hearings shows Hagel claiming that India uses Afghanistan as a “second front” against Pakistan and “has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border.”

The allegation outraged the Indian government and undermined liberal Pakistanis who believe India wants a stable Pakistan and support improved bilateral ties. Meanwhile, of course, it validated those conspiracy mongers who have long warned that India wants to culturally subsume, colonize or destroy Pakistan.

Hopewins said...

In your next blog article, it would be nice if you would "weigh in" on the topic of giving MFN status to India. It has been delayed by two months already and the debate is getting more and more confused.

Should we give MFN status to India?
Should we give it outright or should it be conditional on solving the kashmir dispute first?
Should we give it only in Phases or Stages instead of all-at-once?
What are the pros and cons of giving MFN status to India?
Is India play fair? Will India play fair once it gets MFN status?
Is MFN status permanent? Or can we revoke it at will unilaterally?

Please enlighten your readers about all these issues.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Here's NY Times blog post by Huma Yusuf on conspiracy theories in Pakistan..."

The article is evidence of a poor quality, insufficiently-developed intellect.

None of the things she describes as "mostly" justifying conspiracy theories are really conspiracies at all.

1) US operates an air-base in Pakistan. CIA agents are present at that airbase, as they are at all foreign bases. Blackwater is the security contractor that provides security to the airbase. Even though GOP may have kept our people in the dark, this was widely known and is routine practice. How is any of this a conspiracy?

2) In all countries where there is a US Embassy, there will be CIA agents. This is standard practice followed by all countries. Every embassy has contracted security guards in addition to the Marines. Many of these security contracts are held by Blackwater. This is open information and surprises no one. How is this a conspiracy?

3)Hagel says that India provides aid to Baloch separatists. But this is something our government has always been telling us. How is this a conspiracy?

If Huma Yusuf could show that the US/CIA was responsible for earthquakes & floods in Pakistan, or that Israel/Mossad was responsible for suicide bombings of mosques in Pakistan, then that could be used as justification for the absurd conspiracy theories that make the rounds in our countries. But she has not done so....

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "The article is evidence of a poor quality, insufficiently-developed intellect...None of the things she describes as "mostly" justifying conspiracy theories are really conspiracies at all."

She's referring to the common practice of the "liberals" in Pakistan of dismissing all concerns and claims of foreign involvement in fomenting trouble in Pakistan as mere "conspiracy theories".

She's right in pointing out that "conspiracy theories persist because many turn out to be true".

One other example I'd add is the suspicion that American CIA uses NGO work like polio vaccination as front for its intelligence operations. It turned out to be the case for Dr. Afridi acting on behalf of the CIA.

The CIA has in the past used aid workers, journalists, business executives, missionaries, etc. as agents to pursue their covert activities in many countries.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "In your next blog article, it would be nice if you would "weigh in" on the topic of giving MFN status to India. It has been delayed by two months already and the debate is getting more and more confused."

Pakistan needs to tread carefully in trade with India which has historically been highly protectionist by its very nature.

Here's a Nation news report on India's pervasive non-tariff barriers (NTBs):

India has one of the most restrictive trade regimes in the world, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Economists and WTO experts, quoting an annual report of the WTO, stated that the Indian government around seven years back initiated 191 safeguard actions compared to just 171 by China, a much larger economy. In fact, this was even higher than the number of actions initiated by the EU, also a much larger economic bloc.

And a new study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has revealed that India stands at the top in South Asian countries on the basis of trade restrictions imposed on neighboring countries, according to criteria set by the World Bank.

Experts pointed out that India is accused of using both tariff and non-tariff barriers to discourage imports from neighboring countries. It is no surprise, then, that trade between India and Pakistan is so skewed right now. The volume of trade is growing, but not in a way that seems to be of any real benefit to Pakistan. In 2006-07, Pakistan exported goods worth $342.9 million to India, against imports of $1.24 billion. In 2010-11, Pakistan’s exports to India had dropped to $264.3 million, while imports from India had surged to $1.74 billion.

Giving an example, sources said that if the MFN status is granted to India without completion of infrastructure at the Wagha border, the prices of goods coming from India, will double due to the choking of trucks and the purpose of cheaper goods supply to people will not be served.

Experts maintained that a level playing field must be created for Pakistan’s textile products relative to Indian products through implementing a uniform tax regime before the MFN status is granted to India.

The negative list lays restrictions on imports of 1,209 items from India, which includes 78 textile and apparel items. Pakistan’s farmers fear that there is not a single agriculture item on the negative list or the sensitive list of Pakistani imports from India, except Tobacco and its different forms.

Insiders claim that phasing out of the negative list or MFN status to India will not have any negative impact on Pakistani agriculture as only one item, i.e. Tobacco will suffer from the grant of MFN status to India.

Pakistan will have to be mindful of the pitfalls of allowing completely unfettered and unhindered imports from a much larger and much more developed economy. The USAID report suggests that Pakistan should actually enhance the sensitive list to protect the local industry and agriculture sector following granting MFN status to India.

This year will see some major shifts, with some local industries having to suck it up and see the end of their life inside the bubble of protectionism. This will bring benefits for the local consumer, who will have access to more choices and cheaper products.

But it will also bring in threats to other industries which do not have the same benefits, or are as developed as their counterparts in India.


Hopewins said...

UPDATE: This was an attack on a Shia Mosque carried out by a suicide bomber. The death toll is now at 53, with more bodies being recovered from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

If we keep up the current rate of terrorist-killings, this will be a very bad year with 9,000 to 10,000 terrorism related fatalities....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Pankaj Mishra in Bloomberg on atrocities against shias in Indonesia and Pakistan:

the obsession with the deep state’s incurable malignity or Islam’s menacing sociopolitical manifestations, which actually range from Wahhabi blowhards to relatively sagacious televangelists, obscures how elected politicians, in the absence of substantive democracy, cynically deploy radical groups to practice power politics.

The government in Pakistan’s Punjab province, which is run by the Pakistan Muslim League (N), one of Pakistan’s two main parties, reportedly paid a monthly stipend to Malik Ishaq, who was just detained in connection with a bombing that killed almost 90 people. PML (N)’s arrangements with Ishaq’s banned Shiite-killing outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are in place for the elections due this year; and, as a likely harvester of votes, Ishaq enjoys near-perfect immunity.

Mainstream politics in Indonesia, as in Pakistan, were free of murderous Islamic extremists well after independence in the late 1940s. It was an insecure dictator, Suharto, who inaugurated the Islamization of Indonesia, a constitutionally secular state, in an attempt to give himself legitimacy and redirect the growing appeal of political Islam, part of a worldwide trend in the 1980s.

But the lifting of restrictions on political activity since Suharto’s fall in 1998 brought other actors on stage, including: the now-suppressed terrorist outfit Jemaah Islamiyah, which was involved in the Bali bombings in 2002; the Islamic Defenders Front, a militia that tries to regulate the morals of Indonesians by attacking massage parlors and nightclubs; and the Justice and Prosperity Party, which won 9 percent of the popular vote in national elections in 2009.

Most importantly, many mainstream parties with secular traditions have gone garishly Islamic in a desperate attempt to distract voters. Local governments have enacted harsh sharia laws while the central government turns a blind eye to attacks by thugs on churches.

One reason for the growing tolerance of intolerance is political fragmentation in both Indonesia and Pakistan. No party enjoys a broad enough base to govern confidently. All are forced to rely on a variety of formulas and gimmicks, including populist welfare programs, promises of regional autonomy and crooked deals with extremists, in a dash for electoral majorities.

It doesn’t help that political parties are basically patronage-dispensing machines for old and new elites, with the capture of state power as their main aim. Ideologies and principles rarely matter in what is seen as a zero-sum game in which votes are aggressively bartered -- when not literally bought.

In this dog-eat-dog world, standing up politically for the Shiites and Ahmadis can be more trouble than it’s worth; and it’s easier to bet on the possibility that the rabid anti- Shiites might just bring in a few votes in places traditionally dominated by Shiite landlords.

Illiberal politics pays -- and not just in an Islamic country. A purely formal democracy, one not underpinned by institutions and notions of justice and fairness, can breed monsters anywhere.

Indeed, India’s prime minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi, whose alleged complicity in the deaths of almost 2,000 Muslims in his state in 2002 seems to help rather than hinder him, is South Asia’s true master of the brutal calculus of sectarian politics; his perfectly calibrated callousness toward religious minorities and the poor is now matched by brimming business- friendliness that endears him to big Indian conglomerates.

Democracy is undermined not so much by Islam, or for that matter Hindu extremism, as by ruthlessly self-interested elites who hijack the political process, using all available means to secure their dominance...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on "Khoon", a song by Topi Drama on continuing carnage of Shia in Pakistan:

With its new song Khoon, the band Topi Drama hopes to make listeners more aware of their surroundings. The song is about the blood that Pakistanis have on their hands for the silence and apathy shown by the government, media and citizens towards the persecution of the Shia community. A smooth listen on the ears, Khoon has gone viral since its release two weeks ago and Topi Drama has struck a chord with the audience right when it was needed.

Hopewins said...

4th March 2013, QUOTE: "It is no secret that our curriculum today teaches hatred for minorities and other sects....Once upon a time not so long ago, pock marked and neurotic Karachi was beautiful and cosmopolitan where people of all faiths happily intermingled at work and home.....In short, our chickens have come home to roost..."


Kadeer said...

Just the other day I was talking with my English friend with whom I share a common interest - cricket. He asked me if Pakistanis miss international cricket being not played in the country for sometime. These ethnic violence is horrific in itself but, it has killed the joy that cricket used to bring. No test matches or ODIs are being played in Pakistan for people to witness live and in person.

Adding to the tremendous loss of life, this violence shreds the fabric of Pakistan culture and sport. We are definitely paying a price now but who knows the true cost for future generations

Hopewins said...

This is exactly what I have been trying to tell you....

QUOTE: ""With the elections coming, we expect this year to be the bloodiest the city has ever seen.."


Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Here's Pankaj Mishra in Bloomberg on atrocities against shias in Indonesia and Pakistan.."

Not 'Shias in Pakistan;, but rather 'Shias in Indonesia and Pakistan'. Hmm...

Whenever our country is in the spotlight for some negative trend, you immediately look for another country to keep us company.

This is a sign of intellectual weakness.

Nevertheless, pray tell us what PERCENTAGE of the population in Indonesia is Shia? And what percentage in our country?

Comparing Shia-killings in Indonesia to what is happening in our country is MEANINGLESS. Indonesia will not be disrupted by anti-Shia feeling because they have so few; our country, on the other hand, will be DESTOYED by anti-shia violence because we have so many.

Pakistani Patriot said...

Extremely biased video...its shameful to see such highly educated people of Pakistan talk such nonsense...all you r doing is spreading more hate...instead of pushing for peace in every province....this video was just a mindless blame game...relying on you tube videos and foreign media for research is plain ridiculous...Terrorism has just one solution...better economic conditions for impoverished people of society so that they don't become tools of such extremist ideologies...13 years of war and militancy in Afghanistan has yielded zero results...instead created more rebels and terrorists...Finally US has resorted to reconciliation and reintegration of insurgent elements...and that's what we shud do...killing people or uprooting them is not the answer..

Hopewins said...

Here is an article from The Hindu in which the author uses your "Martin Neimuller" reference at the end....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report on ASWJ, allied with the Taliban, fielding 130 candidates in Pak elections 2013:

Out stepped Maulana Abdul Khaliq Rehmani, a burly cleric with a notorious, banned Sunni Muslim group. Thanks to a deft name change by his group, he was now a candidate in Pakistan’s general election, scheduled for Saturday.

Supporters mobbed Mr. Rehmani as he pushed into a small mosque in a rural district of Punjab Province, where a crowd had gathered in a courtyard. The warm-up speaker played on some typical populist tropes. “Islamabad is a colony of America,” he shouted. “Thousands of their agents are in the capital, and they are destabilizing Pakistan.”

But Mr. Rehmani preferred to paint his campaign as a rural class struggle. “Feudalism has paralyzed Pakistan,” he said, his voice rising as the audience — farmers with weather-beaten faces, many fresh from toiling in the fields — listened raptly. “By the will of God, every poor person in this district will vote for us!”

As election fever grips Pakistan this week, Sunni extremist groups are making a bold venture into the democratic process, offering a political face to a movement that, at its militant end, has carried out attacks on minority Shiites that have resulted in hundreds of deaths this year.

Mr. Rehmani’s group, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, is fielding 130 candidates across Pakistan in this election. Few are expected to win seats in the Parliament, which is dominated by more moderate parties. But experts say they are flexing their political muscle at the very time when Pakistan urgently needs to push back against extremism.

Relentless Taliban attacks on secular parties in recent weeks have tilted the field in favor of conservative parties, while the election authorities have been ambiguous. Some candidates were disqualified for having forged their university degrees, or for having an anti-Pakistani “ideology.” But candidates with nakedly sectarian groups have been allowed to participate freely.

“These elections are critical,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a defense analyst and the author of several reports on militancy in southern Punjab. “General Musharraf and his military started accommodating these groups. Now we see them trying to enter the political mainstream.”

Mr. Rehmani was speaking at a rally in Khanewal, a district of lush fields and poor farmers between the city of Multan and the Indus River. His group, once known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, is the country’s main anti-Shiite group and was banned as a terrorist organization by Pervez Musharraf, then the president, in 2002.