On Mon, Feb 25, 2013, Feroz Mehdi wrote:


This article (i.e. Item No. 1 above) gives us an impression that there is a popular war between Shias and Sunnis. The Islamic history sure points out the origins of differences between Sunnis and Shias but the killings today are done by terrorist methods. The killings are not done by organized groups of Sunni citizens with connivance of police and administration.



On Feb 25, 2013, Vinod Mubayi wrote:


In the past we have refrained from carrying any sectarian pieces about religion regardless of the provocative event simply because sectarian critiques are based on faith not reason.  However, I believe that the situation in the Middle East whose echoes, for various reasons, are resonating loudly in Pakistan has reached a level where we have to take notice of what is going on.  This article, while not perfect, applies reasoned argument to understand what is happening both in terms of historical background as well as recent events.


Feroz, I don’t understand your point:


“the killings today are done by terrorist methods. the killings are not done by organized groups of sunni citizens with connivance of police and administration.”


According to the news reports, the very recent killings of a hundred Hazaras in Quetta was done with complete indifference on the part of police, which is tantamount to connivance.  Besides what is Sipah-e-Sahaba (and other similar groups carrying out the killings) if not an organized group of Sunnis?  If by terrorist methods, you mean bombs that are remotely set off, then how about other methods, e.g. stopping buses, forcing Shias to get down and shooting them (as happened in Frontier and tribal areas); anyway what is the difference between terrorist methods and other methods? To claim that police and administration is not conniving is also hiding one’s head in the sand; ignoring and not prosecuting the perpetrators is connivance by default.  That sort of argument is the one Narendra Modi made to get off the hook re: the Gujarat pogrom.


On Mon, Feb 25, 2013, Feroz Mehdi wrote:


Interesting points Vinod. Let me explain.  Your bringing up Gujarat pogroms helps. There it was an overt connivance with administration; citizens; elected government members; police. It was ‘larger than’ the Sangh Parivar.


Sipah-e-Sahaba and other terrorist organizations (ideologically based on a specific Sunni sect) do not have, as yet, citizens support in general. Yes, the Pakistani administration (that includes army for sure) is conniving but in my opinion it is not at an ideological level.


The recent Hyderabad bombs in my opinion are terrorist killings, so were the Samjhauta express blast, but Gujarat pogrom was not. In my opinion this distinction is important.


On Mon, Feb 25, 2013, Vinod Mubayi wrote:


Of course, Sipah-e-Sahaba and its offspring Lashkar-e-Jhangvi do not have support among Pakistan’s liberals. But a large number, perhaps a majority by now, have been either propagandized or simply coerced, cowed, and/or intimidated to a point where they seem to be either openly supporting or averting their eyes and turning their face when these atrocities occur.  Lawyers showering rose petals on the late Punjab Governor’s assassin were one example of the rot.  Exactly like the majority of the Gujarat citizenry that preferred to give excuses for Modi. If your distinction of terrorist killings is that they have to take place secretly because the terrorists do not have mass support, that is true only up to a certain point; after that line is crossed quantity transforms into quality as Marxist dialectics taught. I don’t claim that the Pakistani administration, including police and army, is ideologically wahabi, they don’t have to be. But when the average person on the street sees that Shias are increasingly being treated as Ahmadis have been without any response from the state, an atmosphere of impunity is created which is then buttressed by ideological propaganda for which thousands of active outlets are present (TV, radio, Urdu papers, etc.). This process is as far advanced in Pakistan on this issue as the laboratory of Hindutva, i.e. Gujarat, is on Hindutva.


What I want to draw attention to is two things that impact whether or not we carry some article in the Bulletin: (1) When sectarian differences become important enough that they start affecting politics in a significant way; for example, Shia-Sunni differences have been a source of friction in India also for many years but their impact on larger Indian politics is relatively minor.  In Pakistan’s case, due to the forces underlying its very history of creation, some sectarian differences, e.g. the Ahmadiyya sect, became a political issue early on.  In my view, something similar is happening in the atrocities being committed with impunity against Shias where the state is or feels powerless to respond in any meaningful way.  I doubt this is because average man in the street Sunni feels strongly anti-Shia (maybe they don’t feel this way about Ahmadis either) but when they are intimidated or cowed to the extent they seem to be then the issue becomes a significant political one. It seems you don’t believe this is happening or has happened.  So this is one difference.  (2) The second is the distinction between a terrorist act, which if I am correct, you believe is an act of killing carried out secretly such as exploding a bomb, versus an act that has mass support like the Gujarat mob’s open atrocities in killing Ehsan Jaffri or thousands of others with police support or connivance. This is a valid distinction I admit as it shows the extent of the mass support the killers have and whether it rises to a political fact.  The question is whether it has reached that level in the case of the killings of Shias in Pakistan that have occurred by both methods; use of bombs and open killings.


On Sun, Mar 3, 2013, Vinod Mubayi wrote:


Dear Arshad:


The Shia-Sunni article (i.e. Item No. 1 above) is attached along with an exchange between Feroz Mehdi and me on whether we should publish it. Your views will be very welcome


I have a couple of questions:(1) Given that it took about 25 years or more after the founding of Pakistan before the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim and then subjected to all kinds of discrimination by the state, maybe even worse than Christians and Hindus, can you foresee a similar development in the case of Shias in general or perhaps specific Shia groups like the Hazaras who may be more marginalized due to both ethnicity and sect?  (2) Regardless of that do you feel that the article I sent is worth publishing in Insaf Bulletin?



On March 10, Arshad Khan wrote:


Dear Vinod,


To answer your question about the possibility of Shias or Hazaras being declared non-Muslim in this country, I do not think it is going to happen, or can happen, now or in any foreseeable future. There are several potent reasons for this development not being in the cards, wishes of the Shia-hating terrorist groups/Lashkars or other Sunni individuals notwithstanding. Terrorists can keep on attacking or killing Shias, but it will have to be the administration and the Parliament to make and declare such a draconian and discriminatory exclusionary law—and the courts to uphold it—-while broad public and political support will simply not be available for such an act. The state, even for its own reasons and constraints, would not be inclined to embark upon such an adventure fearing huge adverse consequences and blowback.


The main reasons for this “optimistic” thinking are the following realities (both geo-political and national-cultural) on the ground.


(1) Shias look towards Iran as an ultimate Savior in case of any catastrophic setback to their vital human, religious and citizenship rights that your feared declaration would bring. They have good reasons to expect such protection or help in such extreme scenario. Such source of help was not available to the unfortunate Ahmadis.  Simply put, Iran is considered by the governments in Pakistan to be a resourceful and helpful neighbor in terms of its energy needs, trade and some foreign policy considerations: Afghanistan (Northern Alliance), India/Kashmir), and some elusive “Islamic solidarity, etc. (Of course, at some other levels, there also exists a good deal of distrust between the two: Pakistan perceived to be an ally having good relations with the U.S.; Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. and Iran being seen as a monolithic Shia presence on Pakistan’s border, as being too rigid and doctrinaire, etc.).


Currently, Pakistan, despite grave U.S. objections and warnings of sanctions, is in the process of embarking on the huge project of Pak-Iran gas pipeline.  Zardari visited Tehran last week, met the Iranian president and the Supreme Leader and signed up various agreements, cementing the gas pipeline deal as well as various other pacts pertaining to free-trade, easing visa restrictions, etc. The gas pipeline project’s  estimated cost is about $7.5 billion,  is extendable to China and India and its ground- breaking ceremony was held on March 11, attended by both presidents. Pakistan, as you know, is trying to convince the U.S. to be granted an exemption from the sanctions due to its severe energy shortages, which, along with terrorism, ongoing war on its western border, and other problems relating to corruption and mis-governance, has thrown its economy in a tail spin. The U.S. has offered alternatives to the Iran pipeline but Pakistan, citing huge financing by Iran, relative ease in completing this project in 15 months and its gas flow capacity of 2.15 million cubic meters daily, has decided to go solo with no current nod from the U.S. or involvement of India or China The added factor of haste is also the fact that the current government and Parliaments 5-year terms expire on March 16!  So, you can see, why with such alliance, dependence and religious-cultural bonds declaring Shias as non-Muslims is quiet unthinkable.


(2) Shias constitute a very sizable, large minority, variously estimated to be 10%-20% of population of 187 million people. That’s a population of 20-30 million people! That’s not an easy pushover unless you want a civil war on your hands, a civil war in which Pakistani Shias can credibly expect help/intervention from their Iranian Revolutionary Guards/Quds Brigades brethren! Poor hapless Ahmadis are a tiny fraction (way less than 1%) of the population.


(3) Shias, unlike Ahmadis, command and exercise a great deal of power in the country. They are deeply entrenched in all the power structures of the country: In the government ministries, cabinet, both houses of parliament, senior and mid-bureaucracy, all the branches of armed forces, many in senior most positions (both General Yahya Khan and General Moosa were Shia, as are some current ones) They also wield power in industries and commerce. There exist several Shia/Firqa Jaaferia national organizations in the country devoted to the protection of Shia rights. Clearly these organizations are not very helpful or effective in the current chaos—-any more than the pro-Sunni organizations are able to save Sunnis from the TTP and its allies committed to general terrorization and indiscriminate attacks on army, police, mosques and bazaars. (The Bhuttos and Zardari are said to be Shias.) Which government in its right mind, leaving any morality aside, could think of declaring Shias as non-Muslim with such heavy-weight leaders of a community of tens of millions?


(4) Finally, Shias are rather well-integrated with the Sunni majority population. They live in the same neighborhoods, work together in same offices, and have shops and businesses next to each other. By and large they get along well with each other: they inter-marry, attend each other’s wedding celebrations and funerals, and their children attend same schools. In fact, at a personal level, most don’t know or care if they are Shia or Sunni. Only the terrorists and their bigoted comrades from the Sunni community make that distinction.


About your other question whether or not you should publish that article: I agree with you and Daya that it is an excellent piece, well-researched and well-reasoned. But I agree with Feroz that towards the end, it draws conclusions that tend to give the impression that these recent Shia-Hazara killings were perhaps done with the collusion of the state as a result of state protection or policy. That, in my opinion, would be the wrong conclusion to draw.

Top - Home