To all friends, especially to Captain Irfan
Why Our Shia Citizens Are Suddenly Being Killed In Pakistan?
There is a sudden rise in sectarian attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks, especially focused on Karachi, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The question that all Pakistanis should ask is this:
Who benefits from inciting sectarian conflict in three strategic locations: in Pakistan's business hub, in the province where the Iran gas pipeline will pass, and near our only land link to China ?
The timing is interesting. It comes when Pakistan rebuffed desperate US calls to reopen the military supply route from Karachi to Afghanistan.
Some of the players behind this mess, like terror group BLA in Balochistan, and two militant Pakistani political parties in Karachi, have links to the United States and India. The TTP enjoys safe havens in US-controlled Afghanistan.
Washington continues to allow the Afghan territory it controls to host TTP terrorists responsible for suicide attacks inside out cities. The same is true for BLA, with the additional Indian involvement in this joint venture with CIA.
This is the kind of hostile environment that we face. It provides context to the violence in Karachi, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan faces one more thing: punishment for delaying the reopening of NATO supply route. This is where things get dirty.
As Pakistan continued to ignore US calls for a compromise after the deliberate US attack that killed 24 of our soldiers, pro-US Pakistani allies MQM and ANP, two militant parties that divide Pakistanis according to language, stepped up destabilization of Karachi. [President Zardari helped Asfandyar Wali, ANP leader, secretly meet then CIA director in Spring 2008 in Washington.] In tandem with violence in Karachi, unknown elements launched assassinations of innocent Pakistani Hazara Shia citizens in Balochistan simultaneously with a similar campaign in Gilgit.
Make no mistake: Our enemies are using Pakistanis for this mayhem. So there is a foreign and a domestic element to this situation. But sectarian terror and groups were largely contained over the past decade. The sudden surge in sectarianism at three strategic Pakistani locations should raise alarm bells.
OUR SUNNIS & SHIAS
Internally, our state needs to come down with an iron fist on sectarian parties and militant political parties.
The Political Parties Act needs to be amended to ban any political group or party based on sectarian or linguistic agenda that seeks to divide Pakistanis and distract attention from real issues like prosperity, education and development.
Pakistan also needs to warn Iran against recruiting and financing Pakistani citizens of the Shia sect. The Shia-majority areas of Gilgit-Baltistan were peaceful until the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran which brought with it an Iranian policy of recruiting Shia citizens of neighboring countries. To be fair to Iran, it stopped this policy for more than a decade now but some hard-line elements in Iran continue to pump money and provide some training to extremist Shia groups in Pakistan. These extremist Shia groups do not represent all Pakistani Shia citizens but are better organized thanks to foreign backing.
Similarly, we should seek Saudi action against any private funding from Saudi sources to sectarian Sunni groups in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia ended that kind of support a decade ago but some Pakistani extremist Sunni groups could be receiving funding from private Saudi or other Gulf-based individuals and groups.
In short, both Tehran and Riyadh did limit their links to sectarianism in Pakistan over the past decade. But unfortunately some extremist elements in Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to fund Shia and Sunni extremists in Pakistan. If this is stopped, we can identify other terrorists, acting as Sunni or Shia, who are feeding sectarianism on orders from unknown elements in Afghanistan, a country where multiple countries are operating with different agendas. The Indians have a history of meddling in sectarianism during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. [The Americans are known to have used sectarianism as a policy tool in Iraq. Also, Israel appears to have links to a group called Jundullah, created as a Sunni group to hound Iran.]
STRONG FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Pakistan needs a strong federal government to deal with the external and domestic parts of this destabilization. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a huge mess in our relations with a belligerent US, while a corrupt and discredited political elite is in power in Islamabad.
To put Pakistan on the right track, we need to get out of America's failed war [we can help them in all possible ways with their demands as they withdraw from Afghanistan on case-by-case basis but we should not be party to an American war of extermination against Afghan Taliban and Afghan Pashtuns.]
At the same time, Pakistan's federal and provincial structures need a revamp. The existing political parties are part of the problem and can't be part of a solution. Pakistan needs a break from general elections for a few years. The focus needs to shift from politics to moneymaking, education, arts. Parties need to be legally reorganized, by force if necessary, to allow new leaderships and new faces. We can reorganize Pakistan into smaller administrative units, each with its own elected chief executive and local parliament running local affairs, with a strong federal government in Islamabad. This would provide a good balance between local and federal governments, and forever end the politics of language and provincialism. Once this is done, we can embark on gradually reintroducing a new, stable and peaceful Pakistani politics and democracy in the country.
This kind of change is not possible through politics. It will need the cooperation of middle class patriotic Pakistanis, the judiciary and the armed forces. And whatever the reservations, we need the muscle of the armed forces to pull this through.
None of this should sound outlandish, not after the great transformations we have seen in places like Egypt and Tunisia. We have already wasted the first decade of the new century. Pakistan need to do something for our country and people before it is too late.