Pakistan. Not so zinda, really bad:
Bombs tore through Pakistan on Thursday and killed at least 100 people, most of them Shia. It is not the first time militants have targeted the Hazara community and it won’t be last. What sets this bloody incident apart from others, however, is the wider response to it.
Dawn newspaper reports:
From Karachi to Islamabad, Shia parties such as Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) as well as civil society activists gathered to protest the three blasts in Quetta on Thursday which claimed over a hundred lives – most of them of Shia and Hazaras.
On Friday, distraught relatives of the victims had begun a protest in Quetta. Accompanied by coffins holding the bodies of those killed on Thursday, they said they would not move or bury their loved ones till the army took control of Quetta.
By Saturday, a stunned nation appeared to have rallied around in support of the protesters by holding protests. In Islamabad, a protest organised by Shia groups blocked a main road for several hours. Although the protesters dispersed late in the night, they promised to return for a peaceful demonstration on Sunday morning.
The same newspaper, on its homepage, carries the headline: “Turning Point?”
There have also been protests in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi with people criticising the provincial government for failing to protect Shia Muslims in the region. This neglect comes in spite of years of shootings, suicide bombings, hundreds of lives lost and reports that sectarian violence has become more pronounced. Human Rights Watch said at least 320 members of the Shia population were killed in targeted attacks last year. The Financial Times and the BBC have decent primers on a situation that is by turns bleak, chaotic and confusing not least because it is competing with other, multiple nightmare scenarios for the country. Dawn has a timeline on Hazara killings in Balochistan. The South Asia Terrorism Portal has datasheets on how people are dying.
So why are these protests happening, why now? How have Pakistanis gone from trashing their cities in fury at a schlocky no-mark anti-Islam film to enduring freezing temperatures to mourn alongside the genuinely demonised and persecuted? I fully accept that not all Pakistani Sunni Muslims are expressing solidarity with their Shia Muslim countrymen, that those registering their anger are in a minority and that the number of this weekend’s protesters pales in comparison when compared with other public demonstrations. But it is an improvement. That there is any measurable outrage at all is amazing given the country’s catastrophic start to 2013. Indeed the BBC’s Pakistan correspondent Aleem Maqbool remarked it was unheard of for people to still be protesting on a Sunday when the attacks had taken place on a Thursday. The writer Bina Shah was more downbeat about the ramifications from the latest bloody episode.
…while they are physically killing the weak and the vulnerable - the Shias, the Christians, the Hindus, the Ahmedis - the rest of us are suffering from this cancer too. We cannot be healthy when parts of our body are being amputated in the most brutal way. How do you live in a country that’s killing you, bit by bit? I don’t know. But I suspect we’re all about to find out.
You can read the full post here.
Shah is right. It is not simply the Shia Muslims of Pakistan who are being attacked, it is the Ahmedis too. The dead have their graves desecrated, the living have their mosques destroyed and their brethren gunned down. Christians are hounded on spurious blasphemy charges. Where is the government in all of this?
President Zardari and his cabinet was busy in what they saw as a matter of greater importance – staving off Tahir ul Qadri, an otherwise unknown cleric, who seems to have caught our political leadership napping. Simply by saying the right things and launching a march to Islamabad, he has upset the great democratic government which supposedly owes its strength to its popularity amongst the people. So shaken is the government by Tahirul Qadri that it has drafted in thousands of law enforcement personnel from other provinces to save its seat of power. Maybe it would have made more sense to deploy some of these personnel for the safety of the Hazaras.
Instead of catching the bull by the horns, we continue to ignore the problem. First the Ahmadis were attacked. Then members of other religious communities. Now it is Muslims of different sects. What next? When will we wake up from our slumber and realize that unless we deal with this problem, gradually no one will be left alive or unaffected in this great country of ours?
That extract is from a blog by Kamal Siddiqui and it can be found here.
Lest anyone get too misty-eyed about the country turning a corner, Zainab Imam writes on the reality of being a Shia in Pakistan.
93 of us perished yesterday. I don’t mean Pakistanis, I mean Shias. And as much as it pains me to identify myself as something before a Pakistani, this state seems to have left little choice for us.
Dawn was right to use that question mark.
I don’t want to discuss Tahir Ul Qadri for the very reasons mentioned by Siddiqui. The cleric and his much publicised long march are a distraction and a drain on the country’s already exhausted energies and resources.
He should realise there is a time and a place for everything. Now is not the time, Pakistan is not the place. His march could “scupper elections”, as Saeed Shah writes, by causing polls to be delayed or even cancelled.
Mr Qadri insists he wants the elections to be held on time and that his reforms could be implemented without delay. He has called for the Election Commission to “pre-clear” candidates, after checking that they paid taxes and had not defaulted on loans. But political observers see a wider agenda. Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, said: “It appears that Tahir ul-Qadri wants to derail the democratic process.… This would be entirely unacceptable because Pakistan is on the cusp of the first transfer of power from one civilian government to another.
His prominence and sabre rattling has rather captured the imagination of the media for two reasons: he’s not Imran Khan and journalists tire of writing the same Pakistan story over and over again namely Taliban/death/India/Taliban/death/cricket. Qadri’s rhetoric and showboating come as a breath of fresh air.
But it’s not the first time he’s stolen the limelight with a well-meaning but ill-judged initiative. In 2010 he launched a 600 page fatwa condemning terrorism. The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker assessed the enormous edict here. As Pakistanis, Afghans and Iraqis will tell you - if they weren’t so busy tending to their dead and injured - Qadri’s fatwa doesn’t have as much penetration as suicide bombs do.
That’s as much space as I’m prepared to give Qadri. If you want to know more about him you can find things here and here and here (that last link from Canada’s Globe and Mail).
In Case You Missed It - and it’s easily done with so much of it around - here is this week’s death toll in Pakistan. It is not comprehensive - I am entirely reliant on media reports for numbers - so this list is only indicative. It is indicative THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER GO ANYWHERE NEAR QUETTA. Drone deaths are well documented elsewhere so are not included here.
January 13 2013: A blast in North Waziristan kills 14 security force personnel. Separate explosions kill two militants and a person in a market. One person dies after an IED hits a passenger coach in Parachinar. A teenage girl is shot by her brother in what western media would call an “honour” killing.
January 12 2013: A child dies in Brewery Road, Quetta, following an IED blast. A nurse is shot dead in Nowshera, KP.
January 11 2013: Two men die after unidentified armed men attack a Nato supply terminal in the Hazarganji area of Quetta.
January 10 2013: At least 114 people killed in bomb blasts in Mingora and Quetta. A Pakistani soldier is killed in a Kashmir border clash. Three people are shot in “different incidents of target killing” in Quetta.
January 8 2013: A man is shot in Quetta.
January 6 2013: A Pakistani soldier is killed in a Kashmir border clash.