Shias And Their Future In Pakistan
I don't agree with the author on everything he is saying, but this should be a wake-up call for Pakistan.
" Shias (predominantly Twelver Shias, but also smaller groups of Ismailis and Dawoodi Bohras, etc.) make up between 5 and 25% of Pakistan’s population. The exact number is not known because the census does not count them separately and pro and anti-Shia groups routinely exaggerate or downgrade the number of Shias in Pakistan (thus the most militant Sunni group, the Sipah e Sahaba, routinely uses the figure of 2% Shia, which is too low, while Shias sometimes claim they are 30% of the Muslim population, which is clearly too high).
Shias were not historically a “minority group” in the sense which modern identity politics talks about “minorities” (a definition that, sometimes unconsciously, includes some sense of being oppressed/marginalized by the majority). Shias were part and parcel of the Pakistan movement and the “great leader” himself was at least nominally Shia. He was not a conventionally observant Muslim (e.g. he regularly drank alcohol and may have eaten pork) and was for the most part a fairly typical upper-class “Brown sahib”, English in dress and manners, but Indian in origin. He was born Ismaili Khoja but switched to the more mainstream Twelver sect; a conversion that he attested to in a written affidavit in some court or the other. His conversion was said to be due to the Khoja Ismaili sect excommunicating his sisters for marrying non-Khojas, but less charitable observers do note that it was also politically astute for an Indian Muslim leader to be Twelver Shia rather than Ismaili since mainstream acceptance of Twelver Shias was far greater.
His position as a Shia was thus not a significant problem for him as he led the Muslim League’s movement for a separate Muslim state. Twelver Shias were well integrated into the Muslim elite and in opposition to Hindus, they were all fellow Muslims. The question of whether Jinnah was Shia or Sunni was occasionally asked but Jinnah always parried it with the fatuous stock reply “was the holy prophet Shia or Sunni?” This irrelevant (and in some ways, irreverent) reply generally worked because theologial fine print was not then a priority for the superficially Anglicized North Indian Muslim elite. Their Muslim identity distinguished them from Hindus and especially in North India, it was frequently mixed with a certain anti-Indian racism (the assumption being that they themselves were “superior” Afghans, Turks, Persians, etc.). Shia and Sunni was not a big issue for them yet. But foreshadowing the problems that would come later as the ideology of Pakistan matured, a Shia-Sunni distinction did arise when he was buried; his sister arranging a hurried Shia funeral in the house, while the state arranged a Sunni funeral in public. That event and his studied avoidance of any specifically Shia observance in his own life has since led to some claims by anti-Shia activists that Jinnah was in fact Sunni. But years later, a court did get to rule on this issue and they ruled that he was Shia (property was involved). Meanwhile, by the time his sister died in 1967, matters had become uglier and even an orderly Sunni funeral was not easily arranged.
Since then, things have become much worse. The leaders of the Muslim league in general and the great leader in particular seem to have thought that once a Muslim state had been founded, it would function as a kind of Muslimized version of British India. The same commissioners and deputy commissioners, selected by the same civil service examinations, would rule over the “common people” while a thin (and thinly educated) crust of Muslim landlords and other “Ashraaf” lorded it over them.
Having used Islam to separate themselves from their Hindu and Sikh neighbors, they might judiciously use it to strengthen the spirit of Jihad in Kashmir or carry out other nation-building projects but it was not seen as a potential problem. Some of them probably thought there would be something called Islamic law in Islamic Pakistan but most of the push for sharia law came from mullahs who had earlier strongly opposed Jinnah’s project on the logical basis that no one as ignorant of Islam as Jinnah could possibly create an Islamic state…but they soon realized that this pork-eating, whisky drinking Shia had indeed done so, and they were then quick to move in and try to take ownership).
Iran was a Sunni state until 15th century when Safavids took power and introduced the pagan practices (Please read the details in link above as to how pagan customs crept into the Shia beliefs that are still practiced by majority of Shias). Shias need to revert back to mainstream Islam and desist from the Safavid past in order to integrate into mainstream Islam.
The Pakistani Shias fell into problems after the revolution of Iran. Khomeni vowed to export his revolution to the other Muslim countries. In his efforts to do so, he adopted the policy of intervention in the other Muslim countries through the Shia minorities. That was how the Shia minority of Pakistan unnecessarily feel into a lot of problem. The Ismaili Shias (Agha Khanis and Bohris) kept themselves away from the Iranian backed Shias so they have no problems in the Pakistani society.
The sectarian menace
IN the wake of the attacks against the Hazaras in Quetta, accusations have been levelled by a section of civil society, media and human rights organisations that the armed forces and its intelligence agencies have some links with proscribed militant outfits like the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ).
There is also a widespread general perception that our security establishment calls the shots on internal security issues, especially those pertaining to Balochistan and Fata.
This criticism against a publicly respected institution of the armed forces resulted in an emphatic denial by none other than the chief of the ISPR, the military’s media wing, at a specially arranged media briefing last month.
At the same time the secretive and powerful ISI formally told the Supreme Court that it had conveyed prior information about the transfer of large-scale chemicals from Lahore for preparation of explosives in Quetta to be soon used against the Hazaras.
It conceded that formal counterterrorism operations were not part of the ISI’s mandate, implying that the Frontier Corps (FC) and the police had failed to prevent the carnage even after being given clear information.
A military spokesman stated clearly that “the armed forces were not in contact with any militant organisation, including the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi”. This realisation is welcome, especially after a change in the military doctrine recently when the army chief unequivocally declared on Independence Day in 2012 that the Pakistani state was pitted against an internal enemy in the form of militant organisations that were planning to unravel the country through terrorism and religious extremism.
The very public and categorical denial by the army command should also result in the institution’s own soul-searching and internal accountability about the patronage of certain militant organisations by the military and the intelligence agencies, especially during the Zia and Musharraf eras.
The present army command knows and understands that security-handling and political engineering by the Military Intelligence (MI) in Balochistan led to the woes of that unfortunate province that continues to bleed due to the unresolved issue of the missing persons, the Baloch insurgency, targeted killings of Punjabi settlers and sectarian terrorism, especially against the Hazara Shias.
While ruling out any collaboration at any level, the army spokesman stated that there was “no reason to think about the army’s involvement” with the LJ. He vociferously added that “there is no way the army can afford this. If such a thing comes to notice it will be sorted out”.
The record shows and all Hazaras know that there was not a single incident of sectarian terrorism in Quetta or the entire province in 2007 because high-profile LJ terrorists like Usman Kurd and Dawood Badini had been apprehended and incarcerated in a high-security, anti-terrorism police force-guarded prison in the
military cantonment in Quetta.
Will the army command and intelligence agencies honestly probe the circumstances under which the LJ desperados escaped from a secure facility in January 2008? Is it not a fact that the LJ Balochistan regrouped under these fugitives and since then has unleashed a reign of terror, not only in Quetta but all over the country?
In my view, the armed forces now have a responsibility to come up to the expectations of the victim Shia community of Quetta and leave no stone unturned to re-arrest the LJ fugitives.
No army operation is required for this challenging task. All it requires is for the Crime Investigation Department, the Special Branch, Intelligence Bureau, and the ISI to pool their resources, share information and help the police, FC and the armed forces for a targeted raid in an area which is outside the jurisdiction of the police.
It is now time to address the civil-military disconnect to resolve the issue of internal security fault lines and stop blaming each other. Sectarian violence is now the biggest threat to our national cohesion and peace.
The timing is also crucial because the next national elections are around the corner.
An inept and corrupt government failed to muster the political will to tackle the security challenges facing Balochistan during the last five years.
A truly representative new political leadership elected as a result of fair and transparent elections will hopefully be chastened by the previous misrule and try to deliver peace and progress to the hapless citizens of a province crying for the healing touch of reforms.
Meanwhile, our security establishment led by the armed forces and intelligence agencies, who have been part of the problem, has to become a very active part of the solution to combat sectarian terrorism, resolve the issue of missing persons, guard our vast frontiers, and actively support the police, Levies, and civil armed forces such as the FC and Coast Guard.
It must do so not only to protect our vital national assets in Balochistan but become part and parcel of good governance and service delivery for citizens of the hinterland of our nation. I wish it Godspeed.
The writer is former IG police, Balochistan.
There is no hostility against Agha Khani and Bohri Shias. They confine their religious activities inside their jamat khanas and avoid any such activity which yield any hostility against them. They have non-political instincts also. They are rather placating the general public by running the setups of public welfare. Isna Ashri Shias came into trouble after the revolution of Iran when Khomeni vowed to export his revolution., otherwise, they were living as comfortably as Agha Khani and Bohri Shias.
Iran put the Isna Ashri Shias into problems but never supported them for migration or asylum in Iran.
Some apologists blame the conflict on Iranian revolution but that has been thoroughly debunked in an article on critical ppp.com
Is Shia genocide in Pakistan an outcome of Saudi-Iran proxy war?
Here is the link to original article....
The first mass scale shia sunni riot erupted at the Imam Bara of Lalokhet-Karachi in 1983 in the presence of the Iranian Consul General. He made a fiery speech over there which was followed by a mass scale riot. Iran is simply using Shias without providing them migration or asylum in Iran. Even the Pakistani Shia pilgrims in Iran are very rudely treated by their Iranians.
Agha Khani and Bohri Shias are living comfortably in Pakistan. Naturally, the Isna Ashra Shias can also live comfortably in Pakistan like Agha Khani and Bhori Shias.
You didn't even bother to read the article and insist on continuing your nonsensical rant.
Shia Killings in Pakistan are mostly one way streak.
You are trying to blame the victims for the crime which is really pathetic.
Not only Shias but all minorities face bleak future in Pakistan and under PML-N Govt their lives of shia minority would become miserable and highly vulnerable as Lashkar JHangvi (the militant wing of PML-N) will double their attacks on them.
Religion is being gang raped in Pakistan by over 100 different warring religious groups and they all hate each other. They all abuse religion and incite hatred and intolerance in the society.
It is high time to ban all religious groups in Pakistan and close madrassa system and turn all madrassas into schools. Pakistani Govt should learn from Bangladeshi example where effective and result-producing steps are being to curb and eliminate militancy in their country.
Religious educaiton must be monitored under government's purview.
Bhai Z M
I am not blaming common Shias. They have been used. The reaction of their usage is falling upon them. You can see even the change of dress code of Shia Ulemas after the revolution of Iran. Sherwanis were replaced by Iranian style robes and kurtas.
Religious education should be banned in Pakistan and it has not served any purpose, rather it has promoted violence, terrorism, sectarian hatred and intolerance in the society.
All madrasses should be closed and turned into schools.
Shia ulema or for that matter anybody else in Pakistan should have the freedom of whatever dress they wish.
Now you sound like Rehman Malik criticising Qadri's cap and Taliban telling people to wear their shalwar above the ankles.
Dear Zia M Sahab
I think the Isna Ashri Shias must disassociated themselves from Iran and live like Agha Khani or Bohri Shias. Iran is putting them into trouble without facilitating them migration or asylum. Isna Ashri Shias are Muslims and Pakistanis and they can live comfortably by tying up themselves with the Pakistani communities instead of attaching them to a troublesome foreign power.
انتہا پسندی چاہے مذہبی ہو یا لبرل . چاہے فرقہ پرستی کی بنیاد پر ہو یا قومیت کی بنیاد پر . چاہے اسکول میں دی جاتی ہو یا مدرسوں میں . معاشرے کے لئے خطرناک ہے .... ہر عقلمند انسان کو ایسے عناصر سے کنارہ کشی اختیار کرنی چاہے جو انتہا پسندی کو فروخ دیتے ہیں
جتنے مارے ہیں مسلمان ، مسلمانوں نے
ساری دنیا نے بھی مل کرنہیں مارے ہوں گے
Mr. Asif Rashid
You are absolutely right. In our past history, madresas produced scientists like Al-Bureni, Gazali, Ibne Haishem, Ibne Rushd, Jabir Bin Hayan,,etc. The madresas of Pakistan were used by the Americans as the recruitment centers for jihadis against the Soviets. These madresas are not real institutions of religious education.
Janab Hussain Farooqui Sahab,
As schools madarasa are also neccasary for our soceity. As there is injustice in our society thats why in some schools and madrasas hate is propagated. Get rid of injustice and there will be no propogation of hate in schools and madrasas.
In early years mostly poor parents who were not able to afford costs of education and feeding of their childern started sending their childern to madrasa. But through effort of TJ even rich and educated Parents have started teaching their Intelligent & smart childern Islamic education. This is a good change for the madrasa which minimise the hate, as these parents and childern are not effected through the injustice of the soceity. Lot of madarasa (perhaps not all) doing a very good job. I know orignaly german muslims and even muslims from all over the world sending their childern to madrasa after finishing their schools.
Madresas were more of the nature of orphanage rather than educational institutions. Poor and needy people admitted their children to let them enjoy free education, free food and free accommodation. They were of innocent nature till Zia's regime. They depended on the alms, donations and charities of common people. During Zia's regime, these madresas were converted into recruitment and training centers for Afghan jihad with very heavy downpours of dollars and riyals. By the curse of those dollars and riyals, these madresas transformed into nuisance.
Despite the passage of 65 years time, we have not yet changed the colonial style educational system into one of our own. We have either such type of educated people who have no awareness of their cultural and religious values or the semi-educated clerics who have no awareness of the contemporary changes in the fields of knowledge.