PAKISTAN: Members of Shia community were under attack while the military forces look on

Members of one of the largest sects of Islam, the Shiaite community, came under attack from militant Islamic organizations which, in the past had the patronage of Pakistan army and its intelligence agencies who offered sophisticated terrorist training including the handling of rocket launchers. The Balochistan province and Kurram agency of northern area, well known as a Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) has become a killing ground for the Shia sect that consist of 24 percent of the Muslim population in Pakistan. These are the places where the contingents of the Pakistan army and its Para-Military force, the Frontier Corps (FC) are stationed and controlling all the roads, besides having check posts all around the major cities. There is also a huge presence of spies from the infamous intelligence agency, the ISI. As a result banned Islamic militant organizations feel at liberty to operate freely under the patronage of the law enforcement agencies.

In a latest incident of September 20, 26 persons from The Shia sect of Islam were ambushed by the death squad of a banned religious organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) within half a kilometer from a FC check post. According to official reports the gunmen shot dead 26 Pakistani Shia Muslim pilgrims travelling to Iran, the deadliest attack on the minority community in Pakistan for more than a year. In the brutal assault, gunmen ordered the pilgrims to get off their bus, lined them up and assassinated them in a hail of gunfire in Mastung, a district 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Quetta, the capital of the southwest Baluchistan province.

An hour after the first attack, unidentified gunmen killed another three Shias on the outskirts of Quetta whom police said were relatives of victims of the first incident en route to collect their bodies. This figure rises to more than 500 the Shias killed in terrorist attacks during the past three years after the FC received the powers of the police. After every terrorist attack on Shia religious community the LeJ claims that they were in fact, target. The LeJ is distributing leaflets in Balochistan province particularly, in Quetta, the capital of the province that Shias are infidels and they are liable to be killed according to Islamic teachings. These campaigns against the Shia religious community is very well known to Police, FC, the Army and its intelligence services but no action has been taken against the LeJ.

The LeJ are followers of Wahabi sect of Islam which is the dominating sect in Saudi Arabia and the organization was formed during the military regime of General Zia Ul Haq in the period of Jihad against Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan. This organization was banned by General Musharraf after 9/11 when the USA and UN declared it to be a terrorist organization. But, still the LeJ operates in all parts of Pakistan particularly in Punjab province where the provincial government has even provided them with office space.

The Shia sect is also facing the same situation in Kurram Gency of northern part of Pakistan at the Afghanistan border where the army and the FC have strong control after 9/11to operate against the terrorists. Parachinar, the main city of the agency, is predominated by or at least a big chunk of the Shia community is residing here with the name of Turi tribe who have been regularly made the victim of terrorist activities of militant outfits of the Pakistani armed forces particularly, by Anjuman Sipah-e-Shaba of Pakistan (ASSP), a banned organization and follower of Saudi branded Islam of Wahabism. The Kurrum agency was divided mainly in Turi and Bangash tribes — the Bangush are mostly consisted of the Sunni sect, the largest sect of Islam in Pakistan, but both the tribes are victim of the Taliban and ASSP’s terrorist activities. The Sunni tribe, Bangush tribe, is made victims of killings and other terrorist activities, mainly, because they were not taking action against Shias and not supporting the terrorist activities of banned organizations.

The whole Kurram agency is under the control of the Haqqani network, a very powerful terrorist organization under the leadership of Mr. Siraj Haqqani, who carries out terrorist activities inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and was involved in the killing of Nato forces. It operates from the Kurram agency which is at the borders of three Afghan cities and provides a short cut route to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The Kurrum agency is also known as Parrot’s beak because of its geographical position inside the territories of Afghanistan. This whole area is under control of FC and Pakistan army all roads for exits have hundreds of check posts. But still the roads leading to Peshawar, capital of Khaiber Pakhtoon Kha province, particularly Thall road is under the control of Haqqani network and Taliban. The Parachinar city is under siege of these organizations and Thall Road is closed since four years. So the people of Parachinar have to go inside Afghanistan and then to enter Pakistan, taking very long route to reach Peshawar city. The Shias have fifty percent population of Parachinar.

In the month of April, 2011, 33 persons (all Shia) were abducted by the militant Taliban group from the Thall road, leading to Peshawar city, and 13 out of them were burnt and maimed and thrown on the road where, in those days, the Pakistan army has deployed a new contingent to start a new operation against the terrorists. In the last 18 months at least 250 people, the majority of them belonging to the Shia community, have been killed and 3000 have been injured at the hands of bloodthirsty criminals. The main Thall-Peshawar Road has been closed for the last several months. The one day it was opened resulted in killing and beheading of passengers. Other roads are closed as well, and one can only enter the region from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this is also a very dangerous road and resulted in the murder of civilians who tried to use this route.

Since the 2001 more than 5000 persons have been killed by the terrorists and majority of them are Shias in Kurram agency which is besieged by the militant organizations and troops from Pakistani military. The Thall road is also closed since 2007 and whenever it is opened the kidnappings and killings of Shia and Bangush tribes are reported daily. In July of 2008, the New York Times ran a piece highlighting the rise of “sectarian conflict” in Parachinar. By then, the town had already been subject to a siege that had spanned for months; food and medical supplies had been in severe shortage after the main Thall-Peshawar highway leading to the town was blocked off by armed groups.

In the month of July the Supreme Court of Pakistan has released one militant, Malik Sadiq of the LeJ, who was very famous in the move against Shia community and wants the state to declare Shia as infidel as it was declared to the Ahmadis. He has been charged with the murder of 70 people, most of them Shia. He was released on bail on July 16.

The Daily Express tribune reported on September 19, 2011 that it was all too predictable. After being released from jail on bail, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq’s presence has already managed to cause violence and death when members of his entourage clashed with a Shia community in Muzaffargarh, Punjab province, resulting in at least two deaths and ten injuries. Ishaq, a leader of the banned anti-Shia militant organisation, and has been travelling the country, preaching his message of bigotry against the Shia community ever since.

It has already been reported that Malik Ishaq had in October 1997 admitted to an Urdu daily to being involved in the killing of over a 100 people. He was flown from Lahore to Rawalpindi in 2009 on a military plane to get the al Qaeda-linked terrorists to negotiate with attackers who had taken several people hostage inside GHQ. On his release, he was accompanied by Sipah-e-Sahaba chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi who is in triumph today, having made a political deal in Punjab after the alleged killing of a minority group in Gojra.

In the month of December 2009, around 50 Shias were killed in a bomb blast in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, when they were having their yearly mourning processions in memory of martyred grandson of the last prophet of Islam. But still the killers are at large.

It is also alleged that judiciary is soft on the terrorists and many were released by the court process and particularly because of the prosecution’s ill information about the law. In most of the cases the judges and prosecution work under the threats from the religious militant organizations.

The Shia and other religious minority communities are also blaming the Chief Justice of Pakistan for his soft attitude towards the religious terrorist organizations particularly about ASSP and LeJ and their leadership. One example is very much sighted against the chief Justice of Pakistan that when he visited Karachi Central Prison, Karachi, in September 2009, he stayed in the jail for almost the whole night and released 28 target killers in one night from the jail on the pretext that there was not sufficient evidence against them. Those released were booked on target killings of many persons from Shia community. It was argued by the Shia community that if there were no sufficient charges against the killers even then a judicial process should be adopted rather than arrival of Chief Justice to Karachi especially for the release of terrorists and then immediately returning back to Islamabad is the clear message of the judiciary against the different religious groups.

Maulana Mohammad Saeed, chief of defunct Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT) was also on many occasion has been released by the higher courts is also wanted in the Mumbay blasts in India. The LeT is infamous in target killing of Shia and Ahmadis communities. alleged soft corners of the Pakistan army and higher courts towards the terrorist and leaders of sectarian violence is providing a good space for them to unleash against the opposite religious groups. These sectarian banned groups do not follow the law or are trying to disband their activities when they find good alleged patronage from the judiciary and army. The militant sectarian groups have also easily reaped in the law enforcement agencies particularly in army.

The sectarian killings have also become very common in the country and every year at least 200 hundred to 300 hundred persons have died. The irony is that all such killings are conducted by those organizations which are banned by the law since many years but still operating free and having their offices in the cities but no law can ban them when they find friends inside judiciary and army.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government to initiate an enquiry in to the incident of killing of 26 Shia persons in Mastung, Balochistan province and prosecute the officials of FC and police who were responsible for this negligence and nexus with the terrorists. The government must strictly implement its laws against banned terrorist Islamic organizations and its leadership and also initiate the enquiry itself in the incidents of release of terrorists by the personal actions of judges whether they are from higher courts.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-124-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Military,