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If a Shia, you are on your own

By Ejaz Haider

Let me make it simple: if you are a Shia in Pakistan, you are on your own. This fact I state for the benefit of all those citizens of this country, Shia and Sunni, who are grieving the slow demise of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan and expecting that the tide could be reversed through state action.

Now for the longer answer.

There is no doubt about who is killing the Shia. The Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) has repeatedly taken responsibility for it. Its captured terrorists have often stated before courts that they have killed Shias and, given the opportunity, will do it again. The identity of the killers is a settled issue.

Nota Bene: The issue of the proxy war between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran, the funding to Sunni extremist groups and whatever is left of Shia extremists, and circumstantial evidence of indirect involvement of hostile agencies is important but peripheral to the main issue, i.e., the terrorists are Pakistanis and killing on the basis of centuries-old denominational differences. The current murderous spree, of course, has a modern political and geopolitical context.

A more relevant question is: if the group that is involved in these killings has not only been ID-ed but IDs itself, what is stopping the state from acting against it, and effectively?

This is where the problem begins.

The LeJ was begotten from the dark womb of the Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The SSP, banned by Pervez Musharraf, has reincarnated itself as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. It has a certain political presence. It is technically not the LeJ, even as de facto it is. LeJ terrorists, along with the hardline splinter group of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), have over the last five years, come to form the backbone of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) conglomerate. The TTP is an entity that political parties now — the ANP included (in desperation) — want to talk to, even as the state considers the LeJ a terrorist entity.

So while the LeJ is a terrorist organisation providing manpower to the TTP, the state is being pressured to talk to the latter and give it the legitimacy of an insurgent group.

But this is not all. In Punjab, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is in talks over seat adjustment with the ASWJ, the Dr Jekyll to its Edward Hyde, the LeJ. Leaving aside the PML-N’s petty lying about the issue, it is a fact that it wants to placate the LeJ through a dangerous liaison with the ASWJ. The general impression is that this is being done to win votes. That’s only partially true. The primary reason is that the PML-N doesn’t want mayhem in Punjab, its central vote bank, where it wants to win and win big through a lot of development work (even if lopsided) by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

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