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Friday, October 19, 2018
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Is Pakistan Army the real enemy of its people?
Should it surprise or shock us to learn from a Pakistani political activist that his country’s beloved army was colluding with terrorist groups to carry out ethnic cleansing of minorities in Pakistan? In real sense, the news should neither surprise nor shock because this has been known for years now. Even then, the statement of the Washington-based Pakistani activist Nadeem Nusrat, the convener of the MQM party in Pakistan, that ``in the last few decades, Pakistani Army has become radicalized and has been supporting jihadist groups to attack minorities and activists in the country,” should be taken seriously.
Mr Nusrat said few other things which were worth repeating and taken seriously. For example, he said “Pakistan Army’s existence is based on continuous hostility with India. Once you take this away from the equation, it will be difficult for Pakistan Army to justify its existence.” Nothing could be more closer to the truth. He added that Pakistan and India would not have good relations if Pakistan Army continued to meddle in politics. Once again, dot on the target—everyone knows that it is Pakistan Army which has kept the animosity with India boiling, spoiling all attempts by civilian leadership on both sides of the border at rapprochement since 1947.
However, the most serious, and notable, thing Mr Nusrat said was about how Pakistan Army was fanning and abetting religious extremism and fanaticism by allowing terrorist groups to function freely from Pakistan. To quote, he said: "The Pakistani soil has been used to plan and launch major terror attacks. The providers and facilitators of terror sanctuaries in Pakistan must be held accountable by the UN and all peace-loving nations."
What makes Mr Nusrat’s statement grave is not only how several other Pakistanis have in the past held the army accountable for the rise of terrorism in Pakistan but also in subjugating the country’s minorities. The minorities on their part have often accused the army of indulging in ethnic cleansing for decades now. First it was the Ahmadis who faced the combined brunt of the military-jihadi ruthlessness in the early 50s, a few years after Independence—they were branded as heretics and their religious practice banned and places of worship demolished. Even to this day, the Ahmadis, numbering some four million, remain sub-class citizens in a country which claims to be a country for Muslims.
Then the military-jihadi combine targeted the Shias, with a population of 40 million, who were considered `kafirs` or non-believers, only because they believed in the Prophet as well as his son. First prominent Shia leaders were killed, one by one, then Shia professionals became the target of `anonymous` assassins. Everyone though knew who these anonymous killers were—none of them were ever caught. In fact, these faceless killers, who often ride motorcycles and hide their face behind heavy helmets, continue to pick and kill all those considered the `enemy of the state`, read enemy of Pakistan Army. Hundreds of Shias have been killed over the years, in different provinces, and there has rarely been any trial or punishment of any killer.
As the uproar over the killings reached a pitch, the killers chose to change the mode of assassination—this time the jihadis were deployed to carrying out suicide bombings of Shia congregation. Countless such attacks against Shia religious places and congregations have been carried out. The attacks have been so brutal and numerous that the UN in 2015 asked Pakistan to bring perpetrators such killings to justice. A year later, in May 2016, a well-known think tank, the Jinnah Institute, reported that Shia Muslims have been besieged for a very long time in Pakistan. In a report, the think tank said the number of Shias killed in various violent acts to be over 1900 between 2012 and 2015.
The situation of minorities like the Hindus and Christians is even more worse. Not only are they discriminated in every walk of life, they also become easy prey to Sunnis who abduct their girls and women, rape them, forcibly convert them into Islam and marry. The plight of the minorities has been aptly summed by a Pakistani author and journalist, FarahnazIspahani. Speaking at Washington in 2017, she said: “Right before the partition of India and Pakistan, we had a very healthy balance of religions other than Islam. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians. (Now) Pakistan goes from 23%, which is almost a quarter of its population, to three per cent today…I call it a ‘drip drip genocide’, because it’s the most dangerous kind of wiping out of religious communities.”
She pointed out that this kind of genocide doesn’t happen in one day. ``Little by little by little, laws and institutions and bureaucracies and penal codes, textbooks that malign other communities, until you come to the point of having this sort of jihadi culture that is running rampant,” she said.
But even such horrific plight of citizens of Pakistan is only a tip of the iceberg. Even those who are Sunnis but are from ethnic communities other than Punjabis have been targets of the military-jihadi alliance. The Baloch are top of this list, persecuted by the army, as well as the civilian leadership, since independence, and continue to be treated as enemies of the state. Those Sindhis who have been demanding little autonomy, a space to speak their mind, too have been treated as enemies of the state. The Pashtuns are now the latest target. Ever since the army began its fake operations against terrorist groups in the tribal areas and other Pashtun dominated provinces, the troops have been relentlessly killing innocent Pashtun men, women and children instead of terrorists. The evidence is there for everyone to see. While hundreds of Pashtuns have been killed in in these operations and a few millions have abandoned their homes and fields, the terrorist groups like the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-eTaliban Pakistan, Taliban and several of its allies remain safe and secure under the patronage of the army.
The most telling evidence of the army’s involvement in the ethnic cleansing is the issue of `the missing persons`. These are men and women, who include journalists and social media activists, who are abducted by anonymous men in SUVs or other equally anonymous vehicles, taken to secret prisons where they are incarcerated for days or for ever, tortured and if lucky, dumped alive but broken outside their homes. But most are killed and dumped either in public places or on secret mass graves. Several such graves have been discovered in Balochistan over the years with neither the identity of the victims known nor the perpetrators of the mass murder of Pakistani citizens.
Early March this year, the Amnesty International summed up the collective anger and fear over the army’s role in cases of missing persons in Pakistan. The human rights watchdog said: Disappearances are a tool of terror... if committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack, they constitute a crime against humanity."... More
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