Setting The Right Conditions

Source: brecorder.com

Source: brecorder.com

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on a very successful tour to the United States. Earlier, the Army Chief has also met the US National Security Advisor. The United States is selling more F-16 jets to Pakistan, is looking to discuss a civilian nuclear deal, while also asking Pakistan to put the brakes on its growing nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, alongside the Prime Minister’s daughter, the American First Lady has also announced a program for education for girls. All these are very good signs for Pakistan’s future, not only economically, but in terms of defense as well.

As much as we criticize foreign aid, it’s a foreign relations tool that is not going to vanish any time soon enough. Probably countries such as Pakistan cannot do without it, but the United States must ensure that it serves its purpose of strengthening the alliance, and of promoting its interests.

The Jacobabad procession bombing is just a demonstration of how menacing the problem of domestic sectarian terrorism is, even when a massive operation has been conducted against anti-state Islamist terrorists. The Islamist terrorists who are not anti-state must be met with the same ruthlessness and vigor.

As a citizen of Pakistan, I would like to see the United States acknowledge Pakistan’s commitment and actions to fight against Islamist terrorism. But at the same time, as a concerned citizen of the world who would see the progress of secular values, I would also like to see the United States press Pakistan harder for taking actions against domestic terrorism. Not because the US government cares about human rights or dying minority sect citizens, but because such a country would be a threat to the national security of the United States and democratic values.

Lashkar-e-Jhangavi has again taken responsibility for the Jacobabad bombing and all we can do is to wait for the next Muharram for another one of these incidents. What is worse, these sectarian terrorists do not need an occasion or reason to attack the Shia, Ismaili, Hazara and Ahmadi population, as we have witnessed a plenty of times in the recent past.

All of us must commend the federal and provincial governments for all the hard work for protecting citizens and religious processions during the Ashura. However, it would be even better if they concentrate their efforts on proactively taking action against the roots of these sectarian groups, which are surely operating within the country. As much as it is a good thing that we are on the lookout for RAW agents, it would be helpful to pay attention to these immediate internal threats.

Fortunately, the armed forces also seem to be in the mood for taking on the challenge of extremism as well. The army chief has vowed that the military would do all in its power to protect Pakistan from the threat of ISIS.

It is important to recognize the growing religious intolerance in the society, especially when similar sentiment is prevalent in neighboring India, which is only going to make matters worse. But what the democratic and civilized world has in common is the commitment to fight religious extremism, which is a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere.

Just like the civil and military leadership has considered it vital to take action against miscreants in Karachi, it is probably even more important to protect the nation from the threat of sectarian terrorism. Not only are sectarian terrorists a threat to national unity, but they are a threat to freedom of religion and speech in this country.

I have complete faith in the civilian leadership and the commitment of the armed forces to fight terrorism. However, I wish that they would not require a nudge from a more authoritative entity to launch their pursuit.

Considering the relative inaction against sectarian terrorists, that surely seems to be the case.

But we know that wheels get moving when it comes to the bottom line.

So the US administration should set the right, strict conditions of action against religious extremism at home for military and civilian aid.

Not even that, they should make sure that the job is done properly.

A version of this post was published in The Nation blogs.
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The Perseverance of the Hazara

Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

Irfan Ali – Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

The January 10 Alamdar Road bombings in Quetta targeting the Hazara and Shia community has worked somewhat like the last straw for both these troubled people and our troubled nation. The Hazara community held a sit-in protest for three days with the corpses of the victim on the road. Similar sit-in protests were also held in other major Pakistani cities in solidarity. The protests triggered the Prime Minister to fly over to Quetta and confirm Governor’s rule in Baluchistan, dismissing the Raisani regime.

Even though I am not sure what good would the Governor’s rule do and if the community could feel safer with increased military security, it is encouraging to see that the protest had its effect. It was surely not a wasted exercise but I am not sure if I agreed with every demand of theirs. But I do hope it works whatever they are. I mean at least words were not falling on deaf years this time around, as has largely been the case with Shia killings in Pakistan in general.

Vigil for Irfan - Source: Shiraz Hassan

Vigil for Irfan Ali in Islamabad – Source: Shiraz Hassan

Sadly for Pakistani twitterati and human rights groups, peace activist Irfan Ali ( @khudiali ) also lost his life in the incident. He was one of the most energetic activists around in Pakistan and was the face of the struggle of the Hazara in many ways.  I am sure that he will be missed greatly by those on the forefront of fighting for the rights of the community and it is simply heartbreaking to even think of all the precious lives lost in this incident. All we can do is just write words on blogs and on twitter.

Even Irfan’s last tweets are reflective of how painful the situation is on ground in Quetta for the Hazara community.

 

I met a couple of my friends in the Hazara community who were also actively staging the protests. What I loved about not only them but almost all the members of the Hazara community in the Islamabad protests was that they were smiling and were in high spirits despite all what was happening to them. They were welcoming everyone with open arms. It is not easy to do that when you are going through hell and staring death in the face.

But apart from any one particular sit-in, the entire Hazara community has remained remarkably calm and peaceful. Given the viciousness of the people of this region, their peaceful behavior has restored some of my long lost faith in humanity. Even though all people like me can offer is moral support, I really hope that the people killing them stop doing it. Because I don’t really see the Pakistani government taking any action against them whatsoever.

All the rest of the communities in Pakistan need to break our silence about it. While we can all hope that the madness of the targeted killing of the Shia community in general and Hazara in particular comes to an end, simply increasing the military security will do no good. Baluchistan is already virtually under military control, so what they need to do is take proactive action against terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

If they are serious to stop this genocide, that is.