|TURNING PAKISTAN INTO A SECTARIAN BATTLGROUND
The Mominpura Cemetery massacre of 25 Shi'i Muslims in Lahore on January
11 (1998) reflects the impunity with which sectarian terrorists operate
in Pakistan while the law enforcement agencies remain impotent. The attack
occurred amid claims by the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif that the
tide of sectarianism had been turned with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism
Act, adopted by the government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif last year.
The Act gives police sweeping powers and provides for seven-day trials
in cases involving sectarian killings. The government has also set up a
multisectarian board to foster religious harmony in the country. Ironically,
the terrorists struck while a police van was parked only a short distance
from the scene of the crime. The terrorists fled in a red jeep with licence
plate number FDS 2276. It sped past the police who did not give chase.
Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an off-shoot of the extremist Sunni group, Sepah-e
Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), claimed responsibility for the massacre in which
at least 50 people were also injured, some of them seriously. Most of the
victims were women and children who had gathered for Qur'an-Khwani (Qur'anic
recital) at the McLeod Road cemetery. The gathering had nothing to do with
Punjab has been turned into a sectarian battleground. There were more
than 200 killings in 1997. Sectarianism reared its ugly face in the early
eighties as a result of external exigencies primarily relating to the Islamic
Revolution in Iran. Both the US and Saudi Arabia wanted to contain its
influence among Muslims worldwide. In Pakistan, a narrow extremist interpretation
of Sunnism was promoted, sponsored by the Saudis and their sidekicks, the
Kuwaitis, to bankroll fringe groups for their nefarious designs.
Further impetus was provided by the jihad in Afghanistan and the flood
of Arab volunteers, some of them with Wahhabi persuasions, who spread their
narrow and archaic interpretation of Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Money was no problem. Cash-starved madrassahs in Pakistan became recipients
of Saudi largesse. More ominously, the Saudis pushed their virulent brand
of anti- Shi'ism into the fabric of Pakistani society where Shias and Sunnis
have lived in harmony for decades.
The Saudis consider all Muslims other than their followers, as kafirs
(unbelievers). Their primary target, however, is the Shiis. It is this
sectarian poison that is currently causing havoc in Pakistan.
Since the eighties, the number of Deeni madaris (religious schools)
have mushroomed. According to Pakistan interior ministry sources, there
are more than 2500 such madaris in Punjab alone with Lahore division accounting
for 323 while the Bahawalpur division for 883.
It is the nature of the madaris, however, that gives clue to their foreign
sponsors and the deadly game they are engaged in. Of the 2500 madaris,
972 belong to the Deobandi school and another 174 to Ahl-e Hadith - an
even more extremist outfit directly linked with Saudi Arabia. Between them,
the Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith control nearly 1150 madaris in Punjab with
102,600 students. >From there pupils are churned out with hate-filled
minds ready to kill fellow Muslims in the name of their particular version
Lashkar-e Jhangvi takes its name from a slain leader of the Sepah-e
Sahaba, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. He belonged to Jhang in central Punjab from
where the Sepah-e Sahaba erupted in the mid-eighties. Two of their most
important training centres are in Muridke (Sheikhupura) and Kabirwal in
Khanewal district, according to a retired deputy commissioner who was quoted
in the Islamabad daily, the News (May 8, 1997).
These are not just learning institutions; they are camps where armed
training is provided. Police and other law enforcement agencies do not
venture inside, either for fear or because their sympathies lie with the
The Saudi war against Iran has taken other deadly turns as well. In
1990, Sadiq Ganji, head of Iran's cultural centre in Lahore, was gunned
down by the Sepah-e Sahaba. His killers, among them Zakiuddin Zaki, escaped
from a jail in Dera Ghazi Khan on December 26, 1997. Last February, Agha-e
Rahimi, Iran's cultural attache in Multan, was attacked and killed together
with six others.
The Pakistani police officer, Ashraf Marth who apprehended the killers
of Agha-e Rahimi, was himself shot and killed in Gujranwala last May. Marth
had retrieved thousands of dollars in cash, weapons, credit cards and most
significantly, contact phone numbers of American officials from the terrorists.
Since his killing, the matter has been hushed up for fear of upsetting
the Americans. And then, last September, five Iranian airforce cadets were
shot and killed in broad daylight in Rawalpindi.
US officials talk much about combating terrorism but they themselves
indulge in much terrorist activity worldwide. Their Saudi puppets, who
are afraid of even their own shadows, also do America's bidding by financing
hired killers and mercenaries.
The SSP has issued a list of Shia officials - ministers, senior bureaucrats
and others - whom they want to eliminate. So far, the government has treated
the whole affair with kid gloves. Punjab inspector general of police, Jehanzeb
Burki, speaking in an interview on the BBC world service on January 12
said it was impossible to provide protection to every citizen. What Burki
failed to mention was that if the government were serious about stopping
terrorism, then it should go after the heads of the various madaris in
which such training is given. These are well-known and can easily be apprehended.
The government's failure has to do with politics. The SSP and Lashkar-e
Jhangvi are also linked with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Harkatul
Ansar group in Kashmir. The Taliban are Islamabad's latest favourites.
Taking on their allies in Pakistan would undermine its policy in Afghanistan.
An additional advantage is that it keeps the Pakistani Shi'is in check
who are viewed as 'troublesome.'
The Shi'is in Pakistan have their own group of extremists but since
their numbers are small, they cannot take on the SSP or Lashkar-e Jhangvi.
For the present, innocent people are getting killed on both sides while
the authorities turn a blind eye to such slaughter.
|Funeral service for the victims of the Moninpura Massacre