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Tag Archives | shia

Blood on the rooftops

India and the West must reevaluate their positions on the continued persecution of minorities in Pakistan.

The attack on 150 Christian homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony is the most recent in a series of attacks against minorities in Pakistan.  A mob of nearly 3,000 protestors pillaged through the community over alleged blasphemous remarks made by a Christian “sanitation worker” and set fire to homes and shops. Punjab police stood by and watched as the situation unfolded.  That no one died from this marauding rampage is less a consolation and more a miracle.  This image tells us a story of the anarchy that prevailed that day.

Two weeks ago in Karachi, a bomb ripped through a mainly-Shia community in Abbas Town. At least 45 people were killed and 150 wounded.  In the first two months of 2013, nearly 200 Shia were killed in Quetta in two separate bombings.  But the response from Pakistan’s leaders has been predictable.  The attacks in Quetta were a conspiracy.  The attack against the Christian community was also a conspiracy. There are no realities in Pakistan anymore; just conspiracies.

It is very likely that this disciplined and motivated assault on the minorities of Pakistan will continue.  There has been a deliberate attempt to portray this violence as a “sectarian conflict.”  But those who do so fail to recognize that a conflict requires two willing participants.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — the terrorist outfit of the Ahl-e-Sunnat-wa-al-Jamaat (ASWJ) —  which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta is based in the badlands of south Punjab, where the writ of the PML(N), rather than that of the PPP, holds sway.  The LeJ has very recently made it clear (اردو) that its mission is “the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shia and the Shia-Hazaras from every city, every town, every village and every nook and cranny of Pakistan.”  And yet, the Pakistani state can (will) do nothing about the violence carried out against its citizens in its own sovereign territory.

Article upon article has been written arguing that Pakistan is a failed state.  But Pakistan today is not a failed state as much as it is a failed idea.  Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision is invalidated with each mounting attack on sectarian and religious minorities in Pakistan.  It remains invalidated by the preservation of legal cover though the likes of the Hudood and XX Ordinances which allow for the perpetuation of the “cleansing operation” currently under way in the Land of the Pure.

Jinnah’s Pakistan has ceased to exist.  What we have now instead is a different project, whose odious objectives should be amply clear to everyone.  Under this new project, anyone who is not of a particular identity favored by the state will be systematically eradicated.  The Hindus that remained in Pakistan after Partition have always had to endure the agony of a state-mandated program of intimidation, subjugation and extermination.  However, the implementation of this new project means that the Shia and Ahmedis are also wajib ul-qatal (fit to be killed).

What is left of this failed experiment is a state in our immediate neighborhood with a population of 180 million having no capacity or willingness to protect its minorities.  But how does one provide for the security of those persecuted?  If the state has decided that it is unable and/or unwilling to do so, it presents an ethical dilemma to India and the West.  But more importantly, it also presents a security dilemma to India.  India cannot afford to have a Bangladesh-like scenario on both its eastern and western boundaries.

Members of the Shia and Ahmadiyya communities who are financially capable of seeking better lives in the Gulf or the West will migrate, or have already done so.  Persecuted Hindus will seek refuge in India without going through the rigors of its convoluted immigration process. India will most likely turn a blind eye to their presence in the country if they choose not to return to Pakistan.  But what happens to the vast majority of Pakistan’s minorities, who on account of being systematically persecuted and ostracized, lack the financial means to escape their daily horrors?

It has perhaps been politically judicious thus far for the West to not press Pakistan hard enough on the issue of its treatment of minorities.  An opportunity to correct these wrongs exists after the U.S. and its allies extricate themselves from their entanglements in 2014.  Human rights NGOs and news media from the West and India must be encouraged to increase their coverage of abuses against minorities in Pakistan.  Additionally for India, this presents an opportunity to reevaluate and streamline its immigration policy and to formalize a legal framework to grant asylum to persecuted individuals in its neighborhood.

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Atomic outsourcing

More on the China-Pakistan nuclear deal.

The inimitable K. Subrahmanyam is on target in this Indian Express piece on the motives and implications of the China-Pakistan nuclear deal which envisages China building two 650-MW reactors in Punjab province:

The real issue is the following. According to US nuclear scientists Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman who wrote The Nuclear Express, Deng Xiaoping took a decision to proliferate to selected Marxist and Islamic countries in the early ‘80s including Pakistan, North Korea and Iran…[I]t stands to reason that the Chinese proliferation to Pakistan and proliferation by both countries to Iran were deliberate state-led acts. All subsequent Pakistani proliferation attempts to Iran and Libya were state-sanctioned, and Khan was acting with full approval of successive governments and army chiefs in Pakistan.

China managed to insert a clause aimed at India into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty draft, totally in violation of the Vienna Convention on Treaties, that the treaty would enter into force only when India which was totally opposed to the treaty, signed and ratified it. This was a challenge to India’s sovereignty.

The real issue they overlook is the Pakistani nuclear arsenal’s destabilizing effect on West Asia and the strategic gain for China from that phenomenon. On June 7 this year, The Washington Post disclosed that a former CIA officer who managed intelligence reports on Saudi Arabia has sent an uncleared manuscript to Congressional offices claiming that China supplied nuclear missiles to the kingdom early in the George W. Bush administration.

Shia Iran finds itself confronted on two sides by Sunni nuclear-armed powers. Iran has an experience of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapon) by its Sunni leadership (Saddam Hussein). They face millennium-old Sunni hostility, al-Qaeda and its associates patronized by the Pakistan army regularly target Shias even while praying in mosques. Western analysts are right to worry about an arms race in West Asia. But the origins lie not in Iranian proliferation, but in Chinese-Pakistani proliferation. Iran is only trying to protect itself. The arms race is already on. [Indian Express]

A couple of points to further accentuate these arguments. First, the real issue here is how nuclear non-proliferation regimes have been singularly incapable of both holding China accountable to its non-proliferation commitments and dealing with nuclear proliferation perpetrated by a larger power like China.  While the West fumes and frets over a nuclear Iran or Myanmar’s so-called “nuclear brigade,” the 800-pound giant panda in the room is a China that has been entirely unapologetic about its intent to proliferate.

But then, this has been the defining characteristic of global non-proliferation regimes — they are discriminatory by design.  Recent news reports bring up China’s NSG commitments because of the impending NSG meet in New Zealand.  But there are several non-proliferation treaties that China has violated since 1990 in its decision to supply Islamabad and Pyongyang with nuclear know-how.

Second, China has, from the outset, sought to ensure India’s containment in the subcontinent.  It has pursued this by utilizing Pakistan as a tool — equipping Pakistan with nuclear weapons is just one aspect of this.  Given China’s intentions, India taking up its concerns vis-a-vis Pakistan to Beijing assumes that China can be turned around and that it can play the role of an honest broker in the subcontinent.  However, there is no precedent in the last 60 years to support this well intentioned, but misplaced leap of faith.  China can’t be an “honest-broker” when it is part of the problem.

Finally, as The Filter Coffee has previously pointed out, the impact of China’s actions will be felt most in West  Asia. Pakistan’s deterrence vis-a-vis India has, arguably, been in place since about 2000-2001.  Yet, Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons at a frantic pace.  The answer to this apparent disconnect lies in Pakistan’s nuclear commitments to Saudi Arabia.  Iran’s misplaced bravado and miscalculations have largely led to its nuclear isolation; however, the Sunni world is disquieted by Tehran aspirations and has sought refuge under a nuclear umbrella, provided by China, by way of Pakistan.

China’s reckless actions, which have already destabilized the subcontinent, now further complicate matters in an already volatile West Asia.   In addition, its defiance of non-proliferation efforts further accentuates systemic flaws in the global non-proliferation order.  These issues are of consequence to India and the rest of the world.  Myopic editorials on the matter hurt efforts in confronting the reckless behavior of a serial proliferator.

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