Shia and Sunni alike are paying for the Pakistani state’s historical mistakes.
When editorializing on the past week’s sectarian tit-for-tat killings in Karachi, the media has abstained from naming names or bringing up Pakistan’s gory, not-so-distant past. What has happened in Karachi is part of a two-way massacre of innocent Pakistanis, which began in the 1980s and is continuing as part of the Pakistani state’s trajectory since 1947.
First, a Shia congregation was attacked, killing five. This was followed by two attacks, killing three Tableeghi Jamaat members, followed by six of Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, the renamed banned sectarian-terrorist outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba. The diagnostic mantra for these deaths is: India did it.
The two-way killing is back. What the Shia can’t do in Quetta they are doing in Karachi: hit back when attacked. Karachi’s big Banuri Town madrassa leader Mufti Shamzai, an acknowledged mentor of the Taliban, was killed in 2004, a year after the killing of Azam Tariq, chief of Sipah, an ex-student of Banuri Madrassa, near Islamabad. Another Banuri Madrassa graduate Masood Azhar has U.S. sanctions on him as a terrorist but is protected by his ongoing jihad in India-administered Kashmir.
It all started with General Zia’s military regime, which sought to impose zakat (poor due tax) on the Shia on instructions from its Arab benefactors as part of a covert war against Iran. Zia created Sipah which led to Iran’s competitive funding to the targeted sect. Then, forming the Afghan government-in-exile after the Soviet exit from Afghanistan, Arab-funded mujahideen excluded Afghanistan’s Shia militias from the government that would rule in Kabul.
Pakistan doesn’t even count the Shia separately in its census but on ground it has declined into a deeply sectarian state. Wrong decisions made by the state in the past have now returned to haunt a society succumbed to hard Islam where Muslim pluralism ordained by Pakistan’s Constitution simply cannot survive.