For several years we have had numerous incidents in Pakistan where the targets are minorities or people of a different faith from the attackers. This started years ago but has entered into a major league now.
Once there were Jews. Three of my friends who were in class, or were close friends, have gone to Israel because after the Palestine-Israel War people thought their families were ‘our enemies’. One friend was a year senior to me in the Merchant Navy and went to Israel just a little later as his family had received threats. Their Synagogue and the Graveyard are almost impossible to find now.
There were Ahmadis (neo-NonMuslims) who stay here – even now – under really bad draconian laws that would make it impossible for many people: They cannot say prayers in public, or sell their books, or quote from the Qur’an. Worse still, they can’t even wish Muslims with the standard Salaam Alaéküm because they could be jailed for it!!! Honest! People from any religion can say this - just like in English schools people would say Good Morning – but Ahmadis just can’t. Muslims are happy when a Hindu or a Christian (specially a Foreigner) uses these words … but an Ahmadi, now no longer a Muslim under our Constitution, can’t do so. Their graves are, frequently, ‘thrown out’ of Muslim Graveyards (although buried long before the laws came in).
Many Ahmadis have left the country, but a large population has stayed here, despite having their mosque bombed. Oh, sorry. They don’t have a mosque. They have ‘a place of worship’. Mosques are the Muslim version. And they cannot have Minarets or Domes on their ‘place of worship’, either. Muslims might walk into them by mistake and land in hell! (Incidentally I have seen some Muslim Mosques without Minarets and Domes, but …)
We had our first Foreign Minister, M. Zafarullah Khan, who was appointed by Mr Jinnah. He was an Ahmadi. We had Professor Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s first Nobel Prize winner. He was an Ahmadi. In fact the Government was so upset at his gravestone which said ” … became the First Muslim Nobel Laureate for his work in Physics …” that they had the word ‘Muslim’ officially removed. It now reads:
The Jamaaté Islami – once strongly against Jinnah Sahab, but now claiming that it was they who made Pakistan – was a group that most strongly wanted to have Ahmadis called ‘non-Muslims’. They just couldn’t do it, despite a skirmish against Ahmadis in 1953, in Lahore, where several people were killed. A Martial law was declared there. Maulana Maudoodi, head of Jamaat, was sentenced to death … but was later allowed to leave Pakistan (Money! Money! Money!) … However, Mr. Bhutto did so, in a way to appease the Jamaat’s anger at him. Didn’t work, though. They wanted him dead, too, and offered sweets to us on the road the day he was killed by the President’s orders. Well, not officially. But Zia was part of the team that wanted Mr Bhutto dead.
There are Hindus – specially a lot of them in Sindh – who have whole series of attacks going on against them. Mainly, recently, their young girls have been taken away and forced to become Muslims … before being married off to a person she may never have known. A look at the YouTube shows you the way hundred of Muslims, led by a Mulla, march into the mosque to celebrate her conversion.
In my childhood a school I attended was owned by Mrs Marie Colaco (a Catholic) and the Principal was Ms Thadani (a Hindu). Her nephew, Anand, was a close friend of mine. Sadly, his family had to leave for Bombay because the 1965 Indo-Pak War somehow meant to some people (specially those that were having fights with his parents in business) that his parents were ‘Indian supporters’. Leaving their “homeland of several centuries”, as his father said to us, was what they had to do.
Strangely, in 1971, just after the Indo-Pakistan War (which, eventually, became the Bangladesh Independence War), I had come back to Karachi on my ship. Their was Navy Police all around the ship. Officers had to take a permit every time they went down to check the draft from the jetty. No one was allowed to come aboard. My wife came to receive me and had to stay several feet away in the car. Three days later I was sitting in my cabin and Anand walked in. Huh? I thought he was in India. Well, he had just decided to visit some family members here a few days before the war and had just come to see me on the ship since a friend told him I was here. “How did you get in? There are Navy Police everywhere?”. He said, “Saala India Pakistan mayñ koee farq naheeñ haé. I paid the guy Rs 5 and got a special pass to come over. Am leaving in a day so I thought I’d meet you here.” He laughed and added, “The partition was all wrong. Our faiths in bribes were what will bring us together, soon.”
There were Christians. Loads of them. Many English schools were Church funded. Most of them were Catholic, but Protestant schools were also there. Some of us went to them and were never told to become Christians or were ever forced into their prayers, just as you can see in India. Christmases, New Years day, Easter … they all came and were celebrated heavily everywhere. Until someone decided that this was against the law – specially because people would drink. That was forbidden, too, by Mr Bhutto – not a very strong Muslim who once said in a public speech when someone remarked that he drinks: “Yes, but I don’t drink the blood of the poor.”
Soon the Christians started to leave. Rather difficult when the people you work with push you around, prevent promotions, make life unofficially difficult for you. Many have gone. The Karachi that used to be one of their best homes in my youth has none of the Christian people I went to school with — and there were many, I tell you. Now there are a host of poorer Christians, mainly, and you see what happens to them. Every few days we have one who is ‘caught for Blasphemy’ and put into jail. Small child. Uneducated girl. Anyone. They spend their time in the jail and are, occasionally, moved from there by some Foreign NGO to a country to save them. Save? I know they won’t get killed! But what about their family and friends who will live here, away from them? What about their own lack of education? How will they cope with all that? Will they have foster parents while their parents and siblings live here every day … perhaps in further fear?
The Parsis have been very lucky as we have never had a crowd coming together against them. A quiet race, they become smaller every year – the young ones move away, the old die. The fact that a lot of them built Karachi is now nobody’s business. Roads, Colleges, Schools, Foundations … there are lots of them with their names on them. I asked someone at Hamdard University in class what NED College (now a University) meant and he said it was the name of an old British Governor who had started it initially. Thank you, Mr. Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw.
But what about the rest of the population, then? Mainly Muslims, of course. We are not counting the small amount of Bahais, Buddhists, and the Sikhs. So let’s move on to the next lot …
I’ll begin with the Bohris, who have been slightly better than the others. There is a major Bohri group and a smaller one that is not accepted by the majority of the Bohris (although they claim they are Bohris but do not follow the current Syedna as their own). Very few of ‘either side ‘have ever been targeted, anyway. They are small, into many small businesses, but not in very commanding authority. Yet, a few days ago while the anti-Shia campaigns were picking up, one small group was attacked. Will it get worse? I don’t know. I hope not.
The next largest group are those that follow Agha Khan IV (descended from the Prophet of Islam, though a few Muslims argue against it). His grandfather – Agha Khan III – was a well known leader and passed the title on to his grandson, Prince Karim, instead of his own sons (Prince Ali who was married to Rita Hayworth, or Ali’s step brother, Prince Sadruddin, father of Prince Karim). This group has given a lot of money to Pakistan. There is the Agha Khan Hospital and a University. There are lots of schools all over the country for Ismailis – which is what they are called – that teach their children about their faith. They also own Pakistan’s biggest private bank: Habib Bank. I have never seen any serious attacks on them – possibly because of the money that they give here, though at one time there were local papers that wrote vehemently against them and the fact that they were getting into the Education Sector in the country and were not really thorough-bred Muslims to be given this ‘privilege’.
I remember a driver of mine who used to read a morning paper every day. He once told me that I had a few Ismaili friends and that they were very anti-Muslims and I should avoid them. I said that was a ridiculous statement. I have known Agha Khan people since I was a child – I used to stay a couple of minutes away from an area where their Jamaat Khana was – and I have never seen them do anything that was anti-Islam. The next day he brought an old paper of his that he had kept. A dubious maulana sahab in it had stated that when the Agha Khan people get married they line their stairs(!) with Qur’an and the would-be-wife has to trample them before going for her wedding! He thought that was the reason they don’t allow Muslims into their homes at such times. Wow!!!
Before we move on to to the largest majority, the Shias, let me add that, occasionally, there are Sunni people murdered by a different sect within the Sunnis. The two major groups - Barelvis and the Deobandis - hate each other, anyway. Barelvis are in the majority here and go to the graves of ‘saints’ and have qavaalis and do lots of things that the Deobandis think is anti-Islamic. A few years ago a large Barelvi crowd had gathered in a park and the place was blasted by bombs, killing several senior Barelvi leaders. The Barelvis believed that it was the Deobandis who did this. Sometimes the reverse happens, but in really small amounts.
Now we come to the Shias. There are two parts here: The Hazaras in Baluchistan … and the Shias of the rest of Pakistan. They are not separate in religion but in their coming from different groups. The Hazaras are one group, one large ‘family’ in a way, and can be almost always recognized as such by their looks. They have a whole bunch of people killing them. Terrorist groups accept that responsibility and keep saying they will kill many more hundreds. This happens mainly in Baluchistan, though. They are shot, taken off buses and killed, kidnapped, you name it. You’ll have to read a lot about them on the Internet to find out why they are being killed and for what reason. It’s complicated. And hideous. Recently – in almost a month – two large groups were killed and they sat with their dead bodies for days to protest against the Government’s inaction. Many Sunnis and Shias joined them in similar protest all over the country.
The other group is the entire Shias population (which includes the Hazaras). How large? One has no way of knowing. Recently Feisal Naqvi
wrote an article (An Unholy Alliance
) in which he said: Let me state some simple figures. Shias make up anywhere from 15-25 per cent of Pakistan’s population which in turn means about 30 to 50 million people. Even the lower end of that range represents a very large number of people.
(I have known Feisal from years ago when he used to write really funny columns in The Friday Times
and I used to draw weekly cartoon strips there). I sent that article to a friend of mine to read – and he sent back this: Until 1926/7 census in India showed Sunnis and Shias separately. However this was discontinued on the protest of Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad and the Agha Khan, in the subsequent census. The population of Shias in undivided India was 2% in the 1926/27 census. “
There is no reason to believe that it could have increased to 15%” is what he said to me on the phone, later.
These Shias are attacked (1) by numerous Sunni groups, which you can see here
mentioning Deobandis as the killers … but the people who write
this are Barelvi. In addition there is (2) Political Parties that many say want to stop the election and get the Army to come in, or (3) by Political Groups that had, in the last attack at Abbas Town (Karachi), guns and weapons that they wished to destroy
as the Rangers were expected to ‘search the place’. (There were Sunnis in this attack, too, but a minority. The larger population was Shias.)
President Zardari is a Shia (as was his wife, Benazir Bhutto). Many people want to know why he hasn’t spoken at all … and a couple of the journalists say he is part of the (2) group mentioned earlier … but who knows what is happening today. Everyone blames everyone else and no one comes out any wiser.
Is there an answer?
This seems to be the only one that will succeed!