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Snubbing the stooges


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Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan speaks to Shia Muslim protesters in Quetta on January 13, 2013. – AFP Photo

If you are on Twitter or Facebook, you are bound to come across episodes of (albeit unintentional) comic relief amidst tragedy.

Take the recent and unprecedented response of the ‘Hazara Shia’ and the Shia in general against the unrelenting carnage they have been facing by groups of maniacs who consider them as ‘heretics’ and are said to have the backing of certain sensitive organs of the state.

Pushed against the wall and maybe beyond it, the Hazara Shia in Quetta and their supporters across Pakistan, braved biting cold weather and the always present danger of the now ubiquitous violent audacities of the maniacs, to stand their ground in a do-or-die scenario, forcing the government to dismiss the Balochistan government and impose Governors Rule in the war-torn province.

But amidst all this genuine bravado exhibited by the Shia community and many of their non-Shia supporters, one just couldn’t ignore that young, hyperbolic ‘revolutionary’ lot across social media who suddenly emerge like a spring does from a worn out sofa.

‘Occupy this!’ ‘Occupy that!’ This Square, that Square. It’s as if a child would behave after watching a Batman or Superman flick, using a towel as cape and mouthing incoherent shrieking monologues that at least in his little head sound quite like what he'd heard Batman uttering in the movie.

The wise( if not completely jaded) would rightly suggest that for the last thirty years or so, whatever number of civilian governments this country has had, they have continued to be hostage to a domineering military-establishment: an intricate labyrinth with twisting, turning pathways paved with political intrigues and terrible ideological experiments; a way to all the secret backdoors from where Generals and their lackeys have entered the corridors of power to put Pakistan where it is today.

And in spite of the fact that the military under General Parvez Kayani has, perhaps for the first time, publicly confessed to the fact that Pakistan faces a greater danger from the monsters that its establishment itself created, the armed forces have remained paralysed in this respect just like their civilian counterparts.

The admirable reassessment of the situation by the military chief was like looking back at the military-establishment’s follies of befriending maniacs as a ‘strategy,’ but by looking back the military seems to have turned to stone.

Furthermore, the civilian administration looked back at the military and it too turned to stone.

Over 40,000 soldiers, policemen, politicians and civilians have been slaughtered by terrorists to whom each and every Pakistani is either a ‘heretic’ or a downright infidel deserving to be killed.

And this is the kind of audacity that has left the military and the government feeling all at sea and overwhelmed, having little or no idea how exactly to contain this audacious enemy.

Yet there are those out there who believe the answer lies in the overthrow of government!

The answer lies in the ousting of a failing, lethargic government through the vote. A government that has focused more on surviving rather than being dynamic and bold in its actions to address the many ills facing the country.

Civilian set-ups constitute only a fraction of Pakistan’s main decision-making process. They are never sure how far they can go to push certain agendas, actions and policies without angering the military-establishment.

General Kayani’s statement should have been seen as an opening and a window of opportunity for this PPP-led civilian set-up. If now the military’s high command considers many of its former sacred cows to have become bloodthirsty wolves, the government should have gone all out against these wolves.

But it didn’t. And neither did the country’s military. Both are waiting for the other to take the decision. And this wait is costing the lives of innocent Pakistanis, soldiers, politicians and policemen.

What more will it take for the state and the government to turn their condemnations against extremists into action? How many more deaths and bloodbaths?

It is vital that an election is held as soon as possible.  The democratic process that is still a young and raw entity in Pakistan needs to continue. We must realize that democracy alone is the answer to most of the questions being posed by a country affected ever so violently by decades of ethnic and sectarian cracks, animosities and divides inflicted by the establishment and hapless, chaotic governments.

Democracy alone can turn these detested and dreaded divides into a democratically empowered and progressive diversity.

All those brave Hazara Shia men, women and children who have stood up to extremist atrocities, a failing state, and a paralysed government, need to be conscious of yet another negative: Infiltration.

As we can see there are still some men out there who are willing to create the ground required for some backdoor maneuvering. Apart from hyping up manufactured 'revolutionary movements' and sudden messiahs, these people also look for openings in genuine movements from which they can infiltrate and ideally hijack it to suite their diabolical political goals.

Tahirul Qadri is too obvious an example, even though at this point in time his 'long march' against the country's political system (read political parties) has become more of a face saving exercise than anything a bit more threatening.

More interesting in this context is the way how a number of elements tried to ride the wave of protests generated by an entirely authentic and spontaneous exhibition of defiance and anger shown by the Hazara Shia in Quetta.

It is understandable that after noticing the genuine sense of sympathy running across large numbers of Pakistanis for what the Hazara men, women and children have faced from violent sectarian bigots, political partitas tried to jump in to get their share of the milage.

Unable to turn the sombre Quetta sit-in into a vulgar show of populist politics, some parties tried their luck in Shia protests elsewhere in Pakistan.

I spent a couple of hours at the sit-in held outside Bilawal House in Karachi where President Zardari was staying. The first party to reach the sit-in was the MQM.

But at least till I was there, I didn't see its contingent trying to turn the angry gathering into an MQM show. They treated the occasion as nothing more than a photo op because I believe like me they too had sensed that the gathering had already been infiltrated.

But before I explain the above I must mention my coming across a rather animated group of young PTI members there.

It is good to see Imran Khan now understanding the ground realities that have been charring Pakistan, and it is admirable that he was quick to show sympathy with the Hazara Shia.

It's good because Khan now understands the importance of democracy, and how the hurdles that are manufactured in its path are explained as being messianic, of 'national interest' and at times, something wholly ordained by God.

After all, only last year he was sending emissaries of his party to establishmentarian circuses packed with exactly the kind of religious bigots against whom the Hazara Shia sat in freezing cold weather in Quetta.

The PTI contingent was shouting to burn Bilawal House down. Of course, had it been a rally outside the headquarters of the maniacs who kill 'heretics' like an angry child would harmless little ants, this contingent would never have been there.

The PTI guys were the comic relief in the tense atmosphere, even though in their heads they were about to storm the Bastille.

No, the gathering did not turn into a PTI show. I told one of them that The Strings won't be playing here tonight to which he replied, 'You PML stooge!' Ah, I thought, that was a first.

I told him I was actually a stooge of democracy and he was better off waving his fist at those who've slaughtered over 40,000 men, women and children.

'And stop watching so much Al-Jazeera,' I jokingly advised. 'Or you'll continue to repulse grouchy men like me who have been fans of Khan before you were even in liquid form!'

Black comedy apart, what bothered me the most about the gathering was the gradual emergence of a few posters with faces of famous Iranian leaders.

I saw none (on TV) at the Hazara gathering, but did so here. Yes, an attempt was made and almost succeeded to hijack the spontaneous gathering outside Bilawal House.

Off-shoots of the Shia outfit, the Majlis-e-Wahadat Muslaymeem (MWM), arrived and tried to navigate the gathering into becoming a tad more radical.

By radical I mean more rhetorical and out-of-focus. The MWM is quite clearly an evolutionary outcome of the many pro-Iran outfits that emerged in the 1980s along side the pro-Saudi/Saudi-backed Sunni extremist organisations.

Both these tendencies have been at war on the streets of Pakistan for almost three decades now.

Of course, the extremist Sunnis outfits with the kind of patronage they enjoyed from the establishment have always enjoyed an upper hand, but one of the reasons for this has also been the disconnect the Iran-backed outfits have had with the fate of the Shia in Pakistan.

Till the Hazara proved otherwise, the normal thing for Shia outfits to do after being attacked by their haters was to pour out and burn the US and/or Israeli flag. Because their backers in Iran enjoy this sight more than anything a bit more concrete.

But lo and behold! As some MWM members at the Bilawal House gathering began to chant anti-US slogans (mainly out of habit), their slogans were received with half-hearted responses.

The mood of the gathering was just too sombre and reflective to respond to this kind of meaningless hyperventilating.

Shia people and their non-Shia supporters outside Quetta have to be extremely careful. It was their peaceful, focused stand and resolve untainted by any glorious ideological narrative and agenda that got them the sympathy of the rest of Pakistan and finally made an impotent government initiate a decisive move. 

Keep the ideologues and stooges away.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and

Comments (44) Closed

Enlightened Jan 14, 2013 05:40pm
Pakistan is going through the most difficult times of its history. The country has none to blame but themselves for this grave state they are in. A totally corrupt and incompetent govt and military who is self serving and intentionally keeping militancy alive to keep the politicians on the tenderhook and waiting for an opportune moment to take over the reigns of the country. The military intentions are clear as it is refusing to launch decisive operation against Taliban by making excuses and it is even ignoring the killing and beheading of its men for the bigger agenda of taking over the country. When two major establishments of the country are acting selfishly for their own agendas Pakistan is likely to face anarchy in the entire country. The recent beheading of Indian soldier and hype created is part of the plan to divert attention of the people of external as well internal threat and failure of the civilian govt shall be used as justification for the military take-over. I can bet there will be no elections in the country and the chaos is being delibrated created to postpone and subsequently cancel the same. The above would most likely happen as violence unleashed by military's proxies which include TTP, LeJ, JuD, other militant outfits would continue unabated creating an anarchy in the whole country. TTP and LeJ is spread out in other parts of the country including Karachi who would be executing the military plan.
Jawad Jan 14, 2013 07:23pm
OK then you show something substantial. I really hope you don't have to suffer losses like Hazara have in the past decade. Even just making a noise need lots of courage; let alone coming out of the comfort of home ans spending 4 days in cold weather along with children.
Rashid Jan 14, 2013 04:54pm
Thanks NFP, for being a voice of sanity.
Hassan Jan 14, 2013 06:08pm
"The answer lies in the ousting of a failing, lethargic government through the vote." Do you think the hyperbolic youth want to overthrow the government and have Imran Khan occupy the reins in some way ?
Dr Arslan Rahat Ullah Jan 14, 2013 06:57pm
And yes here it comes. A few more months and NFP will join the ranks of Mr Khan. One of the very few NFP articles that are free of his indoctrinated biases. Keep it up !
Ali Abbas Jan 15, 2013 06:52am
Agreed! and he is spot on .. "anti america and anti Israel chants were met "halfheartedly" even at the protests i visited (5star, numaish, incholi etc). It is correct what you analyzed about IK, about his supporters and about MQM not trying to hijack. More so ever (and it is coming from a strong shia) you are correct about Iran, setting my religious affiliations with Iran aside, I too understand the under laid agenda. Also what hurt me a bit but was no surprise since i have been noticing this since a long time is the apparent disconnect of iran from Pakistanis (read pakistani shias). They could have condemned the blasts, they could have said something but they (Iran) did not, they have never spoken on such incidents (for political or religious reasons what so ever). Will discuss with my dad to get more clarity about how was this connection back in the day when Iranian inqalab came, but personally i think they do not feel what we feel for them.
MSH Jan 15, 2013 05:55am
The authors u turn re. Imran is indeed perplexing. After numerous articles IK bashing to claim he was an old fan is in the least a bit hypocritical. Specially since it was mostly ad hominems and not criticism of policies. To quote that oft repeated John Swinton, "The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings". Why should Pakistani journalists be any different. A sad commentary in the least.
MAH, Abu Dhabi Jan 15, 2013 05:21am
Paracha is really on the spot on infiltration! We do have more people who act more than they think and this leaves very little power in the hands of those who start a genuine movement. Another sad thing in our culture, that honest people are usually not able to deal with the hypocrites !
Guru Jan 15, 2013 05:21am
I hope you will look with same eye when you see other minorities ( hindus and christians) in Pakistan are marginalized and killed. These minorities have fought against more prejudice and oppression will lots of patience and dignity. Hope you come out and cry for them too.
abbas Jan 15, 2013 05:32am
Dear NFP your associating with the suffering of Shias of Pakistan with the US,Saudi & Co's conflict with Iran is quiet unfair with the Shias. These powers are definitely at daggers drawn with each other but you your idea suggests that Shias are suffering due to their their association with Iran. It is just a matter of coincidence that majority of the people in Iran are Shias. The Shias of Pakistan are being killed since 30 years due to the deliberate efforts made to offset the iranian revolution effects coming into Pakistan. However more sunnis rather than the shias were impressed by the revolution. Therefore propaganda against the shias was started since than to spread hatred against the shias and iran. Shias are victims of the imposition of the saudi brand of islam in Pakistan.
Muhammad Arshad Jan 15, 2013 05:08am
Yes, indeed . And all of us should learn something from them, what they have done, and the way they have done.
Observer Jan 15, 2013 09:22am
The truth is Hazaras are cowards,they want others to do things for them.
abbas Jan 15, 2013 09:24am
Neither the Shias see towards iran for their rescue nor towards these good for nothing political parties who always try to capitalise on the sufferings of the Shias and on the other hand covertly support the religious fanatics as their only agenda is to capture power at any cost and take people under their control. Thats why you see no end to the miseries of the Shias espite so much hue and cry. I am afraid what the Shias can do as a last resort for the sake of their lives.
Adil Jadoon Jan 15, 2013 04:15am
Security and rule of law for everyone should be the primary concern for all Pakistanis and our government.
Yawar Jan 15, 2013 03:39am
Excellent insights.
Salman US Jan 15, 2013 03:44am
Pakistani violent and jihadi culture needs to change not the government. Pak society should embrace religious tolerance and humanity instead of slaughter of innocent people
Arif Jan 15, 2013 03:48am
I live in US but watching Hazaras braving the sub-freezing temperatures along with their children and women, I could'nt stop crying for them for the last three days. With so much pain they've suffered over the years and yet stayed peaceful, shows real character of these people. Pakistan owes them big time and I hope every Pakistani, regardless of their ethnicity and sect, and not just security personnel, will stand up against and go after LeJ and other terror groups who have terrorized these people for more than a decade now.
Suleman Jan 14, 2013 05:19pm
"Shia people and their non-Shia supporters outside Quetta have to be extremely careful. It was their peaceful, focused stand and resolve untainted by any glorious ideological narrative and agenda that got them the sympathy of the rest of Pakistan and finally made an impotent government initiate a decisive move" Bulls Eye!
Ahmed Jan 15, 2013 08:44am
I was at the Islamabad sit-in and it was refreshing to see that instead of blaming Israel, US and the Saudis, the voices were against terror and tyranny. If criticism was doled out, it was as much against Iran's and China's involvement in Pakistan, as it was against US/SA policies for the region. Despite being a Shia and surrounded by staunchly pro-Iranian loved ones, I don't see Iran as being any better than Saudi Arabia. The Hazaras face discrimination in Iran too (albeit not genocide) and yes, I don't hear their voices against the injustices we suffer. If there is one thing this event has proved, it is that there is hope. That we can not only think as Muslims or Pakistanis, but as humans and I hope we can maintain that course.
Cyrus Howell Jan 15, 2013 02:29am
If it ain't broken don't fix it. If it is broken it has to be fixed.
Cyrus Howell Jan 15, 2013 02:22am
"The recent beheading of Indian soldier and hype created is part of the plan to divert attention of the people of external as well internal threat and failure of the civilian govt shall be used as justification for the military take-over." . Assuming this is true what faction of the military will take over? The religious faction? The Young Turks? Or will the old generals be able to hang on? Colonel Corn? Nawaz Sharif's choice? A certain general living in Britain? A Pakistan savior who defeats the militants and criminals will be the only one to rule alone, but he will have to win his spurs and can't be mister nice guy.
Disgusted Jan 14, 2013 04:54pm
"Fan of Khan" that really must be a first. Maybe the author sees the writing on the wall and like all self serving Pakistanis is not averse to a little "lota bazi" . Intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt poser.
Indian Jan 15, 2013 09:10am
Changing government will not change any thing but Pakistanis should change their mindset and treat all fellow pakistanis with justice and equality.
Adnan Jan 14, 2013 04:21pm
must admit - i am amazed by the composure shown by the hazara's in immense grief. I feel, if i had been in their place - cornered and killed with state being a mere spectator, province chief executive rubbing salt in their wounds, its courts freeing the maniacs who publicly utter their resolve to maim more, security apparatus uses them as assets in counter insurgency.....i would have asked for UN's help and would have burned everything come what may......sitting with deadbodes in extreme cold....its impossible to even imagine their pain, their discipline and loyalty to this country..........
Bandha e Khuda Jan 14, 2013 04:22pm
Mashallah a very good article truth is bitter some will find it hard to digest and swallow
Cyrus Howell Jan 15, 2013 01:59am
This piece pretty much sums things up.
Stranger Jan 14, 2013 04:44pm
Anna Hazare and Quadri are one of a kind. Loads of noise but nothing substantial.
An Optimist Jan 15, 2013 08:51am
@abbas.....True to every word!!!!!
XL Jan 16, 2013 08:30am
I feel he was a fan of the Cricketer IK and not the politician IK. Hope this makes sense.
haris Jan 15, 2013 08:05am
@Stranger: The comparison you have drawn between Anna Hazare and Qadri clearly shows off how grim your mindset is.
Rizwanul Huda Jan 15, 2013 12:07am
The general public should wake up from the illusion. Their enemy is within them.
Rizwanul Huda Jan 15, 2013 12:08am
Salute to Hazaras!
sultan Jan 15, 2013 12:11am
instead of changing government we all Pakistanis should change and become one united force as Pakistani no shia or sunni or other minority slogan just one Pakistani no sindhi no baluchi no punjabi no pathan no muhajir no chaudhry no sain no khan no malak just one simple human with humanity no mullaism no talibanism its all bull shit these different worship places have divided not united so it is better to teach knowledge one hour than to pray the whole night there is no religion higher than truth
Junaid Yousafzai Jan 14, 2013 10:17pm
I would agree with my dear friend Dr Arsalan . There was this hint of slightest softening of NFP towards IK. May be as the fervour with IK being a messiah is settling down NFP is being gracious enough not to gloat over it but rather in his own subtle way is making us aware that IK is a hero but not a divine one and we will all be less disappointed to remember that. Notwithstanding NFPs stance against PTI(or is it just the Trolls he is after?), I have a feeling he is aware that Imran is a force for good for the democratic system and Pakistan as is NFP. I wonder if NFP were to vote, would he go for status quo, PTI or the loney monster raving party?
Nivedita Jan 15, 2013 07:45am
Stooge of democracy... too much, you are, men! This Paracha guy!
Aiza Jan 14, 2013 09:20pm
Salute to the Hazare community for their calm and composed reaction on these barbarian killings. No one has ever lived up to The Quaids three pillars like the Hazaras have by showing unity, discipline, faith and one more pillar: Humanity, added by our most glorious minority. By your no violence act you have shown YOU ARE THE GREATEST PAKISTANIS in our 66 years of miserable history. WE SALUTE YOU OUR HAZARE BROTHERS AND SISTERS!
akhter husain Jan 14, 2013 08:08pm
It is a very good analysis of the killing that has been going on for years.Probably, the hate mongers find in hazara community patriotic Pakistanis who would like to die for it than to be part of separating forces..The government and people,specially those,who matter in running the state affairs.,must value them and provide proper security to them.
Naseer Jan 15, 2013 04:18pm
Taliban and Lashkar Jhangvi are cowards that only attack unarmed peaceful people. They are the greatest threat to Islam and Muslims.
Dr Khan Jan 15, 2013 07:56pm
Please change your name "observer".
AsMan Jan 15, 2013 08:08pm
Psudo intellectualism, on display in comments. Paracha does make some sense, but pakistanis need to wake up to the fact that their's is a messed up of a country, run by the army goons.
S. A. M. Jan 16, 2013 02:00am
I don't agree with that because the sit in was started by Hazaras themselves and not by other. In fact they gave the others the courage to come out on the street and protest ina peaceful manner
M Khan Jan 16, 2013 01:21pm
Kudos to brother Paracha for a wonderful piece. We respect your support. God bless
G.Nabi Jan 16, 2013 02:07pm
While Hazaras were braving subzero temperature, president AAZ was living in cosy Bilawal house, Karachi.He has been in Karachi for 3-4 weeks, did not find time to visit Quetta.As always, NFP spared him of scathing comments usually reserved for others.
Sam A Khan Jan 16, 2013 07:06am
I would say a beautiful and focused rational article written by Nadeem F. Paracha This is what really we need to know as a Pakistani that no one should be allowed to infiltrate among us to accomplish their vested interests in any case and in any situation.This caused a havoc to us in the near past and still being stung by its menace.By accepting this wholeheartedly,no one can look at us to give their damn to cause a damage our country.Live Long Pakistan