I have edited some of the post to reflect new information. I have tried to keep the old sentences with strikethrough to show where changes were made. This does make things a bit confusing, but I hope you can figure it out.
There was a riot/clash in Rawalpindi on Friday. A shia procession commemorating Ashura was passing by a mosque belonging to the deobandi-Panjpiri sect (the mosque was a known base of the supposedly banned Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan or SSP, now officially operating as ASWJ in the best tradition of banned outfits staying alive in Pakistan under new names). Apparently the SSP militants had gathered in the mosque with the express purpose of confronting the Shia procession. (see screen shot below of a tweet from an SSP account with 7000 followers).
The imam of the mosque made some comments in favor of Yazid that were followed by a major riot), It has been claimed that the Imam of the mosque made some inflammatory statement but he denies saying anything in favor of Yazid. Exactly how the riot started may or may not emerge with time. . .Details of the riot itself are still heavily disputed, but you can listen to a description of what happened in this case on BBC Urdu. 19 min mark on.. We do know that the mosque was burned and eventually over a hundred shops were burned. At least 10 people died. Dozens are injured, both Shia and Sunni. A police officer has said that 3 of the dead were beaten to death by the Shia mob. The Shias in the procession have claimed that they were attacked with bricks and then with gunfire from the mosque.
Aaj TV has done some interviews with the shopkeepers and the people in the madressa. I am not sure if anyone has interviewed the Shia participants on mainstream TV yet.
Irrespective of who started it and who did what in the rioting itself, what happened has two aspects that must be clearly distinguished:
- There is an entirely separate issue, which is the issue of the steady “othering” of the Shias in Pakistan. This is a longstanding campaign run by the sipah e sahaba Pakistan (now officially ASWJ) , supported by Deobandi Madressas, by Saudi money and by most Jihadist organizations. The aim of this campaign is to declare Shias as Kafir and to impose onerous restrictions on them. This campaign has been running in earnest since the 1980s (there was fatwa-lobbing by various sects for centuries prior to that, but this particularly vicious and sustained public campaign started in the 80s). I have written before about the background of the Shia-Sunni clash and of its particular history in Pakistan. This campaign is being run on very “scientific” grounds. Thousands of Madressas are producing tens of thousands of foot soldiers for the campaign. High profile Shias have been assassinated. Ordinary Shias have been slaughtered in bombings and pulled off buses and shot after checking for scars on their back.
For more details about this hate campaign, see an earlier post.
The Nazis would be proud.
This sustained campaign has had an effect. When this latest clash took place, many of my friends on social media were shocked by the eruption of sectarian feeling on social media. The number of apparently sane middle class people who rose to defend the “Sunni cause” and to protest against what “they” (aka Shias) had done in Rawalpindi was surprising to many of us. For example, most people would have expected ASWJ supporters to scream “Shias burn mosque”, but the chief minister of KPK?
See below the purported facebook page (i am being told its not his own page, its run by someone on his behalf, it has 107000 plus likes btw) of the chief minister of KPK, It reads (I used Google Translate, so that I am not accused of taking it out of context)
The martyred in Rawalpindi mosque today, our media is silent because it has not happened with any church or temple
The fan page of PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai is one step ahead of the chief minister (I had mistakenly written it was her page…its not, its a fan page, with 44000 likes):
Do check out the comments from PTI supporters on their leaders facebook pages.
This is exactly what SSP is saying. A “sunni mosque was attacked and people are not paying attention because it was Sunnis, not some coddled minority” (sharp eyed readers will no doubt see an eerie similarity to some talking points used by Hindu extremists in India to complain about how Muslims get all the coddling in India).
Some commentators have taken exception to my comparison of Shias in Pakistan with Indian Muslims. I do want to clarify that the two situations are NOT exactly equivalent (no two situations are). I used this analogy because there IS a similarity in terms of being a minority who are accused by extremist majoritarians of being untrustworthy outsiders (irrespective of the truth of the accusation and of any coddling that may or may not occur), and whose life (whatever their own political views) can never be completely free of this question (in whatever varied forms it takes). There are similarities in that sense. There are also big differences between the IDEALS of India and Pakistan. I at least cannot be accused of failing to emphasize those every chance I get . In practice, the advantage is not always with India, but in terms of official ideals, it mostly is.
The tweet below wins the Praveen Togadia award for fake victimhood.
More comments on Zemtv.com
This is not good news.
Even if the LEJ were not going around shooting people and blowing them up, if this campaign is not stopped Shias could become a little like the Muslims in India. They might be given extra brownie points by liberals who feel sad for them (itself a somewhat insulting and painful position to be in). Meanwhile, they will be accused of being traitors and “un-Islamic” by extremists. At times one can imagine some of them trying extra-hard to prove their loyalty, but human nature being what it is, surely this impulse will alternate with prickly defensiveness. And all the while, the shadow of possible riots will hang over them. The worst will be that many reasonable people will go around wondering why they dont compromise a little instead of “inciting the extremists” with their rituals and beliefs. Its
not a pleasant thought. But much worse is possible.
And this with a community that paid for the Pakistan movement (Raja sahib of Mahmudabad) and led it (Jinnahbhoy).
The TTP has stepped in quickly with their own show of annoyance at this “atrocity by the Rafidis” (rafidi i.e. deserter is a favorite Alqaeda/Jihadi/SSP term for Shias)
TTP Statement on Rawalpindi Incident by Ali_Abrar
Sunni extremists are spreading lies about beheadings and dozens of killings in the madressa, while authorities (and all eye-witness accounts) insist that there were no beheadings and no mass slaughter. Interestingly, while claiming dozens of victims, they only brought 3 bodies to their mass funeral. Sunni extremists are spreading news about dozens of victims, and some have used pictures from Burma and other hotspots in their media campaign. Still, it is possible that the true number of victims is more than the 10 or being reported officially..
On the downside, see the number of mourners eager for revenge