Who’s Killing Pakistan’s Shia and Why?

May 20, 2014

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According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2013 nearly 700 Shia were killed and more than 1,000 were injured in more than 200 sectarian terrorist attacks. Over 90 percent of those attacks occurred in Quetta, Karachi, Kangu, Parachinar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Since the beginning of 2000, nearly 4,000 persons have been killed and 6,800 injured (see figure below).  Who is hunting Pakistan’s Shia and, most importantly, why?

The explanation for Pakistan’s deadly sectarian present lies in the communal politics of Pakistan’s pre-history and the subsequent decisions that Pakistani elites made in the early years about nation building in the new state.  The current path of violence and intolerance may have been paved well before Pakistan became independent in 1947.

Pakistan: Born to Other

As the British appetite for maintaining the Raj declined after World Wars I and II, it became increasingly clear that the declining imperial power would accede to mounting Indian nationalist demands to quit the subcontinent. However, it was not clear what political order would rise from the detritus of the erstwhile Raj.  Some Muslims associated with the All India Muslim League feared that, in a Hindu-majority state, Muslims would be subjected to separate and unequal status.  The Congress Party, which claimed to represent all groups in India and which enjoyed a pan-Indian presence, challenged these claims. However, some within the Congress Party increasingly began to evidence communal sentiments which further discomfited some Muslims in India.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is widely considered to be the founder of Pakistan, propounded a minoritarian and communal discourse called the “Two Nation Theory.”  Jinnah’s dual claims that he was the “sole spokesman” for India’s Muslims and that his Muslim League best aggregated their interests were contested. In the 1937 elections, the League suffered a thrashing. The Muslim-majority areas that are now a part of today’s Pakistan either voted for the Congress or provincial parties. By the 1940s, Jinnah and the League gained traction and in the 1946 provincial elections, the Muslim League redeemed itself by winning 425 out of 496 seats reserved for Muslims.

However, the idea that the Two Nation Theory ineluctably meant partition is flawed. Jinnah explained the lineaments of the Two Nation Theory in a March 23, 1940 speech in Lahore.  He argued that Muslims and Hindus comprised equal nations. That Muslims were a numerical minority was immaterial because they were a nation on par with the nation of Hindus. Jinnah explained that “If the British Government are [sic] really in earnest and sincere to secure [the] peace and happiness of the people of this sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into  ‘autonomous national states.’” Historians note that this expression is ambiguous and left open the possibility of a federal solution. Nowhere did the address mention the word Pakistan or partition. (Despite these facts, Pakistanis refer to this speech as the “Pakistan Resolution” and celebrate March 23 as a national holiday to commemorate its passage.)

In fact, the Two Nation Theory was a rhetorical and political argument through which Jinnah sought first to receive equal representation in the national parliament of an independent India. In the end, the Congress party refused to acquiesce to this demand, insisting upon a one-person, one-vote scheme. Congress feared that a failure to reach an agreement with the League would delay Britain’s departure. In the end, Congress and the League decided that it would be best if an independent Pakistan was carved from the Raj. And that is what happened. Jinnah was not prepared for the creation of a new state in large part because for so many years, this was never the goal of his negotiations.

The Objectives Resolution

Pakistan came into being through the bloody process of partition. The Punjab, which became the western wing of Pakistan, bore the brunt of this bloodshed in which Hindus and Sikhs engaged in barbaric communal savagery in an effort to cleanse Muslims from Muslim minority areas, and Muslims slaughtered Sikhs and Hindus in areas where those groups were a minority for the same goal of communal cleansing. The butchers won. Violence also happened in Bengal, which became the eastern wing of Pakistan, but on a lesser scale.

Once Pakistan had its bloodied borders, the long process of state and nation-building began. One of the most contentious issues was the nature of the state itself.  Was it to be an Islamic state or was it to be a state for South Asia’s Muslims? If it were to be an Islamic state, what Islamic tradition would comprise the foundations of the fledgling state? This was a non-trivial question because the territory was home to numerous Sunni as well as Shia interpretative traditions. What would be the political standing of Pakistan’s substantial non-Muslim minority?  At the time of Partition, about one fourth of Pakistan’s citizens were non-Muslim. While most of these were Hindus concentrated in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh), the west also had substantial Hindu, Christian, Parsee and even Sikh populations.  To garner the most support possible for the notion of Pakistan, Jinnah said contradictory things to different people.  This enabled proponents of one vision or another to use and arrange his various speeches selectively like pieces of plastic in a kaleidoscope. In any event, Jinnah died shortly after partition, taking whatever vision of the state he had with him.

Pakistan took the first and irreversible step towards an Islamist state with the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, which declared that sovereignty belonged to Allah alone and that “the Muslims of Pakistan shall be enabled individually and collectively to order their lives in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”  The resolution was passed over the objections of Pakistani secularist and minorities. The Objectives Resolution was, in turn, incorporated into Pakistan’s constitution and has since become a fixed feature of Pakistani constitutional law.

However, the Objectives Resolution opened a sluice gate for Islamists who vied to define who qualified as a Muslim and whose interpretation of Sharia was superior. Naturally, Pakistan’s religious minorities became the first casualty of the emerging constitutional disposition. (Pakistan’s constitution stipulates that the president and prime minister must be Muslims. Moreover, all senior officials—including members of parliament—are required to take an oath to “protect the country’s Islamic identity.”)

Islamists next targeted Pakistan’s Ahmedi community and mobilized to have them declared non-Muslim.  Islamists in Pakistan and elsewhere do not accept the Ahmedis as Muslims because they do not accept Muhammad as the final prophet.  This was ironic: many of the key leaders of the Muslim League were Ahmedi, as were many of Pakistan’s high-profile civilian and military personnel.  After decades of agitation by anti-Ahmedi Islamists, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto acquiesced and declared them to be constitutionally non-Muslim in 1974.  The effects of this legislation have been profound for the Ahmedis. Because Ahmedis consider themselves to be Muslim, offer Muslim prayers, recognize the Quran as their holy book and congregate in facilities they call masjids (mosques), Pakistan’s extremists view them as apostates and even blasphemers.  With this law, the state of Pakistan now permitted and even encouraged persecution as well as prosecution of Ahmedis.  They were no longer allowed to call their places of worship “masjids” or even recite the Quran, among other practices Ahmedis view as fundamental to their faith.  Persecution of Ahmedis even continues beyond death: Pakistan’s police have been involved in defacing Ahmedi graves buried in Muslim cemeteries ostensibly to “prevent clashes.” Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize winner, Abdul Salaam, had his grave defaced.  Where it previously read that Salaam became “the first Muslim Nobel Laureate,” it now reads that he became “the first Nobel Laureate.”

With this victory under their belts, Islamists—particularly led by those associated with the Deobandi interpretative tradition—aimed to have Pakistan’s Shia declared non-Muslim.

Shia: Caught in the Regional Cross Hairs

In 1974, under Zulfiqar ali Bhutto, Pakistan set up a cell within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to undertake covert operations.  Mohammed Daoud Khan had just ousted King Zahir Shah in Afghanistan and begun a liberalization program under Soviet patronage.  Afghan Islamists opposed this, and Daoud violently repressed them.  Many of these Islamists fled to Pakistan, where the ISI developed them for covert operations in Afghanistan.  Once Zia ul Haq seized the Pakistani government in a coup in 1977, he began to shape Pakistan into a Sunni Islamist state.  Some of his efforts, such as imposing the payment of zakat, were specifically antagonistic to Pakistan’s Shia who do not accept Sunni interpretations of zakat.  As Shia came under pressure, they began to mobilize.

Next door, Iran was convulsing into its Shia Islamic Revolution. Not only did Iran seek to export its revolution, it also saw itself as the key protector of Shia across the world.  Iran began supporting Shia militant groups fighting Zia’s efforts to render Pakistan a Sunni Islamic state.  When Iran and Iraq fell into war, Iraq involved itself in Pakistan’s emerging sectarian conflict.  As rival Sunni militant groups—most of which were Deobandi—began to mobilize against Shia in Pakistan, Iraq began resourcing anti-Shia militant organizations.  Soon the Arab Gulf states joined in to help marginalize Pakistan’s Shia, who were seen as Iran’s pawn in the region.  Thus Pakistan soon became the site of an elaborate sectarian proxy war between Shia Iran and its Sunni strategic competitors.

The Christmas day Soviet invasion of Afghanistan further catalyzed events that cultivated Pakistan’s sectarian killing fields.  Zia’s efforts to make Pakistan a Sunni Islamist state dovetailed with the growing need for (mostly) Sunni militants in Afghanistan.  (Zia preferred Sunni Islamist militants to fight a “jihad” in Afghanistan rather than an ethno-national insurgency against Soviet occupation.  He feared that the latter would precipitate renewed ethnic conflict in Pakistan, principally among its restive Pashtun populations who lived on the border with Afghanistan.)  Once President Carter left office, U.S. and Pakistani policy aligned.  President Reagan threw the weight of his government behind the Zia regime.  The Saudis also funded the manufacturing of jihadis by matching the U.S. contribution dollar for dollar.

When the Soviets finally left Afghanistan in 1989, the United States withdrew from the region.  However, Pakistan continued to use its well-developed stock of Sunni militants to help forge a pro-Pakistan disposition in Afghanistan.  At the same time, Indian mismanagement and malfeasance in Kashmir gave rise to an indigenous insurgency there.  Pakistan deployed the battle-hardened militants from the Afghan theatre to Kashmir.  By the early 1990s, Pakistani militants had overtaken the local insurgency and transformed the conflict from a local insurgent movement into one of international terror.

9/11: Disorientation of the Mullah, Militant and Military Alliance

Throughout the 1990s and up until 2001, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agency supported, armed, and trained numerous Islamist militants for operations in Afghanistan and India.

The largest cluster of militant groups was Deobandi in orientation.  Deobandi groups included the Afghan Taliban, anti-Shia groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)/Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan (SSP) (which now go by the name of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)), and several that were ostensibly fighting the Indians (e.g. Jaish-e-Mohammad).  These Deobandi groups share a vast infrastructure of madrassahs and mosques and have overlapping membership with each other and with the Deobandi Islamist political groups, most notably the factions of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam (JUI).

Throughout the 1990s, sectarian attacks continued.  However, by the 1990s, the Pakistani state crushed the anti-Sunni militias, leaving the anti-Shia Sunni militants intact.  During the mid-1990s, groups such as LeJ/SSP also fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, illustrating their utility to the state.

Sectarian Violence in Pakistan, 1989-2014.  Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal.  (Click to enlarge.)
Sectarian Violence in Pakistan, 1989-2014. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal. (Click to enlarge.)

With the terror attacks of 9/11, Pakistan was forced to cooperate with the United States in its war in Afghanistan.  The militant groups that were most aggrieved by this were the Deobandi groups, as they had the closest relations with the Afghan Taliban.  Moreover, because they often fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan and shared militant training infrastructure with al-Qaeda, they were also most loyal to Osama bin Laden.  By late 2001, some Deobandi militants, under a break-away faction of Jaish-e-Mohammad named Jamaat ul Furqan, began targeting the Pakistani state. They believed the Musharraf government had joined the infidel forces in ousting the Taliban and threating al Qaeda.  They began a series of suicide attacks against the Pakistan military.

As the Pakistan military began moving in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where numerous local, regional and international militants are ensconced, Pakistan’s internal militant situation continued to change.  Local militant commanders in the FATA began targeting the Pakistani military, paramilitary and intelligence agency. By 2007, a suite of anti-state militias coalesced under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban). While many viewed the TTP as a largely Pashtun phenomenon because it emerged in the tribal areas, in fact, the movement had a very strong backbone of Punjab-based Deobandi militants.  The most vicious TTP activists were those associated with the anti-Shia terror groups (LeJ/SSP/ASWJ).

No One Is Safe Now

When Hakimullah Mehsood assumed command of the TTP, Pakistan’s sectarian killings became more frequent.  Hakimullah had a long history of association with the ASWJ.  Under him, the TTP began targeting any sect of Islam that these Deobandi militants considered to be “munafaqeen” (those who spread discord).  Not only were Pakistan’s Shia under attack (in addition to Ahmedi and Pakistan’s religious minorities), so were Pakistan’s massive Sufi population, frequently referred to as Barelvis.  The TTP began openly attacking Sufi shrines.

Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders have yet to come to any consensus on a political strategy to contend with these militants who have claimed tens of thousands of Pakistani lives since 2001.  The military, for its part, is reluctant to take them on for several reasons. First, parts of the military still see Islamist militants as important tools of foreign policy in India and Afghanistan.  In fact, for some, the loyal Islamist militants will become even more important as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan and as Pakistan needs militants that are loyal to the Pakistani project.  Second, because these Deobandi militant groups share overlapping membership with each other and with the JUI, the JUI provide their militant allies with political cover. Third, the military is unwilling to eliminate them in entirety because it believes that some of them can be rehabilitated and persuaded to aim their guns, suicide vests, and vehicle-born IEDS away from the Pakistani state and towards Afghanistan or India. (Yes. This does mean the Pakistan army—which has received some $27 billion from Washington for being a “partner in the Global War on Terrorism”—is encouraging its militants to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan.)  Fourth, the army’s will is no doubt conditioned by its ability.  While the army could certainly do more, its record at combating Pakistan’s domestic enemies is mixed at best and has come at a high human cost in terms of civilian casualties and massive internal displacement.  This is why Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies rely upon the U.S. drone program to take out the terrorists it cannot.  Finally, for national counter-terrorism efforts, Pakistan’s police should take the lead.  But it is well-known that Pakistan’s police are not up to that task.

As for the civilian government, it is likely amenable to some sort of a political compromise with the TTP.  Even if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is himself a right-of-center politician, prefers more coercive solutions, he fears the TTP. He also relies upon those voters in the Punjab who support the agenda of the TTP and their anti-Shia sectarian allies.  Sharif fears that, should he muster the testicularity to support military actions against the militants, his chief rival, Imran Khan, would strip away some of his electoral base.  Like Sharif, Khan contested the 2013 general election under the banner of reconciling with the TTP, opposing military actions against them, and denouncing the drone program which has killed many TTP leaders.

Pakistan’s Shia: Caught in Strategic Crosshairs

With the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein and the removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan, Iran’s position in the region has improved since 2001.  Both Saudis and Pakistanis fear a rising Iran in Afghanistan.  For Pakistan’s part, Iran has partnered with India for its work in Afghanistan.  For Saudi Arabia’s part, a rising Shia Iran threatens to undermine the status that Saudi Arabia has arrogated to itself: leader of the Muslim world in general and protector of Sunni interests in particular.  Some Pakistanis in and out of government have often suspected that Iran can manipulate Pakistan’s Shia to achieve Tehran’s varied national and ideological interests, many of which are at odds with those of Pakistan.  Because of fears that Iran can work through these Shia to undermine Pakistan’s interests, no Pakistani government has seriously sought to completely extirpate those Deobandi groups that slaughter Shia.  In contrast, Pakistan’s government vigorously worked to eliminate Shia militias that targeted Sunnis.

Iran and Pakistan share a sensitive border in Balochistan.  In Iran’s Sistan-o-Balochistan province, many residents are Sunni Baloch.  Iran has suffered ethno-sectarian violence there because the residents believe they are second-class citizens owing to their ethnicity and their sectarian beliefs. Iran has often looked apprehensively towards Pakistan, suspecting that it is a source of support for these Sunni Baloch militants. Pakistan, for its part, has problems with its own Baloch, some of whom have waged an ethnic separatist struggle against the Pakistan state.  The Baloch nationalist insurgents have enjoyed support from India and Afghanistan.  This brings to the fore the most vulnerable of all Shia in Pakistan right now: the Hazaras of Quetta.

The Hazaras, who live in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are easily recognized by their “Mongolian” facial features.  Hazaras of Balochistan are in danger due to a toxic mix of domestic developments, which have resulted in rising ethnic and sectarian intolerance, as well as regional political factors pertaining to fraught Iran-Pakistan relations.  While Pakistanis tend to view Shia generally with suspicion because of their presumed ties with Iran, Hazaras are viewed with even greater dubiety.  Unlike other Shia in Pakistan who speak Urdu and other vernacular languages, Hazaras speak Farsi and its variants.  This fosters suspicion that they are Iranian spies or even that they are trying to fulminate a Shia revolution in Pakistan.  (The Hazaras in Afghanistan receive support from Iran, and they were frequently the victims of violence in Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled uncontested.)  The Hazaras draw the ire of Deobandis and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies because they oppose the Afghan Taliban, whose allies include the sectarian killers of the SSP/LeJ/ASWJ, and because they refuse to fight the ethnic Baloch separatists in the province.  The Hazaras and ethnic Baloch separatists may indeed be allies of sorts because both reject the multi-pronged efforts of the state and militants to make Pakistan a Sunni Islamist state.

Sadly, at some point it becomes difficult to discern whether persons are killed by the state or by the terrorists, because in some cases the state outsources its domestic violence to terrorists such as LeJ/SSP/ASWJ.

Should the United States Care and Why?

While it may be tempting to dismiss the senseless slaughter of Shia in Pakistan as an internal Pakistani matter, this is short-sighted for several reasons apart from humanitarian concerns.

First, these anti-Shia Deobandi groups have been the organizations to which al-Qaeda has outsourced its attacks in Pakistan, whether against Pakistani or international targets.

Second, these groups have long had a presence in Afghanistan where they have helped erect a Sunni Islamist regime in Afghanistan with Pakistani overt and covert support.

Third, Pakistan’s sectarian terrorists share overlapping membership with those groups that ostensibly focus upon India (e.g. Jaish-e-Mohammad).  It is very likely that Rawalpindi would like to woo some of these sectarian killers to battlefields in Afghanistan or India.  A terrorist attack in India or against Indian assets in Afghanistan may well be the precipitant of the next Indo-Pakistan crisis.  India’s recent general elections hoisted up the notorious Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, as India’s prime minister.  Modi may be more assertive in dealing with Pakistan-based terrorism aggressive than was the previous prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

Finally, it is inherently in the U.S. interest that Pakistan retains some modicum of stability.  The anti-sectarian groups, with their Punjab base, and their track record of successfully hitting high value military and civilian targets and even infiltrating the military, may well be a bigger concern to Washington than they are to either the civilian government in Islamabad or the army headquartered in Rawalpindi.


C. Christine Fair is an assistant professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford University Press, 2014).


Photo credit: ABC Open Riverland

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23 thoughts on “Who’s Killing Pakistan’s Shia and Why?

  1. I wish that the author identified the causes properly by asking the right questions. For instance, she abruptly states: “The Punjab, which became the western wing of Pakistan, bore the brunt of this bloodshed in which Hindus and Sikhs engaged in barbaric communal savagery in an effort to cleanse Muslims from Muslim minority areas, and Muslims slaughtered Sikhs and Hindus in areas where those groups were a minority for the same goal of communal cleansing.”

    So what motivated Hindus and Sikhs to engage in this sort of savage acts? The author doesn’t answer. In fact, documented history shows that mosques and clerics all over Pakistan played a leading role in initiating and causing this genocide and that the resulting tit-for-tat mayhem then followed.

    Christine Fair keeps repeating the term Islamists. Who are they? Did they come from Mars or did they predominantly belong to one segment of the Pakistani population? Informed people know the answer: the clerics and their supporters constitute the dominant part of the so-called Islamists.

    Unfortunately, an analysis that overlooks or fails to delineate the causes are of little use in the policy context, other than educating the less informed on Pakistan.

  2. A couple of tangential tidbits: Not only did the Pakistan resolution NOT mention the word Pakistan, it was not even passed on March 23rd (the Lahore resolution was actually approved on March 24th 1940). In 1956, Pakistan had approved its first constitution on March 23rd and (just as India celebrates Republic Day on Jan 26 to commemorate its constitution) this was meant to be Republic Day for Pakistan. But when the army (possibly with US apporval)overthrew the civilians, there was no constitution to celebrate. So the day was converted to Pakistan Day and it was decided in fine Stalinist fashion that everybody would now believe the Lahore resolution was called the Pakistan resolution and it was passed on March 23rd. Alhamdolillah, that truth is now established.
    Jinnah’s own funeral was the first example of the problems of Shia and Sunni identity that the two-nation theory had inevitably created. See more about this at http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2012/12/shias-and-their-future-in-pakistan-.html

    1. Hi, it is often reported that some twenty families, (mostly Punjabi), through kith, kin and trusted loyalists totally control the political, judiciary and military establishment in Pakistan..no recruitment or promotion to key posts without their open or secret backing against allegiance..that nexus is reputed to have garnered their nests through commissions on all military contracts, US billions in assistance while financing terrorist groups to create diversion whenever their power positions are being threatened..is this documented?

  3. Since Ms. Fair is an academic, I presume she is interested in facts not fantasies.

    M.A.Jinnah said on February 18,1941
    “”Some confusion prevails in the minds of some individuals in regard to the use of the word ‘Pakistan’. This word has become synonymous with the Lahore resolution owing to the fact that it is a convenient and compendious method of describing the Lahore resolution quoted above. For the reason the British and Indian newspapers generally adopted the word ‘Pakistan’ to describe the Muslim demand as embodied in the Lahore resolution. I really see no objection to it and I fail to understand why some people are making a mountain out of this molehill.”

    M.A.Jinnah and Muslim League celebrated March 23 as Pakistan Day every year from 1941-1947 all over India. Jinnah issued statements to commemorate what he referred to as Pakistan Day each year from 1941-1947. You could read them for yourself here:


    About any (con)federation M.A.Jinnah said at AIML Session April 24,1943

    “We are asked by some constitutional Pandits, why can’t there be some sort of loose federation or confederation? People talk like that. I shall read out to you what I have written on this point, because it is important:

    There are people who talk of some sort of a loose federation. There are people who talk of giving the widest freedom to the federating units and residuary powers resting with the units. But they forget the entire constitutional history of the various parts of the world. Federation however described and in whatever terms it is put, must ultimately deprive the federating units of the authority in all vital matters. The units, despite themselves, would be compelled to grant more and more powers to the central authority, until in the end a strong central government will have been established by the units themselves and they will be driven to do so by absolute necessity, if the basis of a federal government is accepted. Taking for instance the United States and her history, the Dominions of Canada and Australia, the Union of South Africa and Germany and of other lands where federal or confederal systems have been in existence, necessity has driven the component members and obliged them to increase and delegate their power and authority to the connecting link, namely, the central government.

    These ideas are based entirely on a wrong footing due to want of correct understanding as to what really federation means or implies. It is not of much importance whether the units in theory have the residuary powers or the centre.

    But once the units accept the basis of federal central government it follows that it will inevitably and out of sheer necessity resolve itself into an all-powerful central authority and the units will be compelled to grant and delegate more and more powers to the centre, which also can hold these units as connecting links, more or less like a country council or glorified municipalities or feudatory states under the central authority.

    We are opposed to any scheme, nor can we agree to any proposal, which has for its basis any conception or idea of a central government – federal or confederal – for it is bound to lead in the long run to the emasculation of the entire Muslim nation, economically, socially, educationally, culturally, and politically and to the establishment of the Hindu majority raj in this sub-continent.

    Therefore, remove from your mind any idea of some form of such loose federation. There is no such thing as loose federation. Where there is a central government and provincial governments they will go on tightening, tightening and tightening until you are pulverised with regard to your powers as units.”

    In the same meeting Jinnah said “We have got a great deal to do. Of course, it has now been made clear as to what we are struggling for. Any one who now pretends that he does not understand, well, what shall I say? He is a fool or a dishonest man. Our goal is clear: our demands are clear. What is it that we want? We want to establish independent States in those zones which are our homelands and where we are in a majority. In other words we do not want to be in a union with those zones where the Hindus are in a majority and the Mussalmans are in a minority.”

  4. Who is killing them and why is fairly simple; I’ll leave the details to someone more focused on this:

    Shi’ites tend to be ally themselves with the Persian sphere of influence, which must expand out toward India because the Turkish influence will spread throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. This Shi’ite expansion creates pressure against ISI plans for a greater Pakistan.

    Since we managed certain events that led to Qaddafi’s death and certain events that led to a deposed Mubarak, the “Arab Order” became a joke. Remember that Pentagon slide: “Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia is the strategic pivot; Egypt is the prize”? That operation, likely, is retaliation for the House of Saud and their support of terrorism related to 911.

    The Wahabis are, arguably, an MI6 construct and the Wahhabis made that way because they are not the natural rulers of Saudi Arabia. Or, maybe you dont’ believe the MI6 angle, but you cannot say the desert people are the natural rulers when it was always the coastal elite. They’ve managed to annex some little country in their periphery whose name escapes me. So, they’re getting more powerful than we would have reason to have suspected.

    A stable Egypt is necessary for a stable Arab order. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and perhaps Libya or Tunisia could have formed the pillars of a regional order. Egypt was the keystone to the arch; now it’s in chaos. This allows Iran and Turkey to push their interests. What would have been the Arab order will now be a struggle between Ottoman power and Arab power, essentially. It will look different than it has, but it will be the same struggle.

    Iran will not go against the Ottomans; they will expand out toward India, as they did in the past. Pakistan, now separate from India, wants its own little regional empire. And from their littleness they wish to achieve greatness as Adam Weishaupt once put it in the Code. I’m not saying this because I’m a tin foil hat wearing fool who thinks the Order of Perfectibilists — incorrectly called “the Illuminati” by uneducated populists — controls the world. I have some knowledge of the Order and I think it’s the most insecure organization that ever produced a constitution explaining how insecure it is. The only thing it contributed was the ongoing meme that’s fun to play with. In other words, I don’t think much of Pakistan’s efforts or their lack of vision.

    Also, we have foreigners in Pakistan directing a lot of this. Calling them “Isalmists” is a nice way of glossing over that point. So who is running the show? Well, if someone comes into a Blood neighborhood and kills Bloods then my first suspect is a Crip or an agent or agents provocateur. Following that reasoning, we would immediately suspect Sunnis of killing Shi’ites or we would expect that another Shia organization did it and hoped a Sunni organization, or a few, would take responsibility.

    So, this likely tells you who if you think really hard about it. It’s either a terrorist organization or an intelligence service — if there is any difference between the two save for government sponsorship, considering the countries involved. Even if a difference exits, so could an effective working relationship among these entities.

    As far as the idiosyncratic agenda of all players concerned, I won’t even bother to speculate because I don’t care. But, I will say the “why” is best answered with “power”.

  5. Had Zia not seized power in 1977 and the Soviets not intervened in Afghanistan, there would have been little sectarian violence.
    This historical inevitability thesis, that somehow militancy/sectarian violence was programmed into Pakistan’s DNA and it was only a matter of time before it erupted is simply untenable.

  6. The bottom line is Shia activism which has increased tenfold after Khomeini’s entry in Iran.Hurting the sensibilities of other Sects by flouting their Rituals from the First to the tenth of Moharram.The whole Nation including the Media becomes a tool in their hands. The answer is very simple. Carry out all your rituals and activities within the confined area of the Imam Bargah. Recently a Court in England banned the Public display of Flagellation etc.

    1. Its amazing to see how insecure one can feel by seeing other doing/following his constitutional right. These rituals are being carried out in processions whose permits were issued even before the creation of Pakistan, so you need to revisit your understanding that Iran’s revolution is the inspiration for these processions.

    2. This is Exhibit A for the growing intolerance of some Pakistanis for Shia. Wow. Not every day you see something so forthrightly hateful. I presume this is the fellow’s real name?

  7. wonderful researched work by the writer. She has understood the entire tragedy of Pakistan. even very little Pakistani have got that much significant understanding of Pakistan’s history, mind set and politic, I appreciate.

  8. The word ‘Islam’ has become a general license for anyone to do anything in Pakistan.

    So first, end that license. Put into the constitution a line which says ‘No one can use his/her religious beliefs as excuse to usurp another’s fundamental rights’.

    Second, stop ‘Ameriexplaining’ Pakistan’s choice of mass murdering organizations as centerpieces and mouthpieces of its foreign and domestic policies. Pakistan’s decisionmaking and discourse is skewed by this but why should a non-Pakistani justify it?

    Many countries in the world have hostile neighbors not just Pakistan. Pakistan is the only country which officially fosters mass murderers which kill its own and other nations’ civilians. Killing Shias at home is no way to deal with Iran. Killing Afghans is no way to deal with Afghanistan. It will get Pakistan nowhere. These countries are not at war with Pakistan, not even proxy war. Also, killing Kashmiris or Indian soldiers will get Pakistan nowhere with India. The last 40 years are proof of that.

    So even considering ‘statecraft’ arguments as you seem to be doing, there is no payoff in or justification for Pakistan to harbor anti-Shia militia or Afghan or Kashmiri-bound jihadis. Religious extremism and mass murder is not accepted as legitimate currency between states or between groups within a state. So kindly stop ‘explaining’ it.

    There is no explanation for Pakistan using religious extremism and mass murder in its foreign and domestic policies except that Pakistani establishment has an appetite for religious extremism and mass murder. Say so first, and then you can think of what to do about it.

  9. “n fact, the Two Nation Theory was a rhetorical and political argument through which Jinnah sought first to receive equal representation in the national parliament of an independent India.”

    — If this is true, then it is also true that Jinnah got carried away by his own rhetoric. Even his closest associates never came to know that the Two Nation Theory was only a rhetorical and political argument. It is slightly silly to think that a lawyer like Jinnah who would be used to negotiations could not let the other side that his nation was not an absolute demand. But the mass of Jinnah’s speeches and writings are available, and absolutely rule out this idea that the Two Nation Theory was a means by which Jinnah sought equal representation in an Indian constituent assembly or Indian Parliament.

    One can of course argue that Jinnah never meant what he said on so many occasions – that Pakistan was non-negotiable; that without it Islam would vanish from the sub-continent; that Muslims would get Pakistan with their blood if necessary, etc., etc., etc. OK, then why is such weight given to his one secular speech on August 11, 1947. Perhaps he did not mean what he said.

    If that secret decoder ring that some modern historians claim to have, that enables them to discern when Jinnah meant what he said and when he didn’t, was available to Jinnah’s contemporaries, then perhaps history would be very different.

  10. Actually Jinnah’s emissary Khaliquzzaman met Secretary of State for India Zetland in Britain in July 1939 and talked of partition. From Narendra Singh Sarila’s book The Shadow of the Great Game:
    [Soon after the outbreak of World War II] Jinnah had met the viceroy immediately after Gandhiji on 4 September[1939]. While Gandhiji had offered tears and sympathy, Jinnah offered the viceroy the means to win the war and a clear compact. He pledged ‘the loyalty of the Muslim community everywhere'(as if he was the sole representative of the Muslims of India) and then, with reference to the Congress ministries in the provinces, told the viceroy: ‘Turn them out at once. Nothing else will bring them to their senses. Their object, though you may not believe it..is nothing less than to destroy both you[the British] and us Muslims. They will never stand by you.’ And then he spelt out his mind: ‘Muslim areas should be separated from “Hindu India” and run by Muslims in collaboration with Great Britain.’

    Jinnah had spoken so candidly to the viceroy because his lieutenant, Khaliq-uz-Zaman, had met Lord Zetland in London a few months earlier. According to Khaliq-uz-Zaman, when he had conveyed to Zetland the desirability of the creation of autonomous Muslim states in the subcontinent that would remain linked with Britain with defence, the British minister showed enough interest to prolong the talk for an hour and a half! The answer Khaliq-uz-Zaman gave to Zetland, when asked about defence, needs to be quoted because it was bound to make the minister feel that the Muslim League would remain dependent upon, and subservient to, Britain: ‘If you want to know (about defence) for the period that you are not in any way connected with the administration of the country, then I beg your Lordship not to put that question to me, for God only knows what will happen to us then.’

    Jinnah himself mentioned Pakistan and the partition of India in public in July 1939 in a statement about the federal part of 1935 Govt of India Act:

    “As to the Congress, which represents a solid body of Hindus in the country, their declarations are clear that they are fundamentally opposed to the scheme. Will the Congress be allured into accepting the scheme, as it is urged upon them to do so on the ground that otherwise the Muslims will break away, as they are thinking already of Pakistan, which will mean the destruction of all-India unity? Will the Congress accept this constitution because the Muslims have a special additional grievance that they are not adequately safeguarded in the Federal scheme. Will it satisfy the ambition of some Congress leaders that in this dummy legislature, without control and responsibility on all vital matters, because they will secure a majority and therefore dominate in number over the Muslims the Federal scheme is good enough to be accepted?

    It has been openly said that Mr. Gandhi conveyed at Rajkot to some of his followers that they would have to accept the Federal scheme as embodied in the Government of India Act. A few days ago when he was interviewed at Lahore it is reported that he was asked a question as to what his opinion was on Federation, and he declined to make any statement.

    Is Mr. Gandhi going to fall into the trap for the sake of merely having a Congress majority under this wretched Federal scheme and is he going to be frightened to death on the score that the Muslims will break away and it might lead to a partition of India?”

    1. PS: Jinnah’s statement in July 1939 mentioning Pakistan and the partition of India is from ‘Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid e Azam’ ed Khurshid Yusufi.

  11. Great article, well researched. However another thing I would add to “Should America Care” section. The majority of Shia rightly associate this violence with the GCC and Saudis which are American client states. In short the Americans allow these nations to fund terrorist as long as they do not harm America.

    Americans need to understand that they are associated with KSA and GCC which clearly fund terrorism throughout the world. Naturally people will think of American as accepting the funding of terrorism.

    America needs to end its alliance or its image will only suffer immensely among Shias in Pakistan. It may even suffer to an extent that they will gladly attack American interest to seek justice and revenge for their losses.

  12. Narendra Singh Sarila quotes Jinnah in his book The Shadow of the Great Game:

    Eleven days before he gave the call for the partition of India, Jinnah took the viceroy into confidence regarding his plans on 13 March 1940. According to Linlithgow’s report to Zetland, Jinnah told him:

    Given the development of the war[its possible extension into Asia] there was much to be said for our[British and Muslims] getting together…[but]if we wished for their [Muslims’] definite and effective help we must not sell the pass behind their backs…. He and his friends were clear that Muslims were not a minority but a nation, that democracy(i.e., majority rule) for India was impossible, and they were anxious not to let us get ourselves in a position in which our hold over India was deliberately and progressively withdrawn so that in the end the control of the country would be handed over to Hindu Raj. He[Jinnah] was quite prepared to contemplate the possibility that we might have to stay here much longer than was anticipated for the job of keeping the ring… He wanted Muslim areas to be run by Muslims in collaboration with Great Britain, and that Muslims would be able to safeguard “because of their military power even those of their community who were domiciled in the Hindu areas”. . . .

    [Elsewhere in the chapter, Sarila quotes a little more from that conversation:]
    “The Muslim areas would be poorer, but because of the Muslims’ military power and British collaboration, they would be able to safeguard even those of their community domiciled in the Hindu areas.”

  13. Sadhna will u stop already. The article is about shia sunni problem not hindu-muslim problem. If u like to write about pre indo-pak situation, get your own blog.

  14. I am not scholar or a writer, but what I witnessed in my childhood , we were never be very religious , everything was moving side by side some people were religious some progressive & majority in the middle, I never understood what religion had to do with country, people from different religion were friend to each other. In Karachi most of the shia were rich & educated & less religious, sunni were poor & relatively religious. My shia friends used to claim shia made Pakistan because their leadership were mostly shia, then I used to think why they are so libral when Pakistan supposed to be Islamic state. Now at this point I see the hypocrisy of the Pakistan leadership ie slogan was Islamic but the government would be secular. The peoples who sacrificed their life in the name of religion during partition felt cheated, that might be the reaction of religious group to give the country its Islamic status & if its true that shia leadership created the country, they are the biggest opsticle in the Islamic state because they never allow sunni Islamic state & shia Islamic state is impossible. I think this is the reason of conflict between sunni & shia in Pakistan.

  15. Hello Christine,

    “As rival Sunni militant groups—most of which were Deobandi—began to mobilize against Shia in Pakistan, Iraq began resourcing anti-Shia militant organizations. ”
    Should be Shia instead of non-Shia??


  16. Shia n Sunni must unite we were never had different religion at the time of prophet n sahabas who are the base of Islam so y now don’t make our strength low don’t divide our religion tht is islam

  17. No time to go through all. Pakistan is disintegrating from within. It is disintegrating because Pakistan as a state resumes no responsibility for running such a state. Within few days of Pakistan’s creation, the leader Jinnah couldn’t believe that the best and the brightest running the city of Karachi fled. Out of 400,000 inhabitants, half happened to be Hindus kiss Goodbye to their ancient city of Karachi. They shared the wisdom of the chief minister of Punjab that if you create ‘Jinnahistan’, the mad Muslims kill all the remaining Hindus. Check out Patrick French’s “Liberty or Death.’ _________Aristotle says that a little mistake in the beginning becomes at the end a big mistake. The deadbeats in Pakistan say so much and say so less. Meanwhile, the Land of the Pure is on its way out from the map.