By Irfan Ali
The world capitals eye political developments in Pakistan cautiously. The sit-ins outside Parliament House began by Shia-allied Sunni parties Revolution March and Imran Khan’s Freedom March on August 16, continues on 12th consecutive day.
One of the many aspects of the ongoing movement against the Nawaz Sharif-led PMLN government is the fact that Shia Muslims have returned to mainstream political scene. Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, a leading Shia party of Pakistan, has successfully brought Shiites to fore, on the mainstream political scene like Shia Muslims’ leading party Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan did in 1980s and 1990s.
History of Pakistan tells us Shiites had been playing leading and affective role since its inception. Founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah and some of other pioneers of Pakistan including Raja Saheb of Mehmoodabad were Shia leaders of All India Muslim League that struggled for a separate homeland for Muslims of British-ruled India.
However, after the establishment of Pakistan, under a systematic anti-Shiites approach by some bigwigs within the State officials, Shia Muslims were denied their legitimate rights. That trend reached its height during Martial Law of General Zia ul Haq who had sacked democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-led PPP.
His unconstitutional regime tried to subdue Shiites. After Islamic revolution of Iran in February 1979, General Zia, as a Saudi-U.S. ally in the war against USSR-led Communism, took the advantage of its influence and laid the foundation of over takfiri ideology that Pakistan suffers from even today. During his tenure, first takfiri terrorist outfit Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASS) came into being. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, ASS founder, was a leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a Deobandi party. He was patronized and allowed to spread anti-Shia and anti-Sunni Bralevi fanaticism and terrorism among Deobandis.
Unfortunately, the takfiri group enjoyed support from anti-Shiites State officials that was evident from the fact that ASS leaders were allowed to continue their anti-Constitution activities. They were also allowed to contest elections. General Pervez Musharraf banned the ASS that had to rename it as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) after critics ridicule it on its acronym ASS. This fact should not be ignored that General Pervez Musharraf banned mainstream political parties’ leaders such as Benazir Bhutto of the PPP and Nawaz Sharif of the PMLN but allowed ASS leaders to contest elections in 2002. Ass leader Azam Tariq voted for Mir Zafarullah Jamali and his casting vote made Jamali Prime Minister under General Musharraf-controlled U.S. allied government.
Ironically, Pakistani political history is replete with marriage of convenience between once rivals. Nawaz Sharif, considered to be a remnant of General Zia, always tolerated ASS but in his 1977-99 government, notorious terrorists of the ASS and its subsidiary Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were killed in encounter with police under his brother Shahbaz Sharif, then Chief Minister Punjab.
Takfiris too benefited from PMLN government’s ouster in 1999. They welcomed General Pervez Musharraf who later banned ASS and LeJ to hoodwink people around the world. Only those elements were targeted who were disliked by U.S.-led alliance’s influential components because of their involvement in crimes as abettors of Taliban. The U.S.-led alliance or coalition of the willing was also hoodwinking people around the world by not eliminating the Taliban altogether.
Takfiris kept killing innocent Pakistani Shia Muslims and Sunni Bralevis alike. Shia party MWM reacted and successfully compelled the PPP-led federal government to remove Balochistan’s Chief Minister Aslam Raeesani for his soft corner for the takfiri terrorists despite the Shia genocide in his province. MWM’s sit-ins across Pakistan made it a popular Shia party and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, Shia party’s candidate was elected directly to Balochistan’s legislative Assembly.
Now, MWM has become an ally of Dr Tahir ul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik on 14 points in which MWM backs 10-points agenda of Mr. Qadri, a Sunni Bralevi leader and in reciprocation, he supports 4 points of the MWM. Shia wants ban on takfiri ideology and punishment for takfiris under Constitution and full provincial status for Shia majority Gilgit-Baltistan province. Mr. Qadri and his other allies back these demands.
Fearing a bleak future, takfiris came out to oppose Sunni-Shia alliance. They staged a rally on the day when federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar was scaring the Revolution March of two suicide bombers. That gave a clear message to Pakistanis and the world that Shia-allied Sunni parties sit-in was under threat from two suicide bombers despite the fact they were in highly guarded Red Zone but takfiris of banned ASS (now called proscribed ASWJ) were free and safe to raise takfiri slogans and provocative speeches against Sunni and Shia Muslims. It should be considered a defeat of takfiri alliance because a new political alliance has replaced the traditional polity and a mainstream party such as PMLN seeks help from takfiris. Revolution March has brought a win-win situation for anti-takfiri Pakistanis in which takfiris have admitted their humiliating defeat because government has accepted almost all demands excluding the dismissal of the government itself.