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    Paper no. 1146           18. 10. 2004

by B.Raman

There was a massacre of hundreds of Shias of Gilgit in the Northern Areas (NA) of Pakistan (before 1947 called the Northern Areas of Jammu & Kashmir) in 1988 following a demand raised by them for the creation  of an autonomous  Shia state to be called the Karakoram State, consisting of the Shia majority areas of the NA, Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, then in power, had the massacre carried out through Osama bin Laden, then living in Peshawar, and his Sunni tribal hordes.

2. To avenge this, a Shia airman was believed to have caused an explosion on board the  aircraft in which Zia was travelling from Bahawalpur to Islamabad in August 1988. This was followed in 1991 by the assassination of Lt.Gen.Fazle Haq, then in retirement, at Peshawar by a Shia gunman.

3. The Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1994 to October 2001, particularly after it captured Kabul in September,1996, saw the large-scale massacre of the Shias belonging to the Hazara tribe, carried out by Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ).

4. Angered over this, the Shia community refrained from participating in large numbers in the anti-US demonstrations which were organised in different parts of Pakistan by the Sunni religious organisations in protest against the US military strikes against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan post-9/11.

5. Since the beginning of 2003, there have been indications that  sections of the Shias have been doing their own hunt for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No. 2.It was reported that the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), who had allegedly orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, at Rawalpindi in March 2003,  was made possible by intelligence provided by some Shias in Quetta, Balochistan, where he was living before fleeing to Rawalpindi.

6. The SSP and the LEJ, which are members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), retaliated by massacring a large number  of Shias of the Hazara community in the Quetta area in July, 2003. This was followed by many anti-Shia incidents in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.

7. The Shias retaliated by helping the Pakistani authorities in the arrest of Massob Arooshi, described as the nephew of KSM, on June 13, 2004, following an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Corps Commander of Karachi on June 10, 2004. He was arrested  from the house of  one Abbas Khan, a former divisional engineer  of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, who is reportedly  the  father of Javed Abbas, a serving Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) of  Sindh.

8.According to the "Daily Times", the presitgious daily of Lahore, a Shia cleric from Gilgit working in Karachi tipped off the police about the presence of Arooshi in the house of Abbas Khan. The paper said that it was another Shia cleric, who had tipped off the Police in March last year about the presence of KSM in Rawalpindi.

9. The arrest of Arooshi led to the arrest  on July 12,2004,of 25-year-old Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani national,  described as a computer expert of Al Qaeda; the arrest   on July 25, 2004, at Gujrat in Punjab  of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian national born in Zanzibar, who was wanted by the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with the explosions near the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998, and his Uzbeck wife from the house of an LEJ member;  the arrest on August 6,2004, by the Dubai authorities of Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), and his deportation to Pakistan; and the death in an alleged encounter at Nawabshah in Sindh on September 26, 2004, of Amjad Hussain Farooqi alias Mansur Hasnain alias Imtiaz Siddiqui alias Hyder, alias Doctor who, according to the Pakistani authorities, , was the mastermind behind the two abortive attempts to kill Gen.Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December last year and in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in January-February, 2002.

10. The SSP and the LEJ retaliated  against the Shias through a suicide bombing at a Shia place of worship in Sialkot in Punjab on October 1, 2004, resulting in the death of 30 Shias. The Shias retaliated on October 7,2004, by attacking with a car bomb a religious function organised at Multan in Punjab  by the Sunni members of the SSP and the LEJ  to observe the first death anniversary of Azam Tariq, the head of the SSP, who was assassinated last year allegedly by a Shia gunman in Islamabad. Forty Sunnis were killed.

11. Azam Tariq was close to Pervez Musharraf, who had the cases under  the Anti-Terrorism Act pending against him withdrawn to enable him to contest and win the elections held in October, 2002, to the National Assembly. The SSP retaliated by causing an explosion in a Shia place of worship at Lahore on October 10, 2004, killing four Shias

12. And so, it goes on. And so, it will go on till the Shias of Pakistan and Afghanistan have smoked out bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, and despatched them to their Maker or, worse still, to the Americans at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

13. The Shias have a long memory for the insults and brutalities inflicted on them as Zia, Fazle Haq, KSM, Amjad Farooqi and many others learnt to their cost. They hunt relentlessly  for their suppressors and for those who massacred their near and dear ones---no matter what be the price.

14. They have not forgotten what bin Laden at the instance of Zia  did to them in Gilgit in 1988. They have not forgotten what bin Laden, the Taliban  and al-Zawahiri did to them in Central Afghanistan. They have not forgotten the role of the SSP and the LEJ in the massacre of the Shias in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

15. They are on the hunt for their sworn enemies. They are unlikely to rest till they get them. They are doing this not because of any love for the US or Musharraf, but to avenge the deaths of their near and dear ones at the hands of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

17. Unlike Iran, which is allegedly not co-operating with the US in its hunt for the dregs of Al Qaeda, the Shias of Pakistan have mounted their own hunt for bin Laden and his cohorts. It is not a co-ordinated operation with that of the US or Pakistan. It is an independent operation in parallel, whose objective is not to make the world safe for the Americans, but to avenge the deaths of their brothers and sisters and to make the world safe for the Shias.No amount of brutalities and retaliatory killings by the SSP and the LEJ would deter them from this.

18. If bin Laden is still alive, don't be surprised if his nemesis comes at the hands of the Shias of Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: )