The following is an open letter received from Pakistani-Americans expressing condemnation of the ongoing threat to Pakistan’s Shia community from militant groups including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and calling for “a concerted, nationwide campaign to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for anti-Shia violence.” While Americans for Democracy & Justice in Pakistan supports the rights of all religious communities to live in peace and security, the letter reflects a personal statement by the signatories and is made available here for informational purposes only. For more information or to be added as a signatory, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To Whom It May Concern:
We would like to express our strong condemnation of the brutal killing of over eighty innocent civilians in the January 10, 2013 terrorist attacks in Quetta, Pakistan, conducted by the Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) organization. We call on the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of these and other terrorist attacks against Pakistan’s Shia Muslims.
The attacks this Friday are the latest in what is a persistent and murderous campaign against Shia Muslims across Pakistan waged by the LeJ and its partners. Approximately 400 Shia Muslims were killed by the LeJ and its allies in 2012, according to Human Rights Watch. The anti-Shia violence in Pakistan has not been restricted to a single ethnic group or region. In recent years, it has included:
the siege and killings of Shia Muslims in the Kurram Agency;
the targeted killings of Shia Muslim professionals in Karachi as well as Hazara and non-Hazara Shia Muslims in Quetta;
the mass murder of Shia Muslim pilgrims in Balochistan and Gilgit; and
large terrorist attacks against Shia Muslim processions in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Rawalpindi.
According to international conventions and customary international law, these constitute genocidal acts perpetrated by terrorist groups like the LeJ.
With Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s visit to Quetta and the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan, there are indications that the Government of Pakistan (GoP) is attempting to take action to protect the area’s Shia Muslim community. But an all-of-government and all-of-Pakistan approach is necessary to stem the tide of anti-Shia violence, which has hit every corner of the country.
A concerted, nationwide campaign to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for anti-Shia violence is necessary. Such a campaign must be conducted under civilian command by the GoP, provincial governments in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh, and authorities in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, with the full support of the army, intelligence agencies, judiciary, and police. It must coincide with a broader effort to improve the prosecution of alleged terrorists, including the institution of witness protection programs.
Inaction by the federal and provincial governments and other arms of the state has enabled the LeJ threat to metastasize. The GoP must reverse course and fulfill its responsibility to protect its citizenry. Similarly, Pakistani journalists, military officials, politicians, religious leaders who have either supported anti-Shia organizations or have shied away from explicitly condemning them, must recognize the collective costs of complicity or silence and reverse course.
We are encouraged by the peaceful sit-ins that have taken place in cities such as Quetta, Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore, where thousands of Pakistanis have braved the cold to protest against the murderous campaign against Shia Muslims. We are heartened to see support from a broad segment of Pakistanis, transcending ethnic, regional, and religious boundaries. And we hope that the civic unity displayed by Pakistan’s Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians, and others serves as permanent bridges that lead to a more peaceful and progressive Pakistan.
But a strong civil society cannot make up for weak government resolve in combating the rising tide of terror. The GoP must take decisive action to stop the genocidal campaign against Pakistan’s Shia Muslims. The LeJ, which has allied with al-Qaeda and the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, is not only an existential threat to the country’s Shia Muslims, but to all Pakistanis.
We close with the words of German pastor Martin Niemöller, who warned of his countrymen’s indifference to the Nazi threat:
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Concerned Pakistani Americans
Waris Husain, Writer/ Attorney
Manzur Ejaz, Writer/Economist
Mohammad Taqi, Writer/Academic Physician
Arif Rafiq, Adjunct Scholar, Middle East Institute
Omar Ali, MD, Writer/Academic Physician
Beena Sawar, Journalist/Documentary Filmmaker
Ayaz Muhammad Khan, Virginia
Zaid Jlani, Journalist/Activist
Raakin Iqbal, Architect/Producer