When the victims are buried in mass graves, it’s genocide

Published: February 20, 2013

Shia Muslims dig graves for their community members at a graveyard in Quetta, Sept 21, 2011, after their killing in an attack by gunmen. PHOTO: AFP

Shia Muslims dig graves for their community members at a graveyard in Quetta, Sept 21, 2011, after their killing in an attack by gunmen. PHOTO: AFP Are we planning on fixing the problem  this time or are we planning on more genocides to come?  PHOTO: AFP

When they need mass graves to bury the victims, it is time to start calling it a genocide.

I have seen gut-wrenching images of poor Hazara men and women mourning their loved ones who were killed simply for being Shia. I saw horrible images of the scene of violence of the bomb blasts this past weekend in Quetta. But nothing moved me quite like the picture of the mass grave that was dug last month to bury the 93 victims of anti-Shia savagery.

To my mind, nothing encapsulates just how low we have sunk than the fact that we now have mass graves for religious minorities in Pakistan. That Pakistan appears to have begun accelerating down the horror show that was foretold in Pastor Martin Niemöller’s wise words is not what troubles me, nor is the fact that the only appropriate analogies that one can use about the situation in Pakistan have to do with the Holocaust in Europe.

No, what bothers me is that I cannot see how this stops.

The Germans were stopped from their acts of genocide by foreign powers invading and occupying their country and then staying put for the next 45 years. But the Germans did not blame the Americans for their troubles. They used it as an opportunity to wake up from the murderous frenzy they had been on and made it a point to educate every single child in Germany why the Holocaust was so horribly wrong that even a hint of movement in that direction needs to stamped out immediately.

It was a massive educational campaign that sought to wipe out all traces of anything that might smell even remotely tolerant of genocide from the German culture.

Does anyone realistically see that happening in Pakistan?

Here is where we stand in Pakistan right now: you can count on the fingers of one hand how many people on television have been willing to call this what it is: the genocide of Shias in this country.

That disconnect between what we need and what we have is what bothers me. Because as genocides go, this is not even Pakistan’s first. And we certainly seem to have not learnt our lessons.

We are the nation that managed to kill 3 million of our own fellow citizens in what was then East Pakistan and have yet to confront the reality of what we did. We only stopped because India invaded and forced us to stop. We are the nation that has yet to even officially apologise for it. We just decided to go on and pretend it never happened. Now when the subject is brought up, people quibble about whether it was 3 million or 300,000.


That’s the core issue?

Not the fact that we went about indiscriminately killing men, women and children?

What the hell is wrong with us?

So I suppose we really should not be surprised that we are now on another genocide. And we seem to be repeating the same mistake as last time: refusing to call it what it is. Are we planning on fixing the problem  this time or are we planning on more genocides to come? All indications point to the latter.

There is one road that leads us out of this hell. But it involves us being honest about the problem. If we try to brush it under the carpet, all we do is lay the foundation for the next genocide.

This one threatens to kill one-fifth of the country.

Anyone want to guess who will be next?

Read more by Farooq here or follow him on Twitter @FarooqTirmizi


Farooq Tirmizi

The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (twitter.com/FarooqTirmizi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • hazara

    pity on us that they kill us and make national headlines and when mission/show is over then they bury our dead by forceRecommend

  • Ejaaz

    Who will be next? Sufi’s of course. Their mazars are already being blown up. They are on the list no doubt. Why are the Shia Sunni fighting in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain , and a few other places besides Pakistan?Recommend

  • M Baloch

    The plant of strategic depth will continue to flourish on the blood of innocents…! Recommend

  • doesn’t matter

    A fine article.
    What puzzles me is not the apathy of those in power, but indifference of the common pakistanis to the suffering of this badly terrorized sect.
    why is it that there is still a need to call for a Dharna? why can’t it be spontaneous like the one in Delhi against the bestial gang-rape, or a sudden overflow of sea of bangladesis, on the calls of a few bloggers, about an incident that happened 40 years ago.
    Most of those protesting in Bangladesh are young and have not seen the brutality with their eyes, but can still relate to that event.

    Why a common Pakistani has to be called out of home to protest, on something as burning as Shia Genocide, which is happening in front of their eyes?
    Have they stopped relating themselves with these unfortunate souls, or is this silence indictive of their tacit approval of the massacre, or a common pakistani is so bedevilled by inflation and unemployment, that all he cares is that he should return back to his home safely, and enjoy his life with his family before some blast abruptly terminates his otherwise blissful life.Recommend

  • Sane

    …..Are we planning on fixing the problem this time or are we planning on more genocides to come? All indications point to the latter……

    Every single political party irrespective whether in govt. or in opposition or bystander. All their office bearers, supporters and voters are responsible what we have now. And what we will have next. A dead nation we are.Recommend

  • Sane

    See the attitude/language/posture of our ‘leaders’ those belongs to political parties when they debate on TV Channels. Does it look that they have any vision. They waste time on self boasting and condemning others. Are they the lot who will do anything for this nation? They really do not care (rather able to understand) what is happening and what will happen. What to talk about what they can do.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/bohotsaara Sarah B. Haider

    History is repeating itself -the same is happening what happened in Baghdad during the reign of the Abbasid dynasty -which they claim to be the “golden age of Islam”. Can’t find a better example of bigotry in human history!Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/bohotsaara Sarah B. Haider

    @doesn’t matter: Spot on! Can’t agree more!Recommend

  • Roshan

    Police have failed,
    FC have failed,
    Agencies have failed,
    Judged have failed.
    Baloch issues is directly dealt by Army but LeJ roams freely.
    They can’t confuse people any more, it’s simply a ‘State’ sponsored project of ethnic cleansing inflicted upon Hazara Shia for whatever reason they come up with.
    Might is always right.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The reason all our leaders are doing nothing is because they are too busy looting the national exchequer, as said by Lawyer Naqvi in the opinion section.Recommend

  • Hurt

    Yes, only Hazaras are being killed in PakistanRecommend

  • Stranger

    May their souls rest in peace. I think the best solution is to increase representation of these people in the Parliament .They will ( rather – they should ) raise vital issues concerning their region. Violence and tears have absolutely no value.Recommend

  • http://Karachi Zaheer

    The problem is that we still do not want to call it a genocide. The brightest of our minds are leaving this land of pure and we are still sleeping.

    After this cleansing, the time is not too far when we see the majority of Pakistanis will be the prime target of these terrorrists!Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Ejaaz: Why do you see most Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan in 1947? Why most Indian Muslims stayed back in India?

    These type of slaughters are planned to terrorize people to make them convert their sect/religion and make them leave the area. Recommend

  • Panj Tan

    @doesn’t matter:
    Out Islamiyat teacher had this to say regarding Hazara massacre “Zamin ne bhi un ki lashon ko qabool nahen kia “(“Even the earth refused to accept their bodies”)

    That’s the thinking of an average PakistanRecommend

  • Ainee

    When people in Swat were being killed, why didn’t anybody make that a sectarian issue?. Its never a sectarian issue when a Sunni dies.Recommend

  • Waqar ahmed khuhro.

    No one is here ready to accept that it is genocide. let people die. they have to just talk in ‘talk shows’ and would strongly condemn the barbaric acts.Recommend

  • Sameer

    @Roshan : Why is the public not on the streets protesting this?? Where are the young college students and learned intellectuals of this country? Why are they not in the squares demanding that this be stopped? Why are they not in the face of LEJ and TTP supporters? Why don’t they take leaders to task?Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    Well said, great use of analogy and contrast on Nazi Germany and its end. Unfortunately I do not see things becoming better for Pak either and believe the foundations were always crooked even before the ethnic bigoted genocide (aided by religious nationalist propaganda) in ’71.

    There needs to be an honest re-examination of our deluded revisionist history and dogma, deprogramming of the twisted religious nationalist ideology and stop insane religious/ethnic/political ideological justifications for violence locally, regionally and globally. Unfortunately even Sunni moderates have dwindled in numbers, as the religious and national narrative, if not entire religion and state, has been surrendered to the growing conservative Sunni Islamists, if not extremists. With such a religious bigoted charged or sectarian privileged majority sentiments, there’s little hope to bring in any secular reforms or undoing prejudiced laws or enforcing protection for minorities. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf


    When people in Swat were being killed, why didn’t anybody make that a sectarian issue?

    Because Swat was taken over by Wahhabi/Deoband/Sunni Islamist extremist militants on a mostly Sunni resident population. It was religious extremism without the sectarian motive, nor were there signs of ‘cleansing Sunnis’ apart from the oppression of the residents or those who disagreed with them. The attack on Parachinar, a mostly Shia resident population, however would indeed be a sectarian issue based on those motives of cleansing Shias.

    Its never a sectarian issue when a Sunni dies.

    Its unfounded majority self-victimhood and resentment. There is little trend of a common Sunni individual targeted simply because he’s “Sunni”. For example Bashir Bilour even though Sunni, was opposed to Sunni fanatics, and consequentially was murdered by them, but not on the basis that he was ‘Sunni’ therefore an extremist murder but not sectarian. When there is a market bombing by these extremists, the motive is not simply targeting ‘Sunnis’, even though most of them are killed in it, but general Pakistanis (or nearby security), unlike when they make it a point to bomb a Shia procession, which is both extremist and sectarian.
    However, it does become a sectarian ‘issue’ when an activist of an anti-Shia Sunni extremist militant organization, such as ASWJ, not just any common Sunni, is targeted by Shia militants, or when Barelvi or Deoband outfits target each other. However, what is more common is the disproportionate targeting of any Shia minority mostly by Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremists. Recommend

  • http://www.stopextremism.wordpress.com Sohaib Ahmed

    if we fail to recognize the dangers of hate today then the day is not far when our own relatives will be sitting in a Quetta with our dead bodies, protesting for justice. Your life, your country, Love or Hate , your choice. Stop Hate to stop Shia Killings, here is my take on it http://stopextremism.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/hate-is-the-reason-english/Recommend

  • http://gujrat RAW is WAR


  • Mehdi


    To put it simply you are a bigot. I just don’t want to generalize, almost 100 % of terrorism perpetrated by people who belong to Sunni school of thoughts, when you classify the faith of the terrorist. I hope my post gets published. I am willing to provide last 10 years of statistics in regards to terrorism done by misusing the verses from Quran and laws derived from this holy book. And I am a Shia Muslim.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @ Ainee it’s people like you who justify terrorism with your shallow understanding of world and religion, open your mind.Recommend

  • agreat gal

    @Ainee: No one should be killed. If they are killed for no reason and on the basis of ethnicity, sect, belief systems, caste, creed, color, langauge, etc…then they should raise their voice….hazaras are raising their voice peacefully and want peace….if you are from swat and want our support, ask for it … you will definitely get the support, provided you also support others…for justice and peace and tolerance. Recommend

  • Nitish

    This time again India should attack pakistan to rescue prosecuted shia after all they were indians once upon a time.UN should take immediate action against pakistan to make it a safer plcace to live in for Hindus,christian,sikhs,shias,ahmedi etc etc.Recommend

  • Nitish

    @author:When the victims are buried in mass graves, it’s genocide
    But In kashmir its a different ball game.Mass grave is of sunni muslims.It was done just to make kasmir and india a safer place.This cant be a genocide.Now after looking at the shia genocide now i can say that sunnis in kashmir deserve this.Recommend

  • A Muslima

    Excellently written. Though you get caught in your own words – the Hazaras are not the only one.. I wonder of anyone remembers those 97, 98 Ahmadi Muslims who war killed while praying? But there was nothing, no hue and cry about them. Why? Because they are different from the mainstream Muslims. Thats their only crime. Yet no one, not even you, dear Author, had the nerve to stand up and call it genocide, for that is what it is. Just like the Hazaras/ the Shia, they are being targeted for their difference of faith.
    Until and unless the common Pakistani stands up and says ENOUGH – this will continue. Stop killing people because they dont believe what you do. That still leaves them human and still gives them the right to live their lives- like you.
    To answer your question – no. This will never stop. I dont see Allah being Merciful to a people who are so cruel to other people.. I dont see this ending, at least, not on a positive note. We will all pay the price.. sooner or later. Recommend

  • http://dawn.com/2013/02/17/time-for-shias-to-leave-pakistan/ m umar

    It is time for Shias, minorities and open-minded Sunnis to leave Pakistan. Please have a look at this article that explains why?


    What is my opinion as to why leave Pakistan?

    My answer is that, it is better to leave Pakistan than taking law into your own hands and committing treason to this country that will serve no good. By doing this you can save your next generations.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @m umar:

    Its unfortunate that Shias, minorities and open-minded Sunnis should be forced to leave, and when fighting for their lives and rights would be considered ‘treasonous’, when the real betrayal lies with the close-minded Sunni majority, extremists and the state.

    But I understand what you’re saying and share the same sentiments as Dawn’s Murtaza Haider. Recommend

  • observer


    NO. Two…… Theory in action.

    1947- 2 Nation Theory

    1971- 2 Linguistic Groups Theory

    1973- 2 Muslims Theory (Constitutional and the Other)

    1995- 2 Afghan Theory (Taliban and the Rest)

    2004- 2 Taliban Theory (the GOOD and the BAD)

    2011- 2 Islam Theory (True and the Other)

    In addition you also have 2 Expatriates Theory ( Mansoor Ijaz- the Patriot and Qadri- the Other)

    The fissures go on multiplying.Recommend

  • m omar

    @bigsaf: Agreed.

    Those close minded ones you mentioned are in majority and after all isn’t the democracy all about??

    Here read this recent news Published: February 21, 2013…


    I can easily say that Democracy is above Justice

    All hope is lost..!!!Recommend

  • Reidi gul

    You people will never learn from history. All this happened in the middle east before and later we learned that the Europeans did all of this to divide the Muslims and create chaos. And no, this isn’t a conspiracy theory, its a fact. The point is, EVERYONE IS SUFFERING IN PAKISTAN, BE IT A SUNNI OR A SHIA. Recommend

  • Tony Singh

    And then there will be none – in the land of pure.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/kamal.changazi kamal changazi

    @M Baloch:
    well said brother M Baloch… m copying it as my status update… with ur permissionRecommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/SiriuStudios Fahad Syed Photography

    @Reidi Gul
    I agree with you. We all are suffering.

    All Sunis, Shiyas, even non-muslims.

    Who has the right to take a life? Only the one who gave.
    But here, everyone is a GOD in making.Recommend

  • Lawangeen

    Mass graves, genocide and balah blah blah. Why don’t have you guts to talk about Pashtun and Balach genocide by the state?Recommend

  • Shakeel Ahmed

    It is nothing short of a national scourge to kill innocent people in the name of religion.Islam is the religion of peace which gives prime importance to humanity.Those religious outfits who kill innocent people are defaming the name of Islam in the world.
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