This is NOT sectarian violence, it is Shia genocide

Published: February 19, 2015

Security personnel inspect a mosque inside Imamia Imambargah after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on February 13, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Shia Muslims shout slogans during a protest against the killing of Shia community members in a bombing in Quetta on January 23, 2014. PHOTO: AFP Security personnel inspect a mosque inside Imamia Imambargah after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on February 13, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Another imambargah attacked in Islamabad leaving several Shias dead and injured. In the last two weeks, this is the third such incident, fourth overall in 2015 and it is only February. This is only the latest attack in a long line of attacks that have taken place. From 2001 to now, thousands of Shias have been killed in terrorist attacks across Pakistan. Through it all, governments continued to tolerate extremist groups and even gave them space in mainstream politics.

The pace of these frightening attacks has picked up. One would have thought that the regular attacks would have pricked social conscience into recognising the on-going Shia genocide, but sadly, nothing of this sort has happened. The airwaves and social media are dominated by the cricket World Cup and any dialogue is swept aside in the face of larger concerns of bat and all.

When Shias are killed, we want to label them as Pakistanis or Muslims. They are both but are not being targeted because of their nationality or religion. This is a deliberate massacre of a particular community being carried out with impunity. The right term is not ‘sectarian violence’ which implies that it is a war between two sects. If this was a war, then there would be Shia suicide bombers or killers attacking other sects. The right term is ‘genocide’ which is defined as,

“The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.”

The deliberate obfuscation of “sectarian violence” takes away focus from the issue. Equally damaging are theories of Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy wars and geopolitical manoeuvres. Why is there so much resistance to recognising this simple fact? Abbas Town and Alamdar Road were bombed because Shias lived there. Hazara Shias were pulled from buses and shot because they were Shia. Muharram processions and imambargahs are attacked because they are seen as Shia institutions.

If its Shia-Sunni violence, how many Shia suicide bombers can you name? How many Sunnis have been killed by Shias after checking their ID cards? How many times has a Tablighi Ijtima been bombed? How many Sunni mass graves have been dug following Shia attacks on Tarawih?

The answer is zero to all of them.

Shame on all deniers of ‪‎Shia genocide and those who try to dilute it with false narratives.

After every attack there is token condemnation by government agencies which continues to give political space to known Shia killers. It also actively supports killers because they are seen as “strategic assets” that will be used for asymmetric wars against imagined enemies of state. Uninformed and irrelevant human right groups give unsolicited and ineffectual advice, some even condemning the military operation against the self-declared enemies of state. It seems all the human rights are for people bent on destruction of a community, one that has served Pakistan in every field of life.

Solutions are complex but for a start we need to accept these killings as what they are – a Shia genocide. We need to call the killers by name and identity, and accept that these are one-sided massacres. The public, the state, the media and the civil society as a whole needs to disassociate itself from people who sympathise with or support these Takfiri/Deobandi terrorists and stand for a pluralistic, secular state, the kind envisioned by the founding fathers. We need to conduct a thorough self-analysis on where we stand when it comes to issues of religious tolerance; and build pressure on the government and the state to break all ties with Islamist non-state actors. Only then can any condemnation be considered meaningful and sincere. We need to agree that every person who tries to rationalise and justify Shia genocide as sectarian proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is an indirect accomplice of these butchers.

The recent India-Pakistan cricket match had the whole nation focused on it. According to NDTV, 1.1 million people in Pakistan had 3.3 million interactions related to cricket. But how many people make their profile pictures black and express dismay over Shia killings? A cricket match was given unprecedented coverage while existential crises were being ignored.

Several thousand Americans came out in solidarity with Muslims after‪ the Chapel Hill shootings. How many Pakistanis will come out in sympathy with Shias? How many have been gathered by protests taking place for solidarity with Shia victims? How many will stand up for them? There are more people at a low-key match screening than there are people standing up for their Shia community. That’s enough to put our overblown sense of humanity to shame. If the people of this land cared about innocent countrymen being killed in the name of faith half as much as they care about cricket, they would have a better country and maybe a better cricket team too.

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (

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

  • wb

    This is not even a genocide of Shia.

    This is a 1400 year old war that continues and is likely to continue as long as Shias and Sunnis exist and to them religion remains a more important than living.

    This war, started by the killing of Hazrat Ali is not new. Hazrat Ali was not killed on 9/11. He was killed in the 6th century A.D. This was the beginning of the war between Shia and Sunni.

    Every Sunnis knows this. Every Shia knows this. But it’s strange that not one of them have the guts to speak out the truth honestly. Or at least they wishfully think that this is just a sectarian violence or a genocide. This is not just happening in Pakistan. This is happening everywhere where one group is in minority (or majority in case of Bahrain).

    This has happened in India also and will continue to happen in India as well. Although in lesser numbers.Recommend

  • sharabi

    please allow me to add suffix in that Headline “..& it will not stop”
    sorry mate but this is truth so please write a next blog stating that if you are a SHIA/AHAMADI/CRISTIAN/HINDU or anyone else (except Hardliner Sunni Muslim) RUN FOR YOUR LIFERecommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi.

    Thank you so much for putting a clear hard knocking, true perspective
    on the Shia Genocide. It is precisely that. A Genocide. No other word
    defines it in such a harrowing term. The description is non negotiable.
    What is pathetic and outrageous is the sanctimonious wails and howls
    that go up in these blogs on ET. “They are Paks, They are Muslims,
    Sectarian violence. Tired, misbegotten, old cliches, repeated robotically.
    Perhaps you can call it Sunni apathy. Or the death of a conscience ?Recommend

  • Usman Khan

    Very well said, we have to stand together to completely remove the menace of this shia genocide; agencies have to stop looking at strategic depth rubbish.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    It takes you to enlighten and wax poetic on Shia Genocide.
    Considering their beloved leader Lord Modi, engaged in it too.
    However he did not discriminate, he killed both…Shias and Sunni, evenly.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Your point is mute. And really shows your mental bankruptcy.
    Perhaps you should pay more news about the ongoing
    rampage and systematic genocide in Bengal perpetuated by the
    Indian Army. The indigenous minorities are eradicated. With no trace.
    The Genocide includes ethnics in Bodoland, Mezoram, Nagaland, Tripura,

    Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. They are not hindus. But
    Buddhists, Animists and Muslims. Just burned 3 Muslims recently.,Recommend

  • lashari

    I would call it sectarian violence since the same thing has been going on in Iran against Sunnis and against Sunnis in Yemen and Iraq under Maliki and Syria under Assad.

    so victim in some places and oppressor in others.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Quite true. However you cannot just say that some people now say that it is genocide and be done with it. Many people know that thus is genocide but what needs to happen is that we ,as a nation, come out to support that shia community. Although I personally don’t care who is killed, all that matters is that a human being who was related to other human beings has been cut down, leaving grief in his stead. But seeing the utter lack of sympathy from some individuals, especially on Facebook, I would like to say that until everyone realizes that Shi’ite community is being targeted, nothing will be done.Recommend

  • Milind A

    To add to wb, similar differences existed between Shaivaites & Vaishnavaite sects in Hinduism – though these were not as bloody as the Sunni-Shia rivalry. However reformers ensured that both the sects got well together and didn’t work in silos, thereby eliminating the animosity between them. Something the Islamic world needs to think aboutRecommend

  • Parvez

    Yes it is…….the next realization will be that it is State assisted….at present a facade is in place to shield the truth but reality is hard to disguise. When a rabid cleric openly embraces extremist views and the government mollycoddles him and despite a non bailable arrest warrant, refuses to arrest him…….is there any doubt left ?Recommend

  • Nazia ABN

    You know what really sickens me , it is the total lack of empathy from the mainstream Pakistanis regarding the plight of Shias, i have been seeing my twitter feed as well as my Facebook timeline since the past 24 hours and not ONE single friend of mine as written about these gut-wrenching atrocities, nor has any friend condemned nor have they put a black profile picture in solidarity.

    As i write this comment the sit in dharna is still going on at Numaish, and then…..? what will happen afterwards, will someone erase these savage animals who kill Shais, Sunnis, Christians, Hindus, Parsis , BASICALLY Pakistanis, all in the name of God??

    The saddest thing one can imagine is the total lack of empathy for a race that has done nothing to harm anyone, yet just because of their beliefs they get slaughtered, in the most inhuman, cold blooded manner, truly truly a sad state of affairsRecommend

  • Vish

    What you have written is pure fiction. Even if what you say is true it means Hindus do not kill Hindus in India or elsewhere. But in Pakistan, Muslims are constantly slaughtering Muslims, while those lie you prefer to look elsewhere.Recommend

  • Vish

    Even Lord Modi with all his killing apparatus and army of murderous thugs cannot match Pakistan’s state and non-state actors’ record of slaughtering Muslims.Recommend

  • 2Paisa (Khi)

    What is happening in Pakistan is abhorrent but you can’t just look at what is happening in Pakistan in isolation. This has deep links to what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, etc, too. And yes, there is blame both on the Sunni and Shia side.Recommend

  • BlackHat

    In the “Land of the Pure” (there can’t be a more immodest name), how would you want to deal with impurities? Some Ahmedis were in the forefront during the movement to create Pakistan. What is their fate today? How about Christians and other minorities? What about non-Arabs of Punjab and Sindh – the original natives of the land? How many have shed a tear for them? When an edifice is based on flawed ideological foundations, this is the price to be paid.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Comment was censured. It was more descriptive of the hindutva

  • Lashari

    Must add that Hezbollah has been butchering Sunnis in Lebanon and during the Afghan civil war, Iran was funding their proxies aka Shiite militias to massacre sunni Pukhtuns and TajiksRecommend

  • Gulchand Mehta

    “…I personally don’t care who is killed…” What a profound statement
    Rest of us are wondering when, exactly, do you start caring? What kind of human being needs to perish to evoke your sympathy? A particular sect? A particular ethnicity? We are all agog,Recommend

  • Nadeeem

    This is a good articles. However, articles and condemnations will not resolve the problem. Both parties need to sit together and address the fundamental reasons of conflict.Recommend

  • Shab

    Yes it is 100 % Shia Genocide by the known terroristsRecommend

  • Nero

    Last time I checked both Shias and Sunnis agree with one of the basic premises of sharia that “kafirs” are second grade citizens and expendable. Last time I checked most shias considered ahmadis as apostates and even wajib-ul-katl. The only thing which has changed in last few decades is that some sunnis have decided that shias are also “kafirs” and should be treated as such. This all happened while you were growing up. Why be surprised?Recommend

  • Mike

    I am surprised at the lack of knowledge of your writer. Sunni Muftis & Alims have been killed by Shiates in Karachi , Lahore & Pindi. Check up the killings of students of the Binori mosque & in Lahore etc. In Syria 250,000 Sunnis have been killed by Shia Non Arab Iran along with its proxy & Assad a minority Shia dictator who has been ruling Syria for over 45 years. This is a regional issue & if Shia a Non Arab Iran withdraws from Sunni Syria & withdraws its mercenaries & stops killngs in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan, there may be peace.
    The media overseas gives us full & accurate information about the issues but in Pakistan they just cover up the real issues. Hazaras are Iranians with bogus ID’s & funded by Iran. There can be peace if the same law that Iran applies to Sunnis are applied in Pakitan ie declare them minorities like they have done under clause 12 of the Iranian constitution. Also like Iran, Pakistan must declare itself a Sunni state like Iran has declared itself an officially Shia Ashnari state. May there be peace for all.Recommend

  • Mike

    Agreed. It’s a regional issue with non Arab Iran killing Sunnis in Syria, Iraq, Yemen there will be an affect elsewhere. In Pakistan they talk about Shia Sunni issues but not about 250,000 Sunnis killed in Syria by Iranian mercenaries. We live i aglobal village & the technology keeps people informed about what is happening all over the region.Recommend

  • Mike

    I hope you will have the moral courage to put up my comments as its all based on true facts. As a political analyst, we do keep ourselves informed about the region.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Let’s not divert the topic. Let’s talk about what is happening in the
    Land of the Pure. Shikarpur, Peshawar, Abbas Town, Alamdar Road
    Bannu, Quetta, Karachi, Parachinar are all in Pak.Recommend

  • Masani

    Well said, Gopeet. It is sad that the author has given a sectarian touch to a common problem. Poor people of all sects are being killed. More Muslims than Hindus and Christians have been killed in Pakistan. Instead of realizing that Islam and Muslims are under attack from unfriendly forces, the author has given an unfortunate twist to a problem. We really have to be careful against outside inimical forces creating conflict within Pakistan.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Nobody prevented you from calling it a Sunni genocide in Iran.
    [which you made up entirely No news about this from Iran]
    Or Yemen or Iraq. By the same token, there is Shia genocide
    in Bahrain, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Feel free to do so. Call it a
    genocide. If your conscience allows you. But don’t belittle it.
    And don’t let your guilt force you to hide a fake curtain of
    ‘sectarian violence’ Clearly and sadly, you are in denial.Recommend

  • wb

    Don’t worry. You censure them back.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Did you even bother to read my comment? Read the entire comment then feel free to reply. ATM you are looking like a complete dunce. Usually I explain my words if someone misconstrues but this time get a dictionary and get some common sense.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    Why go all the way to Syria? And come up with some lame figures.
    The discussion addresses ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakland. That is what the blog is about. A horrendous ongoing situation, condoned
    by Sunni apathy. Sure, atrocities are committed all over the world.
    Maybe you should bring up Boko Haram. But it would not do any
    good. Because your guilt is so profound that it has twisted your reasoning. And global village? The general population is more
    worried about their next mealRecommend

  • Afshan

    You have to be most ignorant person alive,targeting hezobollah instead of your so called isis or bla. Hezobollah is fighting against Israel not against sunni, information regarding this can be found from any logical person of middle east. So stop living in dream worldRecommend

  • Gulchand Mehta.

    Yes sir.Your Lordship. Read it three times. And the one
    sentence that makes the whole comment moot and void
    is..’…i personally don’t care who is killed…’Recommend

  • ali

    Even if you are right, still we should first correct the problems within our state. Recommend

  • Sane

    why you discuss such things which are not your concern. Let’s discuss about Boat Burning in your seas. The drama which you couldn’t handle this time. Would you like to revisit Indian version of Bombay attack and Indian Parliament attack now. This is high time that you confess all your dramas.Recommend

  • Sane

    Also say something about the drama you staged by burning a boat in your seas and saying that was carrying terrorist from Pakistan. Don’t you have any shame?!! Whole world is laughing at you. Ha….Ha…..Ha….Recommend

  • Sane

    Soon Indian agents and terrorist shall be flushed out or killed. Then there would be no terrorism in Pakistan.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Wow, you say “Outside Forces” creating conflict within Pakistan!!!!
    YOU are a Classic example of Pakistani DENIAL, always blaming the Foreign Hand and eagerly spouting the latest Conspiracy Theory, all without a shred of proof as usual!!!Recommend

  • Mehdi

    ET-moderator : You guys should report people who harbor sympathy for the killers of shia Muslims. They masquerade the truth to justify their warped world view by providing it is ok to kill shias because Sunnis are suffering in Syria/Iraq. Sunnis are suffering in these countries because they chose to side with terrorists, not all but quite a few have.Recommend

  • BlackHat

    Hey, good to hear that. But please do hurry up.Recommend

  • FND

    You have gone over the deep end. Looks like you did a
    swan dive. and the pool was empty.Recommend

  • turtlehead


  • Mehdi

    Your analysis further from truth. Shia killing has been going on for the past 20 years. Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Stay off LSD, its not for you. Recommend

  • bigsaf

    The anti-Shia sectarian cleansing program has been running for decades in Pakistan, well before 9/11 which was well before these sectarian geo-political current events, and to make the Iranian marginalization to something more is hyperbolic or propagandist narrative by polarized Sunni individuals, no different to anti-Shia Sunni Islamist militants.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    The anti-Shia sectarian cleansing program by Pakistani Sunni Islamist militants has been running for decades in Pakistan, well before 9/11 which was well before these sectarian geo-political current events, so it is not a knock-off effect and disingenuous to claim so.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Yeah. Happens, ET moderates crap sometimesRecommend

  • bigsaf

    If there’s any example of sectarian Sunni Islamist narrative, its here.

    Hezbollah have not been butchering Sunnis in Lebanon. There’s Sunni Islamist terrorists in the region, including those making their mark in Lebanon who’ve indeed targeted Shia neighbourhoods. It would have been reasonable mentioning Syria or Iraq, but Lebanon?!

    The Afghan civil war was complex and riddled with war lords. Many Dari speakers, such as Tajik Sunnis were, surprise, surprise, backed by Iran, to the Pushtun Sunni Taliban, who Pakistan backed but considered extremist terrorists in the world due to their Al Qaeda links, who practised massacres such as against Shia and other Afghan minorities, like the Hazaras. There’s been less evidence of sectarian cleansing by Shiite militias (which were hardly any) than the other way round by Sunni militants.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    May there be peace for all? A bit disingenuous and hypocritical to hear as a minority. Another example of sectarian Sunni Islamist narrative steeped in ideology of justifying the Sunnification of Pakistan and marginalization of others.

    The unfounded and ridiculous prejudice against the Hazaras is the worst here (but I’ve always suspected the security agencies had the same twisted beliefs), besides the ignorance of global Sunni Islamist terrorism and the Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband etc ideologies behind them, which are a threat to the West and the East. Must be Iran behind attacks in Nigeria or Europe, right?

    The founder of Pak state was a Shia Muslim. Seems you rather subjugate your Shia minorities out of revenge against Islamist Iran or Shias than anything else. There’s always Saudi Arabia.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    The sectarian cleansing in Pakistan started way before those conflicts, marked from the 80’s. Even in Afghanistan, except for the Taliban and NA, it was worse in Pak. They are not directly linked.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    In Canada, the top listed domestic and foreign terrorist threat is listed as radical Sunni Islamist extremism, particularly of the Wahhabi or Salafi ideological kind.

    This is what ails Pak and has fuelled global conflict, but most are in denial or deflect blame or like some comments here, justify their sectarianism and violence based on flimsy excuses, prejudiced narratives or their own animosities.Recommend

  • Helpothers

    There are atrocities being carried out by Shia people and Sunni people against each group. Blaming all persons belonging to the Sunni group for the evil done by extremist terrorists who supposedly call themselves Sunni will not solve the problem because it will lead to more discrimination and unjust killings of innocent human beings. The majority of Sunni people do not share the beliefs of these terrorists and rather than blaming Sunnis for carrying out a genocide against minorities the extremist and scum terrorists who are doing this should be eliminated. In Iraq hundreds of Sunni prisoners are being killed without a fair trial as “revenge” for the constant suicide bombings carried out by ISIS. This January, Sunnis “were taken from their homes by men in uniform; heads down and linked together, then led in small groups to a field, made to kneel, and selected to be shot one by one. Accounts by five witnesses interviewed separately by Reuters provide a picture of alleged executions in the eastern village of Barwanah on Monday, which residents and provincial officials say left at least 72 unarmed Iraqis Sunnis dead.
    The witnesses identified the killers as a collection of Shi’ite militias and security force elements.”Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    my sentence means that usually I am equally saddened by death and murder no matter who is killed. I don’t give much thought to religious or ethnic identity. The only thing that matters is that a human being died and as humans we should mourn the murder of an innocent brother. However when it comes to the recent Shi’a killings the situation is such that I think that people should give prominence to the religious identity of the killed because they are being targeted for genocide .you should learn English ASAP so that this kind of egg on face situations do not occur again. Et mods. Either post my comments or stop them.but posting a comment and removing it after two days is beyond my understanding.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Sad and condemnable as Shia killings are, how do they amount to “genocide” which concerns “race”? Belief systems are invented and acquired and can be disposed off when better information is available. We have no control over genes. Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Hindus, and other religious minorities in Pakistan share the genes, regardless of their beliefs..Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Dear Max, admit it, sometimes you are not the most articulate or clear in your wording. But we all know your heart is in the right place. And that is the only important thing. :-)Recommend