Setting the ground for Imam’s reappearance

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Imam Asr

The idea of a messiah or savior or redeemer is common to all religious schools of thought, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. In the Islamic context, the concept of messianism, which is the belief in a messiah, revolves around an eschatological figure who is expected to rise and fill the earth will peace, justice and social order.

Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions have in unequivocal terms predicted the glorious triumph of the forces of right and the establishment of an Islamic society built on the foundations of justice and righteousness. The wait and anticipation for that bright tomorrow continues. As Imam Sajjad (as) says, “The greatest success is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam)”. (Al Ihtejaj vol.2 Pg.154. Kamaaluddin vol.1 Pg.320)

Awaiting is primarily the result of two main conditions: not satisfied with the status quo and expecting things to change for good. But, merely being disgruntled with the status quo is not sufficient. A person has to step out of his comfort zone and prepare the ground for visible and productive change to happen. In more precise terms, he has to participate in the process of change.

In the words of British historian Eric Hosbawm, the concept of messianism, which we call Mahdism, can be broadly divided into two categories: passive and active. In the passive Mahdism, people immerse themselves in prayers and hope for the savior’s early reappearance. In the active or revolutionary Mahdism, people run the gauntlet and participate in the process of change.

In today’s era – with the moral bankruptcy, endemic corruption, grinding poverty, and scourge of illiteracy, ignorance, misrule and barbarism reaching the climax – what should a waiter wait for? What are the responsibilities of a person waiting for the change to happen?

The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful

There is a clear instruction in Holy Quran for believers waiting for the change. “And say to those who do not believe that you act as much as you can. We are also trying. You all wait and surely we all are waiting.” (Quran 11:121-122).

But, what does this wait entail and what are the believers waiting for. The narration attributed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) makes it amply clear. “The world will not perish until a man among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name.”  (Sahih al-Tirmidhi, V9, P74)

We are witnessing social, political and cultural upheaval across the world today. Morals and ethics have degraded alarmingly. Grinding poverty has resulted in the poor quality of life. Illiteracy and educational backwardness has sent us back to dark ages. The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful.

In such a scenario, when the darkness of despair prevails everywhere, there is an elixir of hope. The hope lies in the divine intervention. The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness. “Mehdi (ajtf) is no longer an idea waiting to be materialized nor a prophecy that needs to be substantiated,” Shaheed Baqir as Sadr writes in An Inquiry Concerning Al Mahdi, “he is a living reality, a particular person, living among us in flesh and blood, who shares our hopes, suffering and sorrows is waiting for the appropriate moment to stretch his hand to every oppressed and needy person and eliminate the tyrants.”

Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, “O’ Muhammad (pbuh), you are but a warner, and for every community, there exists a guide.” (Quran 13:7). There will always be a divinely gifted guide for people in every age and every time. For us, the people of this age, it is the Mehdi (ajtf).

Looking at the state of affairs today, the discourse around the reappearance of Imam Mehdi (as) and the responsibility of setting the ground for his reappearance has assumed huge significance. With the world sinking into the abyss of darkness and people across the world grappling with myriad self-inflicted woes, the responsibility on our shoulders has increased. Imam’s occultation, however, does not mean he has abandoned us or that we must despair about the present state of affairs. Imam Ali (as) said: “Await for the reappearance (of Imam) and do not despair of the divine mercy. Because the best deed in the eyes of Allah, the great and the mighty, is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam). It is the duty of those who are believers.” (Al Khisaal, vol2, Pg616).

The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness

What are our responsibilities as believers to prepare the ground for Imam’s reappearance? A tradition attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (as) exhorts people to remain vigilant and participate in the process of educational change. “Be aware, if somebody teaches ignorant, guides a misguided, instills the teachings of Ahlulbayt (as), then on the day of Qiyamat (judgment day), he will be with us. We will give him a seat next to us wherever we may be.” Hence, it is amply clear that during this period of Imam’s occultation, among the biggest responsibilities on our shoulders is to bring about educational reformation in our society.

Such educational reformers enjoy supreme position in the eyes of Allah (swt). Imam Ali Naqi (as) extols the virtues of these reformers. “Had there not been such scholars in the period of occultation who call people towards the Ahlulbayt (as), guide towards them, defend their religion with the proofs of Allah, protect weak Muslims from the devilish designs, deception of the tyrants and tentacles of the enemies of Islam, then surely all would have deviated from the religion of Allah.” (Mahajjatul-Baizaa, Vol. 1, Pg. 32)

It’s important to enjoin others to pursue good deeds (amr bil maaruf) and advocate against sinful practices (nahi anil munkar). Spreading awareness about the sinister plots and conspiracies being hatched by the enemies of Islam is another big responsibility. We must promote and propagate the divine message of Islam and develop scientific temper in our youth through education and reformation.

The practice of writing ariza must be encouraged so that the youngsters become more aware of their duties and responsibilities. We must strive to expose the corrupt rulers and extend helping hand towards poor and needy in our society. We must constantly try to polish our morals and ethics to be able to join Imam’s army.  Above all, we must raise our voice – individually and collectively – against corruption, injustice, terrorism, crime, immorality and other such menaces.

What is important is the right strategy and approach to pave the ground for educational awakening and social reformation. Grooming children from the elementary level, making them understand the purpose of existence and their responsibilities, explaining how Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life, stressing on the need to analyze with a free mind, the need to inquire and argue fearlessly, the need to debate and discuss passionately, and the need to exchange ideas generously. The approach has to be thoughtful, progressive and result-oriented. It must ensure the gains of education are properly utilized to bring up children who are educated, informed, aware and enlightened.

Considering that we are impatiently waiting for someone who is a righteous and virtuous messiah, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with the ideals of deliverance and act on them in letter and spirit. To prepare the ground for his reappearance, we have to develop a reformist spirit in ourselves and others so that the society undergoes change. To protect society from social infirmities, ethical degeneration, cultural disorder, misrule and anarchy, it’s important to educate ourselves and others around us. If we remain trapped in the vortex of ignorance; social anomalies, cultural dilemmas, and orthodox beliefs will continue to hinder our personal growth and that of the society.

As Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Quran 3:110). The seeds of the promised rule of Mehdi (as) shall soon sprout and our agonizing wait shall end.


West, the breeding ground for terrorism

Syria, more than two years into the foreign-sponsored militancy


“There are two ways to approach the study of terrorism,” notes Noam Chomsky in widely-acclaimed book Western State Terrorism. “One may adopt a literal approach, taking the topic seriously, or a propagandistic approach, construing the concept of terrorism as a weapon to be exploited in the service of some system of power. It comes as no surprise that the propagandistic approach is adopted by governments generally, and by their instruments in totalitarian states.” Chomsky maintains that there are many terrorist states in the world, but the United States puts its rivals to shame when it comes to perpetuating ‘international terrorism’. A 2010 research undertaken by Professor Marc Sageman of University of Pennsylvania lends credence to what Chomsky says. The research findings establish the fact that terrorism is a product of the West.

Let’s make no bones about it, the menacing threat of ‘nuclear terrorism’ does not come from some ruthless jihadist cluster, but from the hard-nosed Western nuclear powers who form the core of the NATO alliance, and keeping intimidating and threatening the non nuclear weapon states.The history of US imperialism is replete with stories of unilateral belligerent military strikes, gory massacres and socio-cultural aggression. In this no-holds-barred brinkmanship, the US and its allies have sought to impose their writ on other nations, more so on those who have refused to swear allegiance to Uncle Sam’s hegemony. The blatant war-mongering and sinister desire to inflict suffering on others is best explained by these words of American writer Andre Vltchek. “West has always behaved as if it had an inherited, but undefined, right to profit from the misery of the rest of the world. In many cases, the conquered nations had to give up their own culture, their religions, even their languages, and convert to our set of beliefs and values that we define as ‘civilized’.

Guatemala Civil War that continued from 1960 to 1996 was bitterly fought between the government of Guatemala and ethnic Mayans, in which the government of Guatemala committed worst human rights abuses and engineered genocide of Mayan population of Guatemala. Historical Clarification Commission set up under the Oslo Accords of 1994 concluded that the Guatemala military committed murder, torture and rape with the tacit support of CIA. The commission stated the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some state operations.” Noam Chomsky in his book What Uncle Sam Really Wants writes, “Under Reagan, support for near-genocide in Guatemala became positively ecstatic. The most extreme of the Guatemalan Hitlers we’ve backed there, Rios Montt, was lauded by Reagan as a man totally dedicated to democracy. In the early 1980s, Washington’s friends slaughtered tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly Indians in the highlands, with countless others tortured and raped. Large regions were decimated.”

Direct or indirect support for death squads has been an integral part of CIA operations. CIA’s death squad operations in Vietnam led to killing of over 35,000 people. The Vietnam War dominated 30 long years of Vietnam’s history from 1940s to 1970s. President Ford, reacting to Senate and House committee reports, conceded that the CIA had become a ‘rogue elephant’ crushing foreign citizens under foot in its bid to win the Cold War. More than 20,000 Vietnamese were killed during the CIA-guided Operation Phoenix intended to weed out communist ‘agents’ from South Vietnam.

American role in the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Popular Unity government of Salvador in 1980s was a watershed moment for the country. Bush family loyalists maintain that President Bush senior’s policies paved the way for peace, turning Salvador into a democratic success story. However, it took more than 70,000 deaths and grave human rights violations, before peace was brokered. To crush the rebels, the US trained an army that kidnapped and killed more than 30,000 people, and presided over large-scale massacre of old, women and children.

In the mid-1970s, a major scandal broke out after revelations that President Richard Nixon had ordered the CIA to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile and to prevent Allende from coming to power. Years later, CIA acknowledged its deep involvement in Chile where it dealt with coup-plotters, false propagandists and assassins. In a review of Lubna Qureshi’s book Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende: US Involvement in the 1973 Coup in Chile, Howard Doughty writes, “The United States and its allies have an unseemly history of hostility to democracy abroad that seems to conflict with their expressed political principles and their stated purpose in engaging in military and diplomatic action abroad. Not only in Latin America, but in Africa, Asia and occasionally in Europe, it has openly and clandestinely supported dictatorships.”

The US government’s cozy relationship with its illegitimate offspring Israel is no secret. It has paid Israel almost one hundred billion dollars over the years, major part of which is used for occupying Palestinian territories, in blatant breach of international laws and umpteen UN resolutions. Veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk draws parallels between Israel and apartheid regime of South Africa. “No matter how many youths are shot dead by the Israelis, no matter how many murders and no matter how bloody the reputation of the Israeli Prime Minister, we are reporting this terrible conflict as if we supported the South African whites against the blacks.”

Likewise, Columbia, arguably one of the most violent countries in the world, is the beneficiary of massive US aid. Some political observers like Professor John Barry are of the opinion that US influence has only managed to catalyze internal conflicts and substantially expand the scope and nature of human rights abuses in Colombia. And ironically, most American people remain naïve about the shady role of their country in Colombia’s historical development and the unremitting violence.

In Cuba, America’s record is again appalling. It has been involved in attempted assassinations of state heads, bombings, military invasions, crippling sanctions et al. And, recent reports suggest that the US government’s covert attack on Cuba’s sovereignty continues unabated. Even after half a century, economic blockade remains in force. The country has been designated a ‘terrorist state’, figuring prominently on the State Department’s list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’. The five Cuban political prisoners are still behind bars. Now a report from the US General Accounting Office reveals that money is being pumped into projects directed at changing Cuba’s government.

Washington’s support for the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua between 1981 and 1990 is one of the most shocking and shameful secrets. The heinous terrorist activities contras engaged in had full backing of their masters in Washington. “The decision of the International Court of Justice in June 1986 condemning the United States for the ‘unlawful use of force’ and illegal economic warfare was dismissed as an irrelevant pronouncement by a ‘hostile forum’,” notes Noam Chomsky in Western State Terrorism. “The guiding principle, it appears, is that the US is a lawless terrorist state and this is right and just, whatever the world may think, whatever international institutions may declare.”

On March 8, 1985, in an assassination bid on Sheikh Mohammed Fazlullah by CIA, a powerful car bomb exploded outside a Beirut mosque in Lebanon, leaving 81 civilians dead. Celebrated investigative reporter Bob Woodward says that CIA director William Casey had admitted personal culpability in the attack while he lay on his deathbed, which he said was carried out with funding from Saudi Arabia. In December 1989, almost 27,000 US soldiers invaded a small Central American country of Panama to arrest General Manuel Noriega, a CIA asset-turned-rebel. In the ‘Operation Just Cause’, bombs rained down on three neighborhoods – Colon, San Miguelito and El Chorrillo. El Chorrillo was burnt to the ground and got a new nickname – ‘Little Hiroshima’. As per conservative estimates, between 2,000 and 6,000 people were killed in the events that unfolded. Many of them were dumped into mass graves.

Congo has been through violent times since its independence. Many observers trace it to the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of independent Congo, which was apparently done at the behest by the then U.S. President Eisenhower. In Haiti, the U.S. backed the Duvalier family dictatorship for 30 years, during which the CIA worked closely with death squads, executioners, and drug traffickers. The father-son duo’s three decades at helm was marked by brutally crushing dissent with the assistance of secret police and the Haitian army. Thousands were killed and tortured – many of them dumped in mass graves. Hundreds of thousands fled the country to escape from mindless violence.

The 1983 invasion of Grenada was the first major American military assault since Vietnam War. The news was blocked as the US government didn’t want the world to witness the great superpower bashing up a small island nation. Why did the United States invade Grenada? “Many believe that Grenada was seen as a bad example for other poor Caribbean states,” opines Stephen Zunes, author of Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. “Its foreign policy was not subservient to the American government and it was not open to having its economy dominated by U.S. corporate interests.”

In Greece, America supported a coup against an elected leader George Papandreou, which followed the years of murder, torture, and fear in the late 1960s. In Cambodia, the US resorted to carpet bombing to overthrow President Prince Sihanouk, who was replaced by Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge and that led to millions of civilian casualties between mid 1950s and 1970s. In 1965, which New York Times called ‘one of the most savage mass slayings of modern political history’, US embassy had compiled lists of ‘Communist’ operatives in Indonesia, from top echelons down to village cadres, as many as 5,000 names, and handed them over to the army, which then hunted them down and killed.

Between 1946 and 1958, the US used the Marshall Islands to conduct nuclear tests. All the inhabitants had to flee their homes. It is still not safe to consume food grown there. In the words of Robert Alvarez, “the people of the Marshall Islands had their homeland and health sacrificed for the national security interests of the United States”. The nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 remain the darkest chapter of history. Almost 150,000 people paid for their lives instantly, while millions more died of radiation poisoning later. Truman ordered the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, followed by a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki on August 9. The same day, the Soviet Union attacked the Japanese and, in the following two weeks 84,000 Japanese were killed.

Back in 1953, a joint British-American operation toppled the democratic government chosen by the Iranian parliament, and installed their loyal dictator. The coup restored the Shah to absolute power, initiating a period of 25 years of repression and torture, while the oil industry was restored to foreign ownership, with the US and Britain each getting 40 percent. That was before Ayatullah Khomeini mobilized masses and threw out the Western puppet.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor of international law, in an article written in November 2001 maintained that the bombings of Afghanistan by the United States were illegal. His argument was based on the premise that, according to UN Charter, disputes have to be brought to the UN Security Council, which alone may authorize the use of force. Also, if your nation has been subjected to an armed attack by another nation, you may respond militarily in self-defense. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. Indeed, the 19 men charged with the crime were not Afghans. Twelve years down the line, the foreign military troops are still stationed in Afghanistan, hundreds of billion dollars have been spent, and at least 31,000 people in Afghanistan (civilians, insurgents, Afghan military forces, and others) have been killed in the war.

The myth of the “outside enemy” and the threat of “Islamic terrorists” was the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s military doctrine, used as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, writes Michel Chossudovsky, author of The Globalisation of Poverty. More than a decade after US invaded Iraq, it’s still not clear why they did it. But it’s a fact, even acknowledged by the western media, that the war for Iraq was a war for oil. “Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms,” reads a CNN report

There is this concept of ‘good terrorism’ and ‘bad terrorism’. For the US and its closest ally Israel, the Tunis bombing was not an act of terror but justifiable retaliation for the murder of three Israelis in Cyprus. The 1985 Iron Fist operation of the Israeli army in southern Lebanon was also guided by the same logic. “From 1945 to the end of the 20th century, the USA attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the USA caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair,” writes William Blum in his book Rogue State. It will not qualify as ‘terrorism’ because the perpetrator is the world’s only super-power. In a 1986 interview, Noam Chomsky argued that the word “terrorism” had been redefined in political and popular discourse to only refer to the violent acts of small or marginal groups – what he refers to as “retail terrorism”. This is in contrast with violent acts performed by the State in its own interest which orthodox terrorism studies often exclude from consideration.

The political leaders and scholars in Muslim countries have to muster courage to condemn the so-called ‘good’ terrorism spearheaded by US and its allies like Britain, Israel, France. On May 09 this year, Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani took the lead, blaming the West for spreading terrorism across Asia, and warning that the policy will ultimately backfire. “This evil phenomenon is the gift of the West to the region, but nurturing terrorist and extremist groups is bad and worrying even for the future of Western countries, notably the United States,” said Larijani.

Today, the war drums are beating again, and this time the target is Syria. “By ordering air strikes against Syria without UN Security Council support, Obama will be doing the same as Bush in 2003,” writes Hans Blix, Swedish diplomat and politician. Blix was the head of United Nations monitoring, verification and inspection commission from March 2000 to June 2003, which searched Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, ultimately finding none.

President Obama and Kerry look adamant even though there is no favorable international climate for a Syria strike. Arab League has refused to support the call for military intervention. Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and some other Arab countries forthrightly have also denounced the idea. NATO has also expressed reluctance in supporting the strike, citing past experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the US still goes ahead and launches the military strike against Syria, Iran and Russia will also get into the act and so will Hezbollah, and that will lead to disastrous consequences for peace in the Middle East. But does Obama care? You know the answer.

~ Zafar

Days of Zionists numbered


By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Quds Day means standing in solidarity with our brethren in Palestine, and at the same time standing up for our own rights and raising a banner of revolt against the oppressors and occupiers of our land.”

Observed every year on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, International Quds Day has become a permanent fixture on the annual calendar.

For all the campaigners of truth and justice, the day has an extraordinary historical significance, lessons for the present and prophecies for the future. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem. The day was first observed in Iran in 1979, soon after the Islamic Revolution, as an affirmation of the Ummah’s solidarity with people of Palestine in their struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem.

Since then, Quds Day is observed across the world every year in this holy month to express solidarity and support for Palestine and to condemn and protest Israel’s forceful control over Jerusalem. Ramadan is the month of struggle (jehad e akbar). It is the month that granted Muslims a historic victory in the battle of Badr. It is the month in which Mecca was rid of idol worshipers (mushrikeen). So it seems appropriate that a day of this blessed month is dedicated to the struggle for liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds.

The idea of solidarity rallies on Quds Day was implemented and given shape by Ayatollah Khomeini, who made passionate appeals to Muslims across the world to stand up and speak out for their brethren in Palestine. It is also a day to remember and extend solidarity to people in other occupied territories, subjugated and crushed by strong military powers. “The Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds (Jerusalem). It is a day for the oppressed and the supporters of oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant oppressors,” Ayatollah Khomeini said.

In Iran, millions of people march on the streets on this day to protest against Israeli occupation and aggression in East Jerusalem. In August 1979, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the liberation of Jerusalem ‘a religious duty of all Muslims’. “I invite Muslims all over the globe to observe the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day, and to pledge support and solidarity to the people of Palestine and their legitimate rights. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join hands and sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters,” said Ayatollah Khomeini.

During the first Palestinian Intifada in January 1988, the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) declared that Quds Day be commemorated publicly throughout the Arab world. Their official endorsement of Quds Day was significant as some Arab countries that have strategic ties with Israel found themselves in catch 22 situation. They had to pledge their support to Palestine and at the same time not antagonize the Israelis.

Over the years, Quds Day has become an international public event. Massive rallies are taken out in Britain, Canada, Sweden, Russia, India, Pakistan, United States etc. Events are also held in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip. Organisations like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine have publicly endorsed Quds Day ceremonies in Palestine.

Last year, on Quds Day, millions of Iranians participated in the rallies, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans like ‘Death to Israel and America’, ‘Israel Your Days Are Numbered’, ‘Zionism must go’ and ‘From River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free’. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel an ‘insult to humanity’ and said the ‘Zionist black stain’ will soon be washed off. “The Zionist regime and Zionists are a cancerous tumour. Even if one cell is left in one inch of (Palestinian) land, in the future this story (of Israel’s existence) will repeat,” warned the Iranian president, who is soon to be replaced by new President Hassan Rohani.

In Lebanon, where Quds Day is observed on a grand scale every year, Hezbollah Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on this day last year warned that only a few rockets by Hezbollah could result in massive casualties in Israel. “Rockets are ready and directed at these targets. We will not hesitate to use them, if we have to, at any point in time… Hezbollah cannot destroy Israel but we can transform the lives of millions of Zionists in occupied Palestine into a real hell. We can change the face of Israel,” said Nasrallah.

In Britain, on Quds Day, people march through the streets of London and assemble outside the American embassy. Anti-Zionist Jews and Christians also take active part and speak in these rallies. “We hope and pray for the end of Zionism. It is a curse, it is a cancer,” said Yakov Wsisz, a Jew, at one such rally last year. He was seconded by Stephen Sizer, a senior pastor of the Anglican Christ Church in Surrey. “No country and no people on earth recognize Israeli’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.” In Canada, Quds rally takes place every year at Queen’s Park, participated by people from all spheres of life. In Australia, hundreds of people gather in Hyde Park to observe Quds Day every year.

To start with, there has to be a complete and unconditional withdrawal from all Israeli occupied territories including Jerusalem, acknowledging and facilitating the return of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their land after 1948 Nakba, compensation for the damage of land and property, and ban on the building of new settlements and immediate evacuation of all existing settlements. These excavations, which are also in direct violation of The Hague and Geneva Conventions, threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock and violate the sanctity of the holy Islamic sites.

Hence, it is the duty of all Muslims, and people of conscience, to raise their voice against this naked aggression. Quds Day means standing in solidarity with our brethren in Palestine, and at the same time standing up for our own rights and raising a banner of revolt against the oppressors and occupiers of our land.

NPT: Club of haves and have-nots

Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:31PM GMT
By Syed Zafar Mehdi
The Second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference (RevCon) of the members of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is holding a two-week meeting in Geneva these days.

The Treaty became an international law in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Hitherto, a total of 190 countries have ratified the Treaty. Under the Treaty, the five countries formally recognized as nuclear weapon states (NWS) include China, France, Britain, United States and Russia. The only four countries not party to the Treaty are India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – all of them big nuclear powers.

The member states of NPT have been holding regular meeting to discuss their responsibilities and chalk out the strategies to promote the culture of non-proliferation and disarmament under the NPT. The Treaty is reviewed every five years in meetings called Review Conference. There is also a two-week Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) conference that meets once a year ahead of the Review Conference. In preparation for the Review Conference in 2015, there are three PrepComs: 2012 (Vienna), 2013 (Geneva), and 2014 (New York). This year, the meeting is taking place in Geneva and is attended by the representatives of all the member states of NPT. During the PrepComs, working papers are tabled and a final summary statement is drafted though the documents are not binding. They are to be used as assessment tools for five-yearly Review Conference, where a final consensus document is produced.

The Treaty was conceived with an objective to prevent nuclear proliferation, work towards full disarmament and promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology. The non-nuclear members states of NPT had agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons and the nuclear member states had pledged to promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology and take determined steps towards total nuclear disarmament. So, the big question is: has the NPT been a success or failure, and have the objectives and goals been met. I was discussing the same issue on Iranian news channel Sahar the other night and I categorically said the treaty has become a farce. It really has.

Under Article 1 of the Treaty, the five nuclear weapon states are not supposed to transfer the nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon state. But, we know how France helped Israel in building nuclear arsenal, China helped Pakistan become a nuclear power, US displayed its magnanimity towards India. Interestingly, all these beneficiaries are not the members of NPT. India refused to sign the treaty as it found it ‘faulty’ and a ‘club of nuclear haves and have-nots’. During a visit to Tokyo in 2007, India then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but we consider NPT a flawed treaty.” Pakistan maintains that it will not sign as long as India does not. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, told a news agency few years back that Pakistan is willing to abandon its position on Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in case India joins it. He put the blame squarely on western powers for destabilizing the security situation in the region and increasing the dependence of Pakistan on nuclear weapons. Israel, like its important ally India, finds the Treaty ‘flawed and hypocritical’. “This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical. It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world,” said an Israeli government spokesman in response to a 28-page declaration by NPT in 2010 asking Israel to fall in line.

Article XI of the Treaty is interesting. It unequivocally calls for disarmament by the nuclear weapon states. “Each of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue the negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,” reads the Article. The language, however, is vague and prone to misinterpretation. It does not make it mandatory for nuclear member states to disarm, but to do so in ‘good faith’, and without setting any time frame to do so. The powerful nuclear member states of NPT have used this vagueness to their advantage and refused to comply with it. Instead of moving towards total disarmament, they have willfully and vigorously carried on with their nuclear proliferation at a staggering level. According to NPT, these nuclear states cannot use their nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear state, but despite that, they have constantly threatened to use nuclear weapons against what they call ‘rogue states’. United States continuously targeted North Korea between 1959 and 1991, forcing it to quit NPT and develop nuclear weapons. Now, North Korea, like Iran, has become a ‘rogue state’ that needs to be annihilated.

Quite interestingly, ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea, in their terminology, are different from the ‘pariah states’ like Myanmar and Zimbabwe. William Blum, author of ‘Rogue States: The Guide to the World’s Only Superpower’ has a fitting answer to that. “United States, because of its foreign policy, is itself the biggest rogue state.” There is a sea of difference between the rhetoric and reality when it comes to the policies of these nuclear weapon states like US. Their obligation and commitment under Article VI of NPT to work towards total disarmament has turned out to be hogwash. The five nuclear members of NPT together have more than 22,000 warheads. The commitments made at previous Review Conference in 2010 have not been fulfilled. The progress on the NPT Action Plan has been slow and uninspiring.

Among the four states not party to NPT, the case of India and Pakistan is curious. India first test fired in 1974 and Pakistan followed it up in 1998. India is believed to possess material for more than 150 warheads, while Pakistan has between 80 and 120 warheads. The two countries have gone to war on two occasions, and the likelihood of another war can never be ruled out considering the simmering tension. The logjam over Kashmir, the bone of contention, occasionally takes ugly turns to the extent that both the nuclear powers threaten each other. According to NPT, any nuclear deal between NPT member states and these four countries is illegal. Yet, United States went ahead with Indo-US nuclear deal in 2006, and China signed a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan in 2010, both in direct violation of the Treaty as it prohibits export of nuclear reactors to countries that have not signed the pact (in this case India and Pakistan).

Israel has the tendency to act like a stubborn child. It refuses to confirm or deny the possession of nuclear weapons, but the cat was out of the bag as early as 1986 when an Israeli technician Mordechai Vanunu published details of Israel’s nuclear program in Sunday Times UK. He was soon arrested and charged for treason. On September 18, 2009, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on Israel to open its nuclear facilities for IAEA inspection and adhere with the resolution regarding non-proliferation, but it out-rightly refused to comply. The question is, why does Israel need to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East? Why no outrage over the breach of International laws by Israel? Why the grotesque double standards while dealing with Israel?

Iran, on the other hand, continues to be in the center of storm. Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, at the ongoing NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva said, “Possession of nuclear weapons by Iran constitutes a threat to the entire region and an impetus for greater proliferation, lateral proliferation of weapons”. Iran’s Foreign Ministry shot back saying that the country is “loyal” to its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations. As a signatory of NPT, Iran claims its right under Article IV of the Treaty to pursue peaceful nuclear energy program.

Despite no credible evidence confirming the presence of nuclear weapons in Iran, the crippling economic sanctions against the country continue. Dr. Hans Blix, former Director General of IAEA believes there is no clear evidence to nail Iran.

“Iran has not violated NPT and there is no evidence right now that suggests Iran is producing nuclear weapons,” he said recently during an event in Dubai.

Unlike Israel, Iran has always welcomed IAEA inspectors to inspect its nuclear sites. The negotiations between Iran and West are stalled not because of Iran, but because of West’s obstructionism and sanction policy. Iran had proposed to stop the uranium enrichment at 20 per cent if it got 20 per cent enriched fuel in exchange from west. The offer was turned down, and was followed by sanctions.

For Iran, not producing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction is a religious obligation, a fact attested by Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa (decree) against nuclear weapons. Iran realizes that a nuclear armed Iran will lead to a nuclear race in the region and that can have worrying repercussions. It also knows that it is likely to lose trusted friends like Russia and China and face isolation if it produces nuclear weapons.

Two high profile rounds of talks in Kazakhstan have already taken place this year without any noticeable gains. Addressing representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on the sidelines of the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Baqeri said Tehran is ready to engage with Group 5+1 to work out a lasting settlement to all vexed issues. Referring to the recent meeting between Iran and the Group 5 1 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he said the group has not fulfilled its promise yet. The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who represents the Group5+1 in talks with Iran, was supposed to inform Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili about the outcome of her consultations with the six countries, but she has failed to keep her word.

Meanwhile, speaking at the NPT meeting in Geneva, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, hinted at the possibility of Iran being west’s reliable partner in Middle East.

“Western countries are advised to change gear from confrontation to cooperation, the window of opportunity to enter into negotiation for long-term strategic cooperation with Iran, the most reliable, strong and stable partner in the region is still open.”

The war-mongering, brinkmanship, coercive sanctions, and the military confrontation is not going to work. Negotiations are the only way out, And the ball, now, is in West’s court.

The truth about India’s growth story


By: Syed Zafar Mehdi

India may boast of many hi-tech super specialty hospitals, but there are not even primary health centers in most parts of the country. The budget allocation for health is among the lowest in the world. A report in Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, said that most Indians shell out 78 per cent of their medical bills themselves. The only country worse off as far as private spending on health is concerned is Pakistan, where the figure is 82.5 per cent. The basic problem is infrastructure and support staff and great majority of the population is still deprived of basic healthcare.

In major policy circles across the world, India is being hailed as a great success story of globalization, a vibrant nation with growing financial and industrial clout, one of the main protagonists of new economy and new international policy, and a viable counter-weight to China’s sudden rise.Poverty-in-India

These ideas may not be entirely unfounded but they certainly obscure the extent to which old problems persist and are being dug deeper. It won’t be exaggeration to state that the palpable buzz about ‘Incredible India’ is based on many a myths that the cheerleaders of India’s growth story often overlook or ignore.

It might not please many Indians, but notwithstanding the substantial accomplishments made in various fields, India still has a long way to go before taking the mantle of a ‘superpower’ or even jump into the big league. As noted author and columnist Thomas Friedman once remarked, India is a six lane super highway, but full of potholes, cracked cement, and unfinished sidewalks.

Few years back, London-based independent think-tank Legatum Institute in its report concluded that India’s economy is growing rapidly and the country is likely to leapfrog into the league of economic superpowers by 2030. Since then, the global economic recession has led to dramatic developments across the world, posing serious challenges to emerging economies in particular. Though India has managed to stand its ground, but many serious challenges persist on many fronts.

Some ‘sponsored’ surveys and reports are painting the rosy picture of India, ignoring many realities that lie underneath the surface. As per the Grant Thornton Global Dynamism Index, India is the fifth best country in the world for dynamic growing businesses. The index is a reflection of the feasible environment it offers for expansion of businesses. Further, India’s economic confidence reached 68 per cent in August 2012, marking a surge of 8 points from previous months, according to ‘Ipsos Economic Pulse of the World’ survey. As per a study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd (Deloitte), India is slated to be the second largest manufacturing country in the next five years, followed by Brazil. On the Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) renewable attractiveness index, India is perched at fourth position. On the solar index, India is ranked second and on the wind index, it is ranked third, as per the latest study by E&Y and UBM India Pvt Ltd.

What these surveys tell ypu is that India is a rising power and Goliath and everything about India is hunky-dory. What they don’t tell you is that most of Indian states are mired in world’s highest levels of poverty and some human development indicators are among the worst in the developing world. The hype about India as emerging global giant overlooks the simple fact that the growth is not inclusive and superficial to the extent that it is only on the surface and not getting penetrated deep enough to be sustainable and beneficial to all.

In modern India’s context, dualism juxtaposes the hi-tech boom areas with the vast tracts of economy that have barely been touched by post-91 economic reforms. In Indian society, small islands of excellence, prosperity and possibilities are surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, deprivation and discontent.

India may be a full-fledged capitalist country, a liberal economy and a rising money power, but there are people who still eat grass, sell their children, hawk their kidneys, and commit suicides out of desperation. For every million new entrants to India’s burgeoning middle class, there are tens of millions still trapped in grinding web of rural poverty, barely earning a dollar after a back-breaking labor. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2010 – a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), ranks India below countries such as Rwanda and Sudan, putting it in the “alarming levels of hunger” range. While the cheerleaders drumbeat about the overall growth, they don’t seem to care about the

poorest of the poor. poverty

Countries like China and Vietnam, like India, have shown sharp growth in GDP rates. But unlike India, they have also succeeded in bringing down the levels of poverty and hunger. The major reasons for that is lack of education, abysmal quality of work, rampant corruption, sloppy implementation of projects and schemes, lack of proactive action in policies and the unchecked population growth. Development models have only created islands of prosperity and oceans of deprivation.

Some 65 per cent of people in India live on agriculture, which accounts for around 18 per cent of GDP. The World Development Report in 2008 stated that one per cent growth in agriculture is twice more effective in reducing poverty than similar growth in the non-agricultural sector. But lately, the focus hs shifted from agriculture to IT and telecom sectors.

Gender inequality and malnutrition are highly correlated, and it is no surprise that Global Gender Gap Report 2010 ranked India 112th out of 134 nations worldwide for gender equality. It reminds me of the arithmetic sum we used to solve in school days. It was about a monkey who climbs two feet and slips down one foot in a minute, so in how many minutes will the monkey take to climb a 25 feet pole. India’s growth story looks very similar to this interesting monkey sum.

Leadership, execution and arrogance are some of the nagging problem areas. On leadership, Indians think too small and do not believe in setting big, ambitious goals. The execution and implementation of schemes and plans is pathetic. Arrogance is the most interesting element. For everything, they seem to have an answer. The problems that make this ‘hype’ questionable is the huge population that is yet to fully enjoy the fruits of growth, the challenges of food, energy and ecological security and capability of the institutions to facilitate this leveling of India’s economic landscape.

Education scenario is dismal. In the QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities, India figures nowhere in the world’s top-100 universities. Besides, according to recent World Bank reports, while more than 95 per cent of children attend primary school, just 40 per cent of Indian adolescents attend secondary school (Grades 9-12). So, with the spotlight on India as the higher education hub, this news must come as a shock.

India may boast of many hi-tech super specialty hospitals, but there are not even primary health centers in most parts of the country. The budget allocation for health is among the lowest in the world. A report in Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, said that most Indians shell out 78 per cent of their medical bills themselves. The only country worse off as far as private spending on health is concerned is Pakistan, where the figure is 82.5 per cent. The basic problem is infrastructure and support staff and great majority of the population is still deprived of basic healthcare.

Corruption is a monster. The government machinery is taking the full advantage of its age-old drawbacks and pulling down the country in a big way. Corruption, sycophancy and nepotism are so deep rooted that honest research, innovations and their application is not possible. On one hand, they spend Rs. 70,000 crores on the CommonWealth Games to let the world know that the country has arrived on the big stage; on the other hand, they struggle to provide basic amenities to people living in remotest of villages, the Bharat that India lives in. It is difficult to hide the disparity between real and imagined India. The dichotomy is too ugly, but real. And, I did not even mention the civil liberties and human rights scenario, the tyranny against tribal people in the name of development and dams, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and the fierce battle on the ground. That is an entirely different debate for some other day.

Reaping Rewards of Re-positioning


Thirty years ago, Jack Trout and Al Ries published their classic bestseller, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind — a book that revolutionized the world of marketing. But times have changed. Competition is fierce. Consumers are savvier. Communications are faster. And once-successful companies are in crisis mode. Hence, companies are increasingly going for re-positioning.

Repositioning tells you how to adapt, compete and succeed in today’s cut-throat marketplace. It is used to change the perception associated with the brand to make sure the meaning of brand is made relevant to the changing environment. “With hundreds of new offerings failing in the marketplace every year, there is a distinctive need to treat brand repositioning as a tool not only for old brands but also for new brands,” writes S Ramesh Kumar in Marketing and Branding: The Indian Scenario.


Re-positioning the brands

Repositioning is an effort to “move” a product to a different place in the minds of consumers. According to Jack Trout, it is important to review the essence of positioning, as it is also the essence of repositioning. “Positioning is about how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your prospect… and re-positioning is how you adjust perceptions, whether those perceptions are about you or your competition,” writes Trout. “Initially repositioning’s raison d’être was coping with competition. What has emerged is its use to handle the rapid technological change that is enveloping many products”. In his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen has coined a term ‘disruptive technologies’. It describes how these technologies curb the growth of well-managed companies.

The Journal of Consumer Marketing noted a large-scale study of 115 new product launches across five US and UK markets. The study compared the market share gained by products launched under established family or corporate names with the market share gained by products launched under new brand names. Share was measured two years after each brand’s launch. The brands with new names performed significantly better.

Every repositioning strategy is triggered by the competition in market. As Trout writes, repositioning a competitor often boils down to finding a weakness in the leader’s strength and attacking at that point. “Good competitive repositioning ideas are extremely difficult to sell because they are negative in nature. They go against the ‘positive thinking’ grain of most management people,” says Trout.


Companies going for repositioning

Sometime back, Porsche unveiled its new line of Panamera vehicles at a Shanghai car show. The car is a global model, but unlike Porsche’s other cars, it is significantly longer. The rich car buyers in China prefer to be driven by chauffeurs. The re-positioning trick worked and Porche’s profits skyrocketed. Brands position and reposition themselves frequently to sustain the brand identity, to be the repertoire of the customers, and enhance brand equity. A classic example of brand repositioning was seen at Dabur India Ltd. in the year 2001. The transformation of company into one of the leading fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms in India.

Why should buyers purchase your offering versus another? If your product faces competition, you will need to think about how to ‘position’ it in the marketplace, relative to competing products. Launched in Indian in early 2003, Mountain Dew was positioned as an ‘energy and exhilaration’ drink. Yet, it did not live up to all the hype. A survey by Synovate in late 2005 showed that people preferred Sprite and Limca, with Mountain Dew performing only a shade better than Frooti. This survey and the market performance of Mountain Dew set the stage for a course correction. Just a market repositioning rather than a radical re-branding was the need of the hour. This repositioning saw the introduction of the ‘Dar Ke Aage Jeet Hai’ campaign, which clicked big time.

Working on the same formula, The Quaker Oats Company, a division of PepsiCo (PEP), created a flutter after announcing that it was launching an expansive re-positioning of its business. For the first time in its 130-plus year history, Quaker was opting for a change and it clicked big time. “It is all about sailing through the cut-throat competition. Everyone wants to stand out,” says Sanjit Baruah, a Delhi based senior marketing professional.

“You do not want the product to be just another face-in-the-crowd in the minds of consumers,” says Sumit Mahajan, a senior business executive with Johnson and Johnson. LG Electronics hit the bull’s eye when it announced that it was globally repositioning the LG brand identity including its local unit, LG Electronics India, with the theme of `Harmony of smart technology in stylish design to fit into’ in India. Nestle India Limited (NIL) felt the need to reposition Maggi as a ‘health product’, just when the profits were plummeting.


For new and old alike

“Positioning is not something you do to a product, it is what you do to the minds of the prospects,” is an often-quoted line from Jack Trout and Al Ries, the inventors of the positioning concept. Product positioning and repositioning is not limited to new products alone. It is relevant for occasional face lifting of the existing products. This is evidenced by so called “new and improved products” of almost all kinds such as toilet soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, tooth pastes, even designer labels. Ritu Wears went for an overhaul with Ritu Wear Biglife. They found this new format more interactive and responsive, making it customer-focused. The new logo with four human figures celebrates the colorful bond of a family and positions.

However, repositioning does not mean total change. It sometimes entails strengthening and clarifying identity. A famous garment firm was having a tough time with the sales of its men’s shirts. Instead of involving into a futile competition with its competitor, it shifted the weight from men’s shirts to women’s blouses and sportswear. The result was an amazing increase in its profits.


Pakistan govt complicit in slaughter of Shias


By: Syed Zafar Mehdi



Coming down heavily on the Pakistani government, Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement said, “The Pakistani government’s persistent failure to protect the Shia Muslim community in Pakistan from sectarian attacks by Deobandi militant groups is reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens.”

In the killing fields of Pakistan, the bloodletting continues unabated. In a latest incident, on March 03, a massive car bombing just yards away from my sister’s house in seaport city of Karachi claimed 45 lives, and left 150 others critically wounded.

My sister and her family escaped unhurt but two of her close relatives – a father and a son – were not as lucky. According to reports, terrorists struck when a large contingent of city police was busy in protocol and security duties at the engagement ceremony of Sharmila Faruqui, a provincial minister from the ruling party, and Hasham Riaz Sheikh, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari. The car laden with 150 kilograms of explosives was parked in a Shia-dominated locality Abbas Town, between four-storey buildings, which were reduced to rubble. The dead bodies had to be taken out of the debris on a road with a 10-foot wide and four-foot deep crater.

President Zardari issued a statement, expressing sympathies with the bereaved families and directing the authorities to ensure the best medical treatment to the injured. It’s not the first time he has given a clean chit to himself in the shape of these statements. It sounds too monotonous and repetitive now, and has become a standard operating procedure for this government.

In Karachi, people are no strangers to violence and vicious targeted killings. In Muharram last year, many people were killed while they were participating in an annual mourning procession.

In February 2010, a series of blasts claimed 18 innocent lives. In June 2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 40 people. In July 2006, a massive explosion resulted in the death of many people, including the chief of Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan, Allama Hassan Turabi.

Karachi, however, is not the only dangerous place in Pakistan, if you fit a certain stereotype. As my friend said, for those who have relatives (Shia) in Pakistan, get in touch before it’s too late. It is not a shaggy dog story. Pakistan is a bleeding nation today. Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Sir Mohammad Iqbal’s dream stands in tatters. It’s difficult to absorb the full extent of this horror and mayhem, but certainly, silence at this point is criminal. It amounts to either complicity or cowardice.

The 40 dead in Karachi blasts included small children and women. My sister’s family is not the only bereaved family in Karachi right now, and it is not the first time these families have lost their loved ones in heinous targeted attacks. It’s a story of every Shiite family in Karachi, in Lahore, in Hyderabad, in Gilgit, in Parachinar, in Dera Ghazi Khan, in Dera Ismail Khan, in Jhang and in Quetta. As one Pakistani commentator wrote in his recent newspaper column, if you are a Shia in Pakistan, you are on your own.

There are heartrending tales of helplessness, of bravery, of resistance, of loyalty, of pride and of honour. Shias of Pakistan are a proud community and staunch nationalists. Like many other families in Pakistan, my sister and her family have also received threats, but they refuse to leave their country. Many families have lost their sole breadwinners, but they have not relocated anywhere. They remain loyal to their country. It is the unflinching love for Pakistan that gives them courage to walk the tightrope between life and death.

After battling for her life on a ventilator for close to three months, 12-year-old Mehzar Zehra is finally showing the signs of recovery. A few days back, she walked out of a local hospital in Karachi, escorted by her mother. The little girl, who has been called Pakistan’s Anne Frank, was thrilled to rush home and go back to her school. Almost three months back, on November 30 last year, her world turned topsy-turvy. A grade 7 student, Mehzar was heading to school with her father Syed Nazar Abbas when some scooter-borne assailants sprayed bullets on the father-daughter duo. Her father succumbed on the spot, in front of her, while Mehzar survived with four bullets. The bullets ripped through the lungs, ruptured stomach and badly damaged the spinal cord. Doctors initially refused to operate because they feared she might get paralysed. But, the 12-year-old showed the fighting spirit, and survived to tell the tale.

The calamitous incident has changed their life forever, but they have not left the country. The family is picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild their lives again. The memories of good old days, however, haunt them. Mehzar’s brother has left the small menial job he had. His mother is wary of letting him venture out. She doesn’t want her son to meet the fate of his father. The police investigations into the case have yielded no results. The case has been shut for the ‘lack of eyewitnesses’, despite the fact that the incident took place in broad daylight on busy Shaheed e Millat Road in Karachi.

Notwithstanding the myriad trials and tribulations, 12-year-old Mehzar’s mother is still grateful for her daughter is still alive and breathing. In Lahore, the ill-fated mother of 11-year-old Murtaza Haider is still in shock. She has not uttered a word since the fateful afternoon of February 18, when her son and husband were shot dead. As people in the country were mourning the massacre of 87 Hazara Shias in Quetta, Murtaza was on his way to school with his father, an ophthalmologist at Lahore General Hospital, when some armed men on motorbike opened fire at them on Kanal Road in Lahore. Murtaza’s father was shot multiple times in the face and head, and he died on the spot. Murtaza was shot in the head, before killers disappeared from the scene. The wounded boy was taken to the nearby hospital, where he, after fighting a losing battle, breathed his last. Murtaza’s mother is haunted by her son’s memories now. She wants to die and reunite with her son, but the thought of leaving the country has not even crossed her mind.

The mother of 28-year-old Irfan Ishaq also did not leave the country, but reunited with her son in the other world. Overwhelmed with grief, she succumbed to a massive heart-stroke besides her son’s grave in Behisht e Zehra, Karachi on January 15. She was buried in the same graveyard, next to the grave of her son. The young Irfan had been shot three times by armed motorcyclists outside his house.

Four-year-old Subhana and her father Naseer Magsi were murdered on December 03 last year at Larkana, when Naseer was hoisting a traditional black banner as part of annual commemorations in Muharram. In the sacred month of Muharram, black banners are mounted on the rooftops and cars in many parts of the world, as a mark of resistance against the forces of evil and tyranny. Subhana, the little girl, was watching her father fix the thread on the banner when a bullet hit her head, leaving her in pools of blood. The infant girl’s mother is crestfallen. Like Murtaza’s mother, she also wishes death for herself to reunite with her daughter, but leaving the country is the last thing on her mind.

While, Murtaza’s mother and Subhana’s mother atleast know what tragedy has befallen them, the two year old Mohammad has no clue where his parents are, why they abandoned him. His father Iqbal Hassan and mother Kaneez Fatima were shot dead in their car on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road in Karachi in November last year. The couple, employees of a private hospital, was returning home from work, when they were attacked by four assailants on two motorbikes.

Like Mohammad, the little daughter and son of Imran Abbas also keeps asking for their father. Imran was targeted and killed in Solder Bazaar Karachi on January 08 while on his way home after dropping his children at school. He was shot thrice in the head and was declared dead at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

On September 31 2011, 5-year old Hania wore her favourite dress and went for Eid congregation with her father. The special biryani prepared by her mother turned cold, but Hania and her father never returned back. She was one of the many children who died that day in a suicide attack in Quetta. Her father also died, but the family still lives in Pakistan. On December 30, 2012, a 13 year-old boy Moazzam Ali was heading to his school in Chiniot when he was hit by some unidentified gunmen. After battling for his life in Allied Hospital for many days, he finally succumbed to his injuries on January 5, 2013. His father fainted while shouldering his coffin and had to be admitted to hospital, but he refused to go abroad.

On February 10, 2013, another father-son duo, Amjad Ali and Asif Ali were killed in Orangi town of Karachi, while they had gone to nearby mosque for prayers. On February 18, a 24 year-old Syed Safdar Kazmi was killed when armed assailants opened fire on him in Karachi’s airport area. A resident of Model Colony, he was shot twice on his chest and died on the spot. Two days before that, another 25 year-old Syed Hasan Naqvi was killed in Karachi’s Paposh Nagar. On February 22, a 24 year-old Syed Faiz Hussain was targeted in Karachi’s Kati Pahari area. None of these families have left the country even after losing their loved ones, and that’s unarguably the best possible way to resist these killers and defeat them.

In the killing fields of Pakistan, death is a statistic. The manner in which most of these unprovoked targeted attacks are carried out bears striking similarity. Armed assailants on motorbikes close in; open the fire, and leisurely whisk away. Eye-witnesses look the other way. Police personnel patrolling the streets are conspicuously absent from duty or far from the scene of action. Sometimes, buses are stopped; passengers are offloaded, lined up in an open field, identified (as Shias or Sunnis) and executed. Imtiyaz, a young survivor of one such massacre at a place called Babu Sir that took place in August last year, is haunted by the memories of that fateful day. He recalls the day when almost 30 men, with long hair and saggy commando attire – carrying arms, ropes and knives – ambushed the bus he was travelling in. Passengers were instructed to show their Identitiy Cards to determine whether they were Shiite or Sunnis. Those who ‘failed’ the test were lined up and shot dead. Imtiyaz was lucky to survive as he hid himself under the bus, but he lost many friends in the attack.

Those who manage to escape eventually end up dead in massive explosions, in the markets, processions, shrines and mosques. On January 10 this year, a powerful blast on Alamdar Road Quetta claimed more than hundred lives, including small children and women. Some had gone out to buy vegetables, bakery and milk, while some had gone out for prayers. The families of victims refused to bury the dead, and in protest, sat on road in chilling cold for three long days. The provincial government of Balochistan was dismissed and governor’s rule was announced after protests erupted across the country. But bloodletting continued. On February 16, another powerful blast ripped through a crowded market on the outskirts of Quetta. The death toll has crossed 90 and hundreds are still admitted to various hospitals. It was followed by another blast on February 25, in which four people were killed and many others injured outside a Sufi shrine in Shikarpur, Sindh. Now, the Karachi blasts on March 03 have already resulted in 45 killings, and counting.

As per an estimate, more than 20,000 Shias, and thousands of Sunni Barelvi, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus have been killed in Pakistan since early 80s by terrorists affiliated to takfiri Deobandi school of thought. Alarmingly, not less than 30 per cent of the 20,000 Shias killed have been children and youngsters.

Coming down heavily on the Pakistani government, Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement said, “The Pakistani government’s persistent failure to protect the Shia Muslim community in Pakistan from sectarian attacks by Deobandi militant groups is reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens.”

Why is there no let-up in these killings? According to a secret dossier prepared by Quetta Police following the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan, the killing of 90 more Shia Hazaras on February 16 in Quetta could have been prevented had the Frontier Corps (FC) and police made efforts to capture terrorists belonging to Usman Saifullah Kurd faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The dossier contains detailed information about the masterminds and the executioners of January 10 blasts on Alamdar Road in Quetta, which resulted in more than 100 casualties.

These concerns were also echoed by Amin Shaheedi, deputy secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen. “Had the army operation been launched against the terrorists after Alamdar Road tragedy, Hazara Town tragedy would not have been occurred,” he said to media. Passing the buck to provincial government of Balochistan, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, during a debate in Senate, said that after 18th amendment, his job was confined to policy guidelines and sharing intelligence.

His ministry, Malik said, had provided all the intelligence inputs to provincial government of Balochistan. “We must not blame intelligence agencies. It was provincial government’s incompetence, which resulted in killing of innocent lives,” he said. The minister further claimed that the headquarters of Lashkar e Jhangvi, responsible for most of these targeted killings, is in Punjab with sub-headquarters in Karachi. The explosives used in the Quetta blast, he said, were transported from Lahore. However, he reiterated that his job is to inform, not to take action.

The lawmakers, on the other hand, blame intelligence agencies of either being involved in the attacks or incapable of dealing with the scourge. “If Pakistani forces are not involved in terror activities then it is their inefficiency and inability to deal with the issue,” Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash of Awami national Party (ANP) said, asking government to disclose the names of those involved in these activities. Governor of Balochistan also termed it the sheer failure of intelligence agencies. He said the agencies are either afraid of the terrorists or incompetent to track them.

Meanwhile, as politicians squabble and pass the buck on where the killers are hiding and how to catch hold of them, the leaders of Lashkar e Jhangvi continue to issue ultimatums and threats to Hazara Shias. “The government should be under no illusion now that the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan has failed to dissuade us from targeting our enemy: Shia Hazaras. We want to make it clear to the Shia Hazaras that they should not consider themselves safe and secure till the establishment of the Islamic caliphate in Pakistan,” said LeJ spokesman by the name of Abu Bakar Siddiq, while making phone calls to mediapersons on February 16 to claim responsibility for the Alamdar Road blast. Since then, there have been two major attacks so far.

According to Hazara Democratic Party, the attacks against Shia Hazaras in Quetta have intensified after some of the LeJ leaders like Malik Ishaq were released by courts. Some like the chief of LeJ’s Balochistan chapter Usman Kurd and his deputy Dawood Badini, who were detained in high-security ATF jail, mysteriously escaped on the night of January 18, 2008. According to a report prepared by Minority Support of Pakistan (MSP), an NGO working for minority rights, there was a clear conspiracy in their escape from a jail located in high security garrison zone of Quetta Cantonment. The report said the night Kurd and Badin escaped, the Hazara guards were relieved of duty and the roster was quickly altered by the jail superintendent. The same Kurd-Badini duo, according to security experts, now spearheads the ongoing genocide of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan.

On February 22, Malik Ishaq was again detained by authorities for one month under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) law on the orders of the provincial government. Hazara leaders welcomed the arrest of Ishaq, who is one of the founders of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, however, they demand arrest of all others involved in the attacks.

Shias in Pakistan have listed out the demands for government. The demands include government acknowledging the atrocities against Shia Muslims as genocide, outlawing apostatizing of Shia Muslims by an Act of Parliament, and stringent action against Takfiri Deobandi militants of Lashkar e Janghvi. The issues to be addressed, as demanded by the Shia Hazaras, include holding army accountable for the law and order situation and safety of all people including Shias, strict enforcement of legal ban on Sipah-e-Sahaba that currently operates camouflaged as ASWJ, stopping the publication of threats and insinuations against Shia community in local press, financially compensating the affected families, releasing the Shia detainees implicated in bogus cases, and instituting a judicial commission, also to probe the allegations of nexus between terrorists, intelligence agencies and army.

Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has pledged to ‘go to any extent to punish the people behind the attacks’. If he is serious enough to tackle the issue, he must start working on these legitimate and humane demands of Shias in his country. If he is not, then he must not make a secret of State’s war against the Shias.