SHAFAQNA – Pakistan is a country of ghosts. They are everywhere, the victims and the perpetrators both. On Wednesday morning, six gunmen wearing police uniforms stopped an Al Azhar Garden bus carrying 60 Ismaili Muslims in Karachi. The bus picked up Ismailies from the housing society dedicated to their community on the outskirts of the city and drove them to work. It was a journey the passengers made every day.
The gunmen boarded the bus. Sub ko mar dalo , one of them is reported to have said. Kill them all. By the time the gunmen got back on their motorcycles and fled, they had murdered 43 people.
Who were the dead?
Ismailis, a peaceful community of Muslims, share a closeness with the country’s Shia minority and are thus victimised. Seventy per cent of Pakistan’s Muslims are Sunni. And in this predominantly Muslim country, it is no longer Hindus or Christians who face the largest threat of violence from orthodox and radicalised groups but Shias.
They call it a Shia Genocide now; around 1,000 Shia citizens of Pakistan have been killed in the last two years, according to some estimates. (But to those who use the word ‘genocide’ comes the reply: but they kill Sunnis too. What about them? This is the answer to so many questions now. What about the others? So many groups are in danger now, it is impossible to count them all.)
In January, a blast ripped through a Shia mosque in Shikarpur district of Sindh and killed 60 people. In February, a Shia mosque in Peshawar was attacked with grenades. Another 20 people were killed there. In the spring, there were target killings and assassinations — successful Shia professionals, doctors and religious leaders, activists, anyone, everyone. And now this.