Pakistan: Statement issued by the Women Action Forum (WAF), Karachi, following the attack on Shia residents of Abbas Colony

View Point Online

Once again we share unspeakable horror at the carnage against citizens, this time in AbbasTown, Karachi. Once again we express our condemnation and outrage. Once again we wonder how many more times we will do this before there is resolve to deal with religious militancy.

On International Women’s Day, Women’s Action Forum stands in solidarity with all sectarian and religious minorities against terrorist groups. WAF condemns all extremist, armed militant forces that invoke religion as their ideological justification for mass killings, terrorist attacks and brutalities against citizens of Pakistan.

We hold the Taliban including factions of the TTP and sectarian groups like Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaishe-Muhummad responsible for crimes against humanity.

They have killed over 45,000 citizens and have publicly accepted responsibility for it. Sectarian groups have cleaved society apart. Taliban have bombed markets, mosques and shrines. In Swat, they beheaded and hung people from trees; flogged and killed women, repressed their mobility and livelihood. The Taliban do not recognize Pakistan’s constitution, its democracy, its territorial borders and its political system. Nor have they pledged to renounce violence and accept the basic premises of the State. They have no legitimacy and cannot be a party to peace talks.

We refuse attempts at differentiating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants and reject efforts of negotiations and peace building with them. We know that peace is not simply cessation of killing. There cannot be peace without justice.

WAF rejects the choices presented as alternatives: to either support negotiating and reconciling with Taliban or to support army operations; to either support Muslim men with misogynist beliefs or support imperialist pro-Western politics. We see these either/or positions as a continuation of the Bush era ‘with us or against us’ logic and refuse to be forced to place ourselves on any patriarchal continuum.

We demand that militant religious organizations face public criminal prosecution through due process of law. We note that mass murderers are often given protection and in case of rare arrests, are not convicted. The criminal justice system must become responsive to the needs of citizens. The impunity with which these terrorists operate must be revoked and their funding sources halted, including the detrimental role played by some Saudi Arabian interests groups.

In our unstinting support for democracy, we demand that political parties fulfill their mandate of representation. Political parties must stand by families of victims of terrorism, survivors of violence and ordinary citizens who are the aggrieved party. We urge them to prioritize interests and concerns of vulnerable groups: women, religious minorities, and marginalized ethnic groups and sects. Without such inclusion, any effort to negotiate with terrorists is undemocratic. If political parties do not deepen democracy, they weaken it.

We demand that the Pakistan army and paramilitary forces be made answerable to civilian authorities and accountable to citizens to explain their performance in the ‘war against terror’ for which it has received funds from America, in addition to a significant share from the national budget.

WAF recognizes the impetus of an election year. Pakistan is at a critical milestone of a completed political tenure and democratic transition. Nothing should jeopardize that.

We mourn and condemn the countless precious lives lost to terrorism. We believe the way out is to be found within the Constitution and democracy. WAF reiterates the necessity of a secular dispensation. WAF urges for a substantive peace that offers justice and protection of human rights and liberties for all citizens. We believe it is possible.