Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adieu Abul

Syed Abul Hasan Jafry, head of the public relations at the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, and a close family friend, was assassinated in Peshawar on November 12, 2009. Security imageagencies blame the Taliban for the assassination.

Our families have been friends for over five decades in Peshawar. Abul grew up with my uncles in the walled city of Peshawar. He belonged to the Persian speaking community in Peshawar, who are mostly Shiites.

Abul started his career as a civil servant and later joined the Frontier Post in Peshawar. It is the same newspaper where other members of my family have launched their journalistic careers. I worked for the Post from 1992 to 1993.

It is not the first target killing of a prominent Shiite in Peshawar. The head of the Shiite religious party (TNFJ), Allama Arif Husseini, was also murdered in the outskirts of Peshawar in August 1988.  Another close family friend, Syed Qamar Abbas, who was a former provincial minister and a close associate of late Benazir Bhutto, was also assassinated on the streets of Peshawar in May 2007.

While the above two were assassinated primarily for being Shiites, moderate Sunnis have also been a target of the Taliban.  Farid Sabri (his adopted last name), whom I played cricket with as a child in Peshawar, was also assassinated in Peshawar in early 2009. Farid was targeted because he belonged to a liberal strain of Sunni Islam that did not conform to the Taliban ideology.

Iranian diplomats in Pakistan have been a target of the Taliban since 1990s. Agha Sadiq Ganji, the director of Iranian Cultural Centre in Lahore, was assassinated in December 1990. Another Iranian diplomat was abducted from Peshawar in 2008. About seven Iranian Air Force cadets were ambushed on Peshawar Road (minutes from the Army’s General Head Quarters) in Rawalpindi in late 1990s. One does see a pattern here.

While the United States has declared almost most organizations/outfits of dubious credentials terrorist, a notable omission is Jundallah, which is a terrorist group comprising of Sunnis from Iran involved in the target killings and acts of violence against Iranians and the Shiites in Pakistan. The recent bombing in Iran that killed many including senior officers of Iranian armed forces was perpetrated by Jundallah.

According to Pakistan's former chief of armed forces, general (retd.) Aslam Beg, the US has been in contact with Jundallah. It is high time that the U.S. should come clean on this very issue and should consider every organization, regardless of its political orientation, that uses violence against civilians and innocents a terrorist organization. 

Given the increase in the frequency of violence in Peshawar, one may conclude that the city has gone to the dogs. The city though has itself to blame for its misfortunes.  It was the same city that stood silent when the Shiites were the target of the Taliban attacks. I remember the attack in 1992 by the Taliban that left scores dead in Peshawar. Not much was done then because Shiites were then the target.

The mayhem in Pakistan could have been averted if moderate Sunnis, who are in majority in Pakistan, had acted proactively since the mid-eighties against the religious extremism that has returned to haunt them as well. It is not too late to act even now.

Our heartfelt condolences to Abul’s family.


Iran mission official shot dead in Peshawar

Thursday, 12 Nov, 2009

Security officials said they suspected those responsible were part of the same group behind kidnappings last year in Peshawar of an Iranian diplomat and Afghanistan's ambassador-designate, and the killing of a US development worker. — Photo by Reuters


US embassy, FO condemn Iran consulate worker killing

US embassy, FO condemn Iran consulate worker killing

PESHAWAR: Gunmen shot dead a Pakistani spokesman for the Iranian consulate at point blank range as he set off for work in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Thursday, police said.

Attackers targeted Abu Al-Hasan Jaffry, director of public relations and protocol at the consulate in Peshawar, shortly after he left home in his car, senior police official Nisar Marwat told AFP.

Bullet holes punctured his car, sending shards of glass on to the road, according to television footage from Peshawar, which has been hit by a wave of attacks.

The killing was condemned by Iran and the United States but the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Security officials said they suspected those responsible were part of the same group behind kidnappings last year in Peshawar of an Iranian diplomat and Afghanistan's ambassador-designate, and the killing of a US development worker.

Iran's foreign ministry condemned Jaffry's assassination.

‘We strongly condemn this terrorist and inhuman action and insist that the murderers be identified,’ spokesman Ramin Mehman Parast was quoted as saying on the Iranian state television website.

‘We also call for better protection of all diplomatic offices,’ he added.

Jaffry, a father of one who was in his 50s, was shot on a main road soon after leaving his home in the Gulberg neighbourhood of Peshawar, friends and witnesses said.

‘Suddenly the firing started and when I reached the main road, I saw Jaffry bleeding with wounds and the attackers, probably more than two, had fled,’ one man, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

‘Jaffry had been hit in the head and chest and his left arm was badly injured,’ he added.

The US embassy in Islamabad condemned Thursday's assassination, which it said ‘represents a new tactic by extremists hoping to isolate Pakistan from its supporters in the international community.’

Peshawar runs into Pakistan's tribal district on the Afghan border, which US officials call the most dangerous place on earth because of sanctuaries for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants allegedly plotting attacks on the West.

The northwestern metropolis of 2.5 million people has been hit by a wave of suicide bombings and gun attacks but sectarian violence is rare in the city.

Shias, who are a majority in Iran, account for about 20 per cent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 167 million. More than 4,000 people have died in flashes of sectarian violence in Pakistan since the 1980s.

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