Daily Times, Pakistan
March 30 2015

The dark side of democracy will oppose ethnic diversity and it is up
to the political leaders of this country to keep a close eye on how
successfully Pakistan negotiates the problem of ethnic confrontation

Dr Fawad Kaiser March 30, 2015

At least 15 people were killed and more than 70 injured when two
Taliban suicide bombers attacked two churches in Lahore. Do we not
consider this genocide? The militants are killing people in the name
of Allah and telling people that anyone who kills a Christian will go
straight to heaven. That is their message. They have burned churches,
they have burned very old books and they have damaged crosses and
statues of the Virgin Mary. They are occupying churches and converting
them into mosques. They are the Taliban. The Taliban may destroy,
in whole or in part, a national or ethnic group (genocide) but they
may also destroy a group of people who share a political belief
(politicide). Sometimes, the two are the same. When the majority
of militant groups unite and pledge support to the Taliban, then
politicide is also genocide.

Christians make up around two percent of Pakistan's mainly Muslim
population of 180 million. They have been stoned to death by mobs,
targeted in militant attacks and brutalised by riots in recent years,
often over allegations of blasphemy. This recent attack follows the
devastating 2013 double suicide bombing in Peshawar that killed 82
people. That attack came months after more than 3,000 protesters
burnt some 100 houses as they rampaged through another Christian
neighbourhood, Joseph Colony, in Lahore, following blasphemy
allegations against a Christian man. The killings of innocent
Christians make me want to explore the evolution of the genocide
paradigm in Pakistan.

The recent political histories of the Jews and Christians in Pakistan
have clear parallels: the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany
began with racist legislation (the Nuremberg laws), escalated to
violence (Krystalnacht), forced mass immigration and ended in overt
genocide. One can note the similarities between the racist doctrine
of the Taliban and the Nuremberg laws. The intent of both was the
exclusion of a specific people from society and government, exclusion
being a recognised early indicator of future genocide. Human rights
scholars frequently argue that there is no need to include intent among
the necessary conditions that lead one to conclude that genocide is
in the making. On the contrary, I think that it is important to look
for evidence that allows us to infer intent precisely so that genocide
can be distinguished from related phenomena. Moreover, early warning
efforts depend on detecting signals of intent rather than waiting
for information that widespread killings have taken place. How do
we detect intent? Potential perpetrators are enemies of the state,
militias authorised by the Taliban. Terrorists and groups linked to
them often use hate propaganda and attack ethnic minorities.

The second point is that the victims belong to an identifiable ethnic,
authoritatively defined religious group. In Nazi Germany, people
who changed their religion from Judaism to Christianity were still
identified and targeted for elimination as Jews. In Latin American
politicides, friends and relatives of leftist activists were often
killed even though they themselves were politically inactive. It
is wrong to assume that most or all members of a group have to
be eliminated before one can conclude that genocide occurred. It
is enough to "take the life out of the group", in other words,
to eliminate or intend to eliminate so many people that the ethnic
group ceases to function as a social or political entity. Thus, in
politicides, perpetrators typically attempt to destroy the ability
of opposition groups to challenge or resist the regime by targeting
their potential supporters and, in genocides, the victimised groups
are defined by the perpetrators primarily in terms of their communal
characteristics. Again, this point is closely related to intent. It
follows that, in principle, body counts do not enter the definition
of what constitutes an episode. If the terrorists' motive is to rid
themselves of unwanted opposition by destroying a group and if policies
with that intent are sustained over a substantial period of time, then
a few hundred deaths constitute as much a genocide or politicide as
the deaths of tens of thousands. For example, about 900 Iranian Baha'is
were victims of genocide, as defined above, during the Khomeini regime.

The central thesis is that murderous ethnic cleansing, in its extreme
forms, can become genocidal and is the dark side of democracy. The
ideal of rule by the people itself tends to convert demos into ethnos,
generating organic nationalism and encouraging the cleansing of
minorities. The dark side of democracy will oppose ethnic diversity
and it is up to the political leaders of this country to keep a close
eye on how successfully Pakistan negotiates the problem of ethnic
confrontation ranging from victimisation to extermination. Other
worries are the danger zone, from which ethnic conflict may turn
murderous. It is reached when two rival ethnic groups lay claim to
religious sovereignty over the same territory and where both claims
appear legitimate and realisable. Risk of going over the brink, into
actual murderous cleansing, occurs where states are destabilised
amid an unstable local geopolitical environment out of which crisis
'radicals' emerge calling for rough treatment of the other group. The
radical's mind-set reflects this instability. Murderous cleansing is
not their initial intent but typically develops only after adaptation
to failure and destabilisation has both collapsed. Pakistan fits
well within the genocide thesis. The Taliban and the Christian ethnic
minorities in Pakistan are two rival ethnic groups whose differences in
religious ideologies have developed over decades. There is a difficult,
destabilising war against terrorism in process and the Taliban claim to
rule the territory is utterly unrealistic, unthinkable and delusional.

Ethnic and religious divisions are often identified as preconditions
of civil conflict in general. Ethnic cleansing of religious minorities
is an age-old human curse. Europe's Jews suffered nine centuries of
massacres, persecutions, pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions and other
torments before Hitler mobilised anti-Semitism on a grand scale in the
Holocaust that killed six million. Similarly, an estimated one million
Christian Armenians were exterminated by Muslim Turkey near the end
of World War I. Later, Orthodox Serbia practiced ethnic cleansing
against Muslim Bosnia and Kosovo. Numerous other examples are cited
by historians. In this 21st century, when wars between nations have
virtually vanished, it is depressing to realise that the horror of
ethnic cleansing still occurs.

The writer is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic
Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at [email protected]