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View Point: Clueless in Islamabad?

The Supreme Court bench hearing the case of Quetta Hazaras’ killings asked the government the simple but important question: What’re you doing to stop the killing of Hazara people? Irrespective of what the official answer is going to be, we all know that it did next to nothing until the people under attack could take it no more, and in desperation, staged protest sit-ins by the side of their dead near and dear ones’ bodies to demand Army protection for the living and a targeted operation against the perpetrators.

Who the perpetrators might be has never been in doubt. Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) has regularly been taking credit for the killings. Another such group has been attacking Shias in Gilgit-Balitistan and Kohistan area. Yet all those who matter pretend not to know. As if it was something new, the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam termed the latest carnage a conspiracy to delay the election, implying that it might be the deed of some political schemers. To his credit, only PTI Chairman Imran Khan directly confronted the issue at a special conference saying “I am, on behalf of my party, condemning the LJ by name for committing crime against humanity in the name of Islam. You [LJ] people are committing genocide of Shia community and, by doing so brining a bad name to Islam.”

Governor Zulfiqar Magsi told the media the other day that the intelligence agencies were either “too scared to go after terror mongers or too clueless to even know who they are dealing with.” However, when embarrassed by the outrage the unspeakable horror has created at home and abroad, the government ordered a crackdown on sectarian extremists, the agencies seemed to know exactly who they were dealing with. Soon after they swung into action on Tuesday, as per the provincial government’s claims, they had killed four “high profile target killers” arrested seven of their accomplices as well as one of the masterminds of the latest bombing that left 89 Hazaras dead and nearly 200 injured.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has talked of declaring Hazara-dominated areas of Quetta as “red zones” in order to ensure security of the community. The plan shows how out of touch the Interior Minister is with reality. Needless to say, like any other people, the Hazaras have to go out of their homes to work or pursue other activities in different parts of Quetta and the province. They have been pulled out of buses to be shot dead. A peaceful community, Hazaras are a frequent target of sectarian terrorists because they are easily identifiable from their facial features. What is happening to them is part of a nation-wide issue that has origins in the Gulf countries power games. There have been so many incidents of attacks on Imambargahs and Muharram processions in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and smaller cities that it is difficult to keep a count of the casualties. On an individual level too, several doctors, members and leaders of religious parties have been targeted for their sectarian allegiances.

What this society faces is a consequence of our rulers’ policy of letting this country become a battleground of outside interests in exchange for financial gains. If becoming partners in the US’ wars in Afghanistan gifted this society violent extremists in the form of the Taliban, allowing Gulf kingdoms to sort out their problems with Iran by inflaming sectarian sentiments has created the Frankenstein of sectarian terrorism. One day, the fanning of sectarian hatred will hit those countries back, like the promotion of Afghan mujahideen and Taliban did earlier – this one with devastating consequences, even disintegration of certain states. That though should be their worry.

We should take a pause and do what needs to be done to prevent this society from sliding into further violence and chaos. A well thought-out strategy is in order to restore peace and security. Fist of all, our leaders must stop feigning ignorance about the perpetrators’ identity. They must show courage to name and condemn sectarian militants. That is necessary to give confidence to the concerned agencies to act. When while holding forth on the Quetta situation Governor Magsi said the intelligence agencies are too scared to go after the terrorists, presumably, he was thinking of the civilian intelligence agencies. They would be reluctant to act (a) because the sectarian terrorists are better armed and their foot soldiers happily willing to kill or get killed for the sake of what they think is glory of Islam; and (b) because they would not want to stick their necks out for something that lacks a well articulated backing by the national leadership. The well-resourced security forces and their agencies need to launch a comprehensive operation in co-ordination with the police.

Second, in tandem with crackdown on violent extremists, the law prohibiting publication and distribution of hate propaganda must be strictly implemented. Third, the government must have a serious conversation with the leaders of Gulf states providing finances to sectarian outfits in this country. As pointed out in this column before, WikiLeaks cables sent by American diplomats from Lahore and some Middle Eastern posts to Washington show that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been sending $100 million annually to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in southern Punjab alone “ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.” That the money is used to recruit children from poor families for an average price of Rs 500,000 and ‘martyrdom’ is also discussed with their parents. That is just one example. There surely are other recipients.

Another cable from a Middle Eastern post noted that the Gulf states are very strict in dealing with extremists in their own societies but cast a blind eye to organisations and individuals contributing to extremist causes abroad. It is time for our government too to deal with these people very strictly and also to tell their foreign financiers firmly to stop the money flows to violent extremists wreaking havoc with Pakistani lives.


Sadia Fazal, "View Point: Clueless in Islamabad?," Business recorder. 2013-02-21.
Keywords: Social issues , Social crisis , Social system , Social Crimes , Supreme court , Quetta issue , Laskhar-e-Jhangvi , Taliban , Gilgit-Balitistan , Rehman Malik , Quetta , Karachi , Lahore , Rawalpindi , Peshawar , Afghanistan , Saudi Arabia , UAE