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Target Killings in Pakistan

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Target Killings in Pakistan

Another tragic incident on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 added to the series of target killings and bombings in Quetta, Pakistan. The incident was a car bomb blast which intended to target those who were saying their Eid Prayers in Hazara Eid Gah, Quetta. The blast occurred some meters away from the Eid Gah, on Gulistan Road and resulted in the death of 14 people and injury of about 30 others who were returning home after saying their prayers.

The Eid celebrations were turned into an experience of agony and grief for Hazara community that is basically composed of very peaceful people. Hazaras are a minority in the Balochistan province of Pakistan but form the third major ethnic group after Balochs and Pashthuns.

This particular incident, not being the first of its kind, has been an addition in the incidents that have resulted in the death of almost 500 people since 2001. This series of target killings, aimed at Hazaras, have been in different forms, including bombing and shooting and have targeted people from almost all walks of life, including common shopkeepers, laborers, government employees, prominent businessman and political figures and even pilgrims on the way to Iran.

The major incidents include the firing on innocent people traveling in van from Alamdar Road to Hazara Town, shooting and bombing of the procession of Ashura, shooting and bombing of the prayerers in Imam Bargha, shooting and bombing of procession of Yum ul Quds, the mentioned Eid bombing and some others.

Apart from these mass killing, there have been incidents of individual target killings of prominent Hazara political and social leaders like Hussain Ali Yousufi (Leader of Hazara Democratic Party – Hazara political party based on Nationalistic ideology) and Talib Agha (Leader of Shia Conference – Religious party based on Shiite ideology; and political figure) .

Most of these incidents have been carried out because of the fact that Hazaras belong to Shiite Sect of Islam as after most of the incidents the extremist anti- Shiite religious group Lashkar e Jangawi has claimed the responsibility.

In order to have a proper understanding of the target killings of and terrorist acts against Hazaras in Quetta, Pakistan the overall growth of terrorism in Pakistan in particular and in the world in general has to be understood. In the post 9/11 scenario Pakistan opted to join hands with the propagators of War against Terrorism and launched movement against the extremist religious groups in the country.

It was when the intensity of penetration of religious fanaticism was gauged in the country. It was not thought to be so much in strength by the people in Pakistan, but soon it was realized that the trees of religious extremism and fanaticism are too strong to be uprooted within some days. Musharaf government had to face opposition from the religious groups even within the most modern cities of the country when it decided to go against religious extremism.

Further the strength shown by the terrorist groups in WANA and Waziristan depicted that the terrorists had made their stronghold in Pak-Afghan bordering areas. Therefore, it was proved that the growth of the religious extremism which was supported by government of General Zia ul Haq and backed by US and Saudi governments in order to strengthen "Mujahideen" against Soviet army in Afghanistan had started producing fruits and had made major portions of Pakistan and Afghanistan a safe haven for the international terrorist groups.

Even Al-Qaida found easy refuge in such a welcoming environment. The incidents that followed showed considerable intensification in extremist sentiments and have had their impacts in different parts of Pakistan, resulting in the death of thousand of innocent people so far. Religious and ethnic minorities have been influenced to a greater extent as they stand weaker in the power game.

But, it is necessary to note that there have been incidents of sectarian violence in Pakistan prior to 9/11 as well. Some of the major cities of Pakistan were affected by the sectarian clashes in the late 80's and early 90's.

Those clashes were more political in nature. The Shiite and Sunni divide was intensified and was politically utilized by Saudi and Iranian governments. But the roots lie in the same process of religious militancy and extremism that was promoted during General Zia ul Haq era in Pakistan to counter Soviet Red Army.

The Saudi influence in this process was dominant and was opposed and countered by Iran that belonged to a different school of Islamic thought. The formation of different religious groups (including Sipai Sahaba, Sipai Muhammad, Lashker e Jangawi, Jaish Muhammad and some others) based on sectarian sentiments took place during or after the same era and became dominantly active. Most of these religious groups at the moment are banned in Pakistan but they are active and carrying on their mission, like Lashkar e Jangawi.

Lashkar e Jangawi has been claiming responsibilities in the serious of target killings of Hazaras in Quetta, Pakistan since the very beginning of such incidents in the early 2001. The group seems to have Wahabi ideology and is strictly against the Hazaras who dominantly belong to Shiite ideology.

Though Lashkar e Jangawi is a banned group, it has been able to carry on its mission successfully in the country. This group has links with militant groups in northwestern Pakistan and even with Al-Qaida. The focus of the group has shifted to Quetta after the Pak military operations in Waziristan and northwestern areas of Pakistan.

The operations in Waziristan and other areas resulted in the movement of many militants to Balochistan and ultimately to Quetta. Unfortunately, after the bold and clear claims of the group for the killings of the innocent people tangible measures are yet to be taken on the part of Pakistani government. Law enforcing agencies have failed to counter the group's offensive attitude. And it continues to target the people at will.

International community in this regard has to yet to play its role. Though there have been dissemination of the incidents through media and other sources, international community and Human Rights Organizations are yet to pay serious attention to the issue.

There have been demonstrations in different parts of the world regarding the issue, and the vehement violation of Human Rights have been voiced to the relevant people, hopefully, there will be due attention paid to the issue. If there are no serious considerations paid to the issue it may soon turn into a sort of ethnic cleansing and may devour the lives of hundred of innocent people.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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