Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 18th, 2019

No End to Ethno-sectarian Killings in Pakistan


No End to Ethno-sectarian Killings in Pakistan

The wave of ethnic and sectarian killings in Pakistan is getting very intense with each passing day. Pakistan has been suffering from the negative impacts of terrorism to a large extend. As Pakistan opted to join hand with US in the war against terrorism, the terrorist networks in Pakistan have displayed vehement response. They have reacted in the forms of suicide bombings and shootings not only on the security forces but the innocent citizens as well. Thousand of people have been killed so far as a result of such assaults.

A thorough analysis of Pakistani society shows that the terrorism and religious extremism are getting deeper gradually. This terrorism and religious extremism have their roots in the international political changes that remade the world order in the 1980's and the mistake that were committed by Pakistani government to react to the changes.

The nature of this religious extremism has been very violent and has mostly proved deadly to the minorities in the country, as it has not been able to accept their ideologies readily. Most of the people in Pakistan are Sunni Muslim, while the minorities belong to other sects of Islam. Shiite Muslims form the largest group among the minorities.

Pakistan history, mostly after the 1980's, has been the victim of sectarian clashes between the Sunni and Shiite, traveling from one corner of the country to the other. The first clashes were frequent in Karachi city of Pakistan, spread almost throughout Sindh, moved to northwestern parts of Pakistan and even to Punjab. At the moment, Quetta city of Pakistan has been the target of sectarian killings, wherein the minority - Shiite Hazaras, is being targeted.

The sectarian clashes in early 1980's were marked with violence from the militant groups that had emerged in both the sects and they were supported from US, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Talibanization process, carried out by General Zia ul Haq and sponsored by US and Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Revolution in Iran played dominant role in backing these sectarian clashes.

The current wave of ethno-sectarian killings in Quetta, Pakistan as mentioned are carried out mostly against the Hazara Community that have been living in the city for almost two centuries. Hazaras have been targeted because of two basic reasons; first they belong to Shiite sect of Islam, second ethnically they are Hazaras, in both the cases they happen to be minority, thus, they are very much vulnerable in the instable circumstances of Pakistan, especially of Balochistan.

In the latest of these target killings, 13 Hazara people were mercilessly shot near Akhtar Abad, Quetta on Tuesday (October 4, 2011), while about 7 were seriously injured. The incident took place when some gunmen stopped a bus that was going from Burori Road to Hazar Ganji, Quetta. They segregated the Hazara people from the bus, made them stand in a line and opened fired on them.

This incident was the second of its type as the first one happened almost two weeks earlier in quite similar fashion near Mastung, which resulted in the death of 26 people and injury to many others. For the last ten years or so almost 600 Hazaras have become the victims of ethno-sectarian killings. In most of the cases, an anti-Shiite religious group Lashkar e Jangavi has claimed the responsibility.

This group seems to have links with Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Taliban themselves have been responsible for the ethnic killing of Hazaras in Afghanistan, further they abhorred the decision of Hazaras who had joined Northern Alliance against Taliban) and have been responsible for different incidents of sectarian killings.

Though the group was banned by Pakistan's ex-president Musharaf along with some other extremist religious groups, its actions have not been stopped and it has been able to continue its objectives successfully. Previously it was a part of Sipah e Sahaba – another banned religious group, but currently it seems to function independently.

In the broader perspective the ethno-sectarian killings in Quetta have links with the growing terrorism in Pakistan. It is believed that the groups like Lashkar e Jangavi cannot carry on their activities without a central hub and the central hub of the terrorists in Pakistan happens to be the northwestern regions, mostly tribal areas, bordering Afghanistan.

The names of Miran Shah and North and South Waziristan in this regard can be taken as example. These areas seem to have grown in strong control centers for the terrorists, and government has failed to take considerable measures to counter them.

Recently, there has been much pressure on Pakistan from US to carry on operation against the militant groups in those areas, especially against the Haqqani network, which in US's point of view has its central command there and had a link in the attacks on US Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.

Whether the allegations of US is true or not is another discussion, but it stands correct, and the various terrorist acts inside the country depict that there are strongholds of terrorist networks in the northwestern parts of Pakistan. And as long as those strongholds are there, the groups like Lashkar e Jangavi would be fed with moral and financial support to further their activities.

The response of the government of Pakistan has not been very much satisfactory against the growing terrorist networks and ethno-sectarian killings. The liberal ruling faction in Pakistan had never thought that the religious extremism has penetrated so deep in Pakistani society; it was only after Pervaiz Musharaf opted offensive policy against them that they started showing their true color.

Soon it was realized that they are too strong to be uprooted immediately. Moreover, the Pakistani government has also adopted the policy of delay to continue operations against them because it wants to cash the situation by acquiring international financial support. Moreover, even among the government authorities and security forces the religious extremism has been able to penetrate a great deal.

It is really necessary for Pakistan to adopt a comprehensive policy against the terrorism and must strive to uproot it completely before it is too late. Moreover, the Pakistani authorities should make sure that such a policy includes tangible actions against ethnic and sectarian killings that have been increasing with each passing day and victimizing the innocent and peace loving people.

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

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