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بدھ، 20 فروری، 2013

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi monsters

The atrocity in Quetta is not new. The group claiming responsibility is not new either. The situation, where the relatives are sitting with the corpses of their dead, refusing to bury them unless the culprits are punished, is a repetition of the Alamdar Road incident when a twin blast killed even more Hazara Shias then as on Kirani Road now. The promise held out by the government to take control of the situation is also not new. Politicians blaming the intelligence agencies and vice versa is a time tested technique to shy away from accepting responsibility.
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On Saturday, more than 85 people including men, women and children were killed and at least 200 wounded when a large explosion shook Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province. The explosion occurred near a market at the busy Kirani Road area of the city, located near Hazara Town, where a large population of the ethnic Hazara community resides. 

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi immediately claimed the responsibility. Thousands of protesting Hazaras staged a sit-in along with bodies urging the government to accept their demands, including a targeted operation against the perpetrators under the supervision of the Army. Last month, at least 93 people were killed in a series of bombing, and a majority of the people killed in the Alamdar Road blasts belonged to the Hazara Shia community. It was Pakistan’s worst sectarian attack. Following a three-day protest by Hazara community, the federal government had placed the Balochistan province under the Governor’s rule.

The heart-rending holocaust was of course the most terrible one, though Hazara community has long been under persecution. A columnist in English daily came out with five narratives including the one: “The Punjab-did-it narrative: In uniformed power circles here, the question remains: Why is the LeJ - ‘The Army of Jhang’ - not in the Punjab? Why are there sectarian tensions spilling over in Quetta, Karachi and even Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The answer: The Punjab government may have aligned itself with sectarian elements, or at least reached a ‘truce’ with them, encouraging them to fan out. No evidence is offered for this perspective”. There is a perception that the PML-N has soft corner for the militant organizations, and Rana Sanaullah has connection with Malik Ishaq. Of course, political parties wish to draw a political mileage by discrediting the government so that they can enjoy the support of the religious right in the forthcoming elections.

The question is why the previous provincial government and now the civil administration under the Governor of Balochistan did not take measures to protect the Hazara (Shia) community? Governor Zulfiqar Magsi has blamed the military and agencies for their failure to stop the violence in Balochistan. But one could ask him as to why it did not depute CID and security personnel to go after the savage murderers and dismantle their sleeper cells? On 4th December 2012, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while hearing a petition of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association on the failure of law and order and human rights violations in the province, stated that the Balochistan government had lost its constitutional authority. 

It meant that former chief minister Aslam Raisani had been running the provincial government ineptly and incompetently. In fact, the PPP hierarchy should have replaced Aslam Raisani with some competent and conscientious leader, which could have averted the disasters. It is incomprehensible as to why the PPP leadership waited for more than 4 years to take action against an incompetent CM.

It is unfortunate that at a time when members of security institutions are laying down their lives, they are being blamed by some unconscionable elements either for not doing enough, or for turning a blind eye to the pernicious acts of terrorists. 

One anchorperson and column writer of a renowned media group continues to spew venom against military and agencies. Perhaps, with a view to cover up his cowardice or to show off that he is not scared of anybody including the powerful army, he comes out with cock and bull stories and resorts to illogical discourse and irrelevant references. In his column published on 18th February 2103, he asked Governor of Balochistan as to what action he had taken after the failures of the intelligence agencies. He also demanded of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani as to whose responsibility it was to stop the water tanker carrying one thousand kilogram explosives from entering Quetta? It appears that he does not understand the gravity of the situation, and that Pakistan is fighting a faceless enemy.

Perception has gained currency that Balochistan is in the throes of violence because there are rivaling eyes on the resource-rich province. Apart from India, the US and other big powers do not wish to see Pakistan economically strong and politically stable so that they can exert pressure on Pakistan to do their bidding and advance their agenda. Having that said, the present government has taken two important decisions that will have positive impact on the future of Pakistan. One is the decision to go ahead with Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline despite the pressure from the US, and the other one is handing over the operations of the Gwadar Port to Chinese Port Authority. The PPP-led government has drawn flak from the opposition as well from the general public for its failure to deliver; however it has done a few good things during its tenure, and these two will go down in the history as its prodigious achievement.

After imposing Governor’s rule in Balochistan, JUI-F’s Maulana Sherani tried to give a twist to the whole affair. In a news conference he said that the provincial government was punished for resisting pressure from certain quarters on the Reko Diq project, adding “The security situation has been fluid for quite some time - and it was used as a pretext to dismiss the Nawab Aslam Raisani-led government”. 

In Balochistan, the PPP and the JUI-F seems to be working on a game plan, where Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) group aspires for the slot of leader of the opposition to be a part of the process of nomination of care-taker setup. Two weeks ago, a delegation of JUI-F led by Senator Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri had met Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at Prime Minister’s House and stressed the need for lifting Governor’s Rule in Balochistan and formally convene the assembly to elect a new leader of the house in Balochistan Assembly. It appears that JUI-F would get a slot of the Leader of the Opposition, which will augur well for the province.
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By Mohammad Jamil

(The writer is a senior free journalist)
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