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جمعرات، 21 فروری، 2013

Quetta massacre & thereafter

The continued attacks rocking Quetta point towards two corollaries; first is that the Shia community now seems disposed to arming themselves for their own security, and secondly the overall impact this senseless bloodshed registers on the separatist sentiment in Balochistan. Time is of essence.

Hazaras in Quetta have once again been targeted by anti state elements who demonstrated their beastly and shameful act of brutality, killing innocent and peace loving people of Shia community including women and children.

The Saturday attack on Hazara Town in Quetta is another sign of the failure and inefficiency of the agencies and the provincial as well as federal government. The murder of 90 plus innocent Hazara community people and wounding of almost two hundred for which LeJ has claimed responsibility despite the fact that Balochistan was under governor’s rule is a clear message of incompetence and negligence. Within something like a month the Hazaras of Quetta have lost over 200 members of their community. We all remember the heart breaking sights of them sitting in the streets with the bodies of their unburied loved ones in the arms demanding security of life for peaceful citizen. Only a couple of weeks later the same thing has happened again and more people died. Now we will be facing the same situation with the bodies of the slain displayed in the streets of Quetta.

The insanity prevailing in Pakistan over exterminating Shias comprising 20 percent of the population is an indication of a decaying nation. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claiming responsibility for the attacks, are not being apprehended, including its leader Malik Ishaq, who after serving 14 years in what would be a comfortable jail is basking in the sun and not even being questioned about his group’s activities. Arresting 170 suspects for their involvement in the February 16 genocide of Shias in Quetta is already being seen by some quarters as just responding to the pressure by going through the motions. However, even if one accepts the attempt as genuine, the question follows, why did it take the government so long to do even this much? The relatives of the martyrs of Hazara Town blast had refused to bury their loved ones unless Quetta was handed over to the army and a targeted operation was carried out against the perpetrators. Though giving the army the mandate to restore law and order in the province was not entertained, an operation against the criminals was immediately initiated on the instructions of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Four accused were killed in an overnight raid, while seven alleged hardcore jihadis were arrested. According to the police report, those who were killed included the mastermind of both the Alamdar and Kinari Road attacks. The operation had initially failed to sooth the wounds of the Hazaras, who were reluctant to bury their relatives unless the army was called in, yet they lowered the bodies of their martyred into the ground with the hope that their blood would not go waste. One truly desires from the government that this hope would not be allowed to turn into despair once again. The arrest of the alleged culprits indicates that the law enforcement agencies are capable of doing their job. It could also show that supported by political will, they could deliver results as well.

It is this political will that has come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the case on the suo motu notice it had taken on the killing of the Hazara Shias. The report presented in the court by the ISI chief that failed to impress the judges, had laid the entire burden on the civilian administration that according to the report had failed to maintain law and order in Balochistan. To the judges it was the absence of the collective effort required from the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies that mattered. The officers of a country plunged in terrorism cannot get away with shifting blame. It is in this very context that the SC had gone as far as indicating the possibility of summoning the PM to the court if the defence and interior ministries fail to reveal where the problem lies. How could the raw material of a high intensity explosive pass through security checks from Lahore to play havoc in Hazara Town, Quetta, is a question worth asking. Even in normal circumstances such security lapses cannot be tolerated, but especially in today’s Pakistan, which is literally burning.

Parliament is all set to quiz the chiefs of the intelligence agencies next week to find out the reasons for their laxity. This joint sitting of parliament should be made an occasion for soul searching. The result of this sitting should be an admission of the failure of all those who have been entrusted the job of preserving the lives and property of the citizens. If Rehman Malik had been confident that there would be multiple blasts in the country, as he is reported to have said, why was no action taken on this intelligence? People deserve answers to these questions. And it is in these answers that the recipe for Pakistan’s stability lies. 
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