It could have been just another ordinary patient arriving at an eye clinic for treatment.
Abdul Rauf, a 20-something resident of Badami Bagh Lahore, took his father to Dr. Ali Haider’s clinic. A delay at the clinic ticked him off to such an extent that he planned to kill Dr Ali Haider. A few days later, Abdul Rauf and accomplices murdered Dr Haider and his 11-year old son near the entrance of F.C. College.
But this is not the complete story.
Abdul Rauf was driven by sectarian hatred. The realisation that the very eye doctor he brought his father for treatment to was a Shia, blinded Abdul Rauf with sectarian rage. So strong was the hatred that the attackers did not spare the 11-year old Murtaza, who was being driven to school by his father.
The Punjab Police has recently arrested the gang responsible for 16 sectarian murders and several other attempts on life, of mostly Shia professionals in Lahore. Journalist Raza Rumi, who survived the attack in which his driver died, was targeted by the same gang that killed Dr. Haider and his son. The six-member gang has ties to the usual suspects of sectarian warfare in Punjab.
While their arrest is being celebrated, the jubilations may be premature. Hardly any sectarian murderer has ever been convicted in Pakistan. Like the sectarian head honchos who have escaped justice over the decades, these foot soldiers brainwashed to perform fasaad fi sabeel-lillah are likely to be set free over time.
While the sectarian warfare against Shias, Christians and Qadianis has intensified in Punjab, the leadership appears apathetic to the harrowing prospects faced by religious and other minorities.
Speaking to the BBC, PTI chief Imran Khan, recently claimed that negotiations with the Taliban had already delivered unprecedented peace in Pakistan. Mr. Khan believes that terrorist incidents have declined significantly within the country.
There are, however, two problems with Mr. Khan’s statement.
First, it is not necessarily accurate. But more importantly, if negotiations with the Taliban are indeed behind the decline in terrorist attacks against the civilians, then it proves the point that the Taliban are responsible for the wanton murder of civilians in Pakistan.
The latest statistics maintained by the India-based South Asia Terrorism Portal reveal that there has been a decline in civilian deaths in terrorist attacks (see the following chart). For instance, 236 civilians died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan in January, 214 compared to 414 in January 2013. The same is true for the respective statistics for February and March. The greatest decline though is recorded for April, where 116 civilians lost their lives in terrorist attacks in April 2014 compared to 230 in April 2013.
The above illustration indeed confirms a decline in terrorist related bloodletting. However, has it reached such small numbers that Mr. Khan and others could claim ‘mission accomplished.’ The death of 116 civilians, 20 security personnel and 130 alleged militants in April 2014 alone does not give the impression of a place filled with peace and harmony.
While the number of attacks and the resulting casualties are declining, the regional focus of terrorist targets is also evolving. The per cent of total terrorist attacks targeted at Sindh and Balochistan have remained largely stable since 2012. However, the per cent of attacks targeted at KPK and Punjab has increased significantly in the past two years (see the graph below).
In 2012, for instance, only two per cent of the total civilian deaths in terrorist violence were recorded in Punjab. By 2014, that share jumped to seven per cent in Punjab. Similarly, the number of civilian deaths in the settled parts of KPK accounted for 12 per cent of the total civilian deaths in Pakistan. That number jumped to 22 per cent in 2014. At the same time, the share of civilian deaths in Fata declined from 18 per cent of the total in 2012 to five per cent in 2014.
Abdul Rauf of Badami Bagh, Lahore and hundreds of other self-confessed sectarian murderers are no longer faceless criminals beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies.
These extremists though are beyond the ability of the judicial system to convict them for their crimes. These men have chosen the road of death and destruction in the name of God.
They will not stop until every institution of the State together confronts the threat of extremist violence in Pakistan.