A case of multi-directional terror
Days after a Baloch terrorist organisation killed two innocent Punjabis in Quetta to “avenge injustice to the Baloch”, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian organisation aligned with Al Qaeda and Taliban, has killed the Shia Hazara leader Hussain Ali Yousafi. In consequence, protesting Hazaras have rampaged in Quetta, damaging property, vowing more if the government didn’t catch the killers. More sectarian mayhem occurred the same day in Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP, when a leader of Sipah Sahaba and a member of the NWFP assembly were targeted with a cycle-bomb, claiming five more lives as collateral damage. The same day, Tehran radio reported that several members of Iran’s border security forces were killed near the Pakistani border in an ambush allegedly set up by elements from inside Pakistan. The ominous observation made in the report was: “Pakistan has become a backyard for rebels and drugs smugglers” and that “Iran could help if Islamabad is not able to secure its side of the boundary”. This looks like the gelling of a new policy of pre-emptive action inside Pakistan by Iran to save its citizens from being killed by Pakistan-based anti-Iran organisations like Jundallah. The “complaint” is of the same order as the protests lodged with Pakistan, vociferously and not so vociferously, by neighbours like Afghanistan, India, China, Uzbekistan and Russia.
Just as an element of Pakhtun nationalism within the Taliban movement is killing people in Afghanistan along with the citizens of Pakistan, Baloch nationalism threatens to cross the border and give Iran a casus belli. Again, the likely reaction from the neighbour will not indict Pakistan directly but plead Pakistan’s incapacity to look after itself to infiltrate Pakistani territory. Therefore those who think in Pakistan that Islamabad has isolated itself by accepting to participate in the war against terrorism led by the United States should look closely at where Pakistan’s multidirectional terrorism is leading it. The development of a common target for the Baloch militants and the Taliban is most frightening. This means that two kinds of terrorisms might pool their resources to challenge the state of Pakistan even more seriously.
Presidential statements about Swat, where the writ of the state disappeared long ago, are hardly credible. Mr Zardari says the Taliban will not be allowed to impose their agenda, as if he leads a consensus within the state to go out and confront the Taliban. The opposite truth is that he is backed by a “unanimous” resolution of Parliament which most Pakistanis think mandates removal of the Pakistan army from the Tribal Areas. The political opposition of the PPP and a section of its allies within the coalition actually believe that the army should return from their operations against the terrorists. The Taliban have in fact imposed their agenda and are ruling vast areas with their rough justice, which they call sharia. Three thousand Taliban warriors in Swat have 20,000 state troopers cowering in bunkers.
Fear of being targeted forces the politicians and the media to focus on other far less critical challenges, like Article 58-2(b) of the Constitution and the restoration of a deposed chief justice. The example in antithesis is the ANP, in the cross-hairs in the NWFP because it articulates its opposition to the terrorists. Isn’t Punjab too within the orbit of the policy of intimidation through sharia? Lahore seized four bombs from three locations in the Lower Mall police limits on Monday, all weighing three to four kilograms and timed to explode. Had they not been discovered, there could have been more bloodshed on a single ill-starred day in Pakistan.
This is not an occasion for routine condemnation and more threats of toppling the government in power. This is the day when Pakistan must take another look at its “national consensus” underpinning its foreign policy. The only way out is for Pakistan to seek a much closer coordination with its neighbours and the global community to survive as a state. (Daily Times)
Bane of sectarian violence
A DEPLORABLE side effect of the communalisation of the state in Pakistan is the sectarian frenzy it has released in the country. Had it not been for the fact that the people by and large still display a spirit of tolerance in their inter-sect dealings, as was seen during the month of Muharram, society could well have been up in flames. It is no coincidence that extremists of all shades who preach jihad and justify violence in the name of religion also call for the destruction of minority sects they believe do not fall within the ambit of Islam. But what needs to be viewed with serious concern is that, as the extremists spread their tentacles all over the country, sectarian incidents are on the rise. The killing of the Hazara Democratic Party chairman in Quetta on Monday is a brutal demonstration of this phenomenon. This comes in the wake of a series of assassinations, bomb attacks on imambargahs, target killings and even self-styled executions in Hangu, Kurram, Karachi and Balochistan. The casualties of the last few months run into hundreds. This undercurrent of sectarian violence has not been addressed the way it should have because it has been masked by the mayhem unleashed by terrorists claiming to be fighting an anti-imperialist war for the imposition of the Sharia or the army’s crackdown on the warring Baloch nationalists.
Apart from causing loss of life — which should be condemned in the strongest terms possible — the evil of sectarianism, if left unchecked, could prove to be the undoing of our already fragmented social and political fabric. As the Quetta incident shows, the community’s angry reaction to the killing of a high-profile leader can be violent and result in the destruction of property and the breakdown of law and order. Thus the fissures widen as a strategy of imposing peace without addressing the root of the problem allows the perpetrators to attack again when the situation permits. What is harrowing is that the avowedly sectarian outfits, many of which mushroomed under the Islamisation policy of Ziaul Haq, have been allowed to flourish even when they are officially banned. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which claimed the killing of the Quetta leader, is one such example of how sectarianism grew blatantly under the benign patronage of the state.
It is a pity that governments of the day, by relying on the crutches of religion, failed to anticipate the outcome of their flawed approach. Sectarianism was inevitable when obscurantists were appeased and given a free rein to preach violence. The need of the hour is that the government cracks down forcefully on banned religious groups before their violence spills into neighbouring states and others compel us to act. (Dawn)