LAHORE: The eruption of sectarian violence just as Ramazan commenced has shaken the entire country.
The worst incident took place in Quetta where 18 people were killed in just 14 hours, while another man was shot dead in southern Punjab. Both incidents were allegedly aimed at avenging the death of two Deobandi leaders, killed earlier in Quetta.
On July 30, gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in Quetta, killing 11 Shias, including a woman, and wounding another three in a suspected sectarian attack.
“The vehicle was passing by a bus stand when gunmen in a car opened fire killing at least 11 people and wounding three,” police officials had said. Police officials said that the incident was sectarian in outlook because all of the deceased belonged to the Shia community.
The attack came a day after seven people were killed and 25 were injured in two separate bomb and gun attacks in two districts of Balochistan.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Inspector-General Balochistan Police Rao Amin Hashim, however, said that in both incidents four Sunni people from Punjab, and another Sunni Iranian citizen, were also killed. He said a prominent Deobandi leader was killed a day before the incident. The first leader was killed about a month ago.
He added that a massive clean-up operation had been launched with the help of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and around 200 suspects had been detained. He claimed that for the first time in Balochistan police’s history, Saryab Road had been raided with the help of FC personnel.
Another senior police official claimed that incidents of sectarian violence increased before Ramazan in the same way they did before Muharram.
A local journalist said these acts specifically targeted the Hazara community. He claimed that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) spokesperson Ali Sher Haidri had claimed responsibility for various incidents.
More sectarian killings
In another incident, a Shia activist was shot dead while another was critically injured in the 14 Pul area in Khanewal district on the night of July 31.
The vice-president of the Shia Ulema Council, Punjab, Fida Hussain Ghalvi, condemned the incident, terming it sectarian violence. He urged the government to ensure the early arrest of killers, besides calling for provision of adequate security to the Shia community.
He said that three Shias had been injured as a bomb went off prematurely on the Peeran Ghaib Road in Multan, on the morning of July 18. He said the two bombs had been planted to target prominent Shia leaders who were expected to arrive there to attend a gathering. Only one bomb had exploded. He said the incidents were directly connected with the release of “dangerous terrorists belonging to banned outfits such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and LeJ”. He claimed that more incidents of sectarian violence were expected.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.