For the fourth time this year, terrorists have struck in Lahore, claiming 31 lives, as a procession held to mark the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (RA) was attacked. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for unleashing the suicide bombers who struck in quick succession, just as the traditional event observed by Shia Muslims drew to a close. It is obvious that the killing represented a continuation of the terrible sectarianism that has taken over our country. It must be noted that at least two of the previous attacks in Lahore since March this year have been ‘religious’ in nature, with 80 Ahmadis slaughtered in the worst act of terrorism and a separate assault staged at the Data Darbar shrine less than two months ago. The extremist Sunni groups which had unleashed horror in the Punjab in the 1990s have returned — and assumed the ability to create even more havoc.
Is there a reason for this? We can quite safely conclude that the failure of over more than a decade to act against these forces has created the situation we see today. The Punjab government must explain the reasons for its lack of action; indeed the PML-N should look back to its tenures in power in the 1990s and ask to what extent the seeds of disaster were sown then.
The onslaught against Shia Muslims — in Karachi, in Gilgit, in Lahore and elsewhere represents an enormous danger. The division of society into so many fragments acts to weaken it and prevent the cohesion we need. The failure to prevent terrorists from striking where and when they please is also sparking uncontrollable rage. We saw it after the Data Darbar attacks when people went on the rampage. We saw it again after the latest bombings as a police station on the Mall Road was attacked and vehicles were damaged by furious members of the procession. Others too share the same anger; most people in the country respect the beliefs of others. It is the authorities who must demonstrate they do so too by pre-empting attacks and preventing the massacre of minority sects.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2010.