The three blasts, coming within hours of one another, were inevitable. We have known all along that the militants would target Shia mourners during the month of Muharram. It was just a matter of time and no matter how hard the government tried, it was going to be impossible to guard against each and every possible attack. Two of the attacks were at an imambargah in Orangi Town, Karachi, and one at a procession in Rawalpindi. At least 25 people have lost their lives and the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks. No one wants to admit it but it is now undeniable: the various militant sectarian groups operating in the country have more or less declared war on the country’s Shia community.
The government has tried all kinds of unorthodox tactics in trying to prevent these attacks from taking place. It blocked cell phones and banned motorcycles from plying the roads. The problem with such methods, apart from the massive inconvenience they pose to the population, is that they are essentially defensive and reactive. Even if the government is able to stop 10 attacks, there will always be one that slips through the security net. We need the government and, more importantly, the state to go on the offensive in tackling the groups behind the violence. This means banning all groups spreading hate, arresting and trying their leaders and carrying out military operations against those that are involved in the violence. This should be followed up with their prosecution and conviction.
The government also needs to be honest in acknowledging the problem. The interior minister should no longer deny that there is sectarian violence in the country and that there is no “third force” behind this violence. The targeting of members of the Shia community has been continuing for several years now (though, in recent years, it has taken a more virulent form) and yet, we choose to remain in denial. What is worse is that many of the militant outfits involved in the sectarian attacks were at one time or the other ‘strategic assets’ of the state because of the latter’s penchant for fighting proxy wars. When, for instance, the jihad in Kashmir was turned off, these ‘assets’ began focussing their activities at home and the state simply responded by turning a blind eye to everything.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.
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