Pakistan faces growing anger over sectarian bombings

Published: February 17, 2013
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Pakistani Shiite Muslims demonstrate following yesterday's bomb attack in Quetta. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistani Shiite Muslims demonstrate following yesterday's bomb attack in Quetta. PHOTO: AFP

QUETTA: Pakistan’s unpopular government, which is gearing up for elections expected within months, faced growing anger on Sunday  for failing to deliver stability after a sectarian bombing in the city of Quetta killed 81 people.

The country’s leaders have done little to contain hardliners which have stepped up a campaign of bombings and assassinations of minority Shias.

On Saturday, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), seen as the most ruthless sectarian group, claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta, which deepened suspicions among Shias that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were turning a blind eye to the bloodshed or even supporting extremists.

“The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces,” Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, governor of Balochistan province, said while touring a hospital.

Leaders of the ethnic Shia Hazara community called on the government to take decisive action, and Pakistanis warned that sectarian violence was spiraling out of control.

“The government is responsible for terrorist attacks and killings in the Hazara community because its security forces have not conducted operations against extremist groups,” said Aziz Hazara, vice president of the Hazara Democratic Party.

“We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of our people and after that we will launch strong protests.”

The death toll from Saturday’s bombing rose overnight, with most of the casualties in the main bazaar  of the town, capital of Balochistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

Most of the dead were Hazaras. A senior security official said the figure could rise as 20 people were critically wounded.

On Sunday, people searched for survivors under blocks of cement torn off buildings by the blast. A large blood stain could be seen on a wall near the site.

Many shops and bazaars were closed. Relatives of the wounded responded for an appeal for blood made by hospitals.

“The government knows exactly who is doing what and who is behind all this,” said Mohammad Imran, a local trader. “If the government wants (to prevent it), no one can take even a kitchen knife into any market.”

In the capital Islamabad, about 400 people staged a protest demanding the government to stamp out extremism.

“There is a law of the jungle, but in this country I think there is not even a law of the jungle,” said Syed Abbas Naqvi, a Shia.

“A person who is extremely helpless, vulnerable and powerless is always made the target of barbarity whereas all brutal people like the terrorists, Taliban and others who carry out these merciless acts, roam free all over the country.”

Protests were also held in other cities, including the  commercial capital Karachi, and in Quetta.

Poverty, corruption, power cuts

Public anger has been growing over a host of other issues in the run-up to elections, from widespread poverty to power cuts to corruption. But waves of major  sectarian attacks have highlighted its poor track record on security.

Critics say Pakistan’s intelligence agencies previously supported groups like LeJ to fight against Indian forces in Kashmir and failed subsequently to control them.

Now Shias in Quetta and other cities say they are under siege. “We have grown tired of picking up the bodies of our loved ones,” said Nasir Ali, 45, a government employee. “I have lost three family members so far in such blasts.”

LeJ has also said it was behind a bombing last month in Quetta which killed nearly 100 people, one of Pakistan’s worst sectarian attacks.

After that incident, Shia leaders called on Pakistan’s military to take over security in Quetta and take on the LeJ.

Sectarian violence is piling pressure on the US backed administration, which already faces a Taliban insurgency, to ensure stability.

“Unless we decide to unite, we will continue to get killed, said Malik Afzal, a Sunni student. “Today they (Shias) have died. Tomorrow we (Sunnis) will  die. The next day, others will get killed.”

Pakistani intelligence officials say extremist groups, led by LeJ, want to destabilise the nation through sectarian violence and pave the way for a Sunni theocracy.

More than 400 Shias were killed in Pakistan last year, many by hitmen or bombs.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • CK
    Feb 17, 2013 - 6:30PM

    Despite being in government for 5 years, our leaders have made it a habit of blaming everything that goes wrong on either their opponents, previous governments, failure of intelligence or law enforcement agencies and “foreign hands”. This government has completed wrecked Pakistan’s economy and its minorities. Sectarianism has reached new levels and our leaders are busy buying properties and sending their children abroad.

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  • Mika
    Feb 17, 2013 - 6:36PM

    We can thank democracy for not maintaining law and order.

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  • holy me
    Feb 17, 2013 - 6:52PM

    This is the WORST GOVERNMENT in the HISTORY OF PAKISTAN!

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  • Saleem
    Feb 17, 2013 - 6:54PM

    This should be treated as genocide and those in power including the generals should be dragged into the international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

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  • ASQ
    Feb 17, 2013 - 7:05PM

    @Mika:
    also thank our security establishment for creating this monster of extremism.

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  • Eddie dex
    Feb 17, 2013 - 7:28PM

    Why not blame the real source of this problem…the radical mullahs who promote sectarian violence…any mullah who uses religion to brainwash bombers into killing other Muslims should be arrested…stop wasting time prosecuting people for blasphemy accusations…start prosecuting those who incite violence in the name of religion…they are the real enemy and a threat to Islam!

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  • Haris Chaudhry
    Feb 17, 2013 - 7:32PM

    Unless our khakis divorce strategic assets and go after these blood hungry and mentally deranged hounds with full force, we will keep seeing the blood of innocents on our streets and perhaps only wake up from the slumber when these victimised and hapless community demand separation !

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  • mazharuddin
    Feb 17, 2013 - 7:37PM

    This is one sided picture. In Karachi large number of Sunni’s are dying in sectarian targeted killing. This is also painful that in revenge of Quetta killing Sunnis in Karachi and other cities are being targeted, buses are burnt, several places shops were forced to close. There need an honest inquiry. There was several times drawn attention in this respect through comments in national and international news papers to address root causes of such hatred and killing. But unfortunately no religious scholar and political leaders as well as writers and neither ruling coalition parties pay any heed in this respect. A criminal negligence by all as since about thousand years this killing is continued why not search any solution. There is need to cease such religious activities that spread hatred, media should avoid giving freedom to any group and others should not be deprived of their freedom of expression. What all responsible authorities are doing? All factions target killing should be taken serious and the culprits be brought to justice. Stress should be given for all killing not only one sided killing as this would be an injustice and crime.

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  • Saeed
    Feb 17, 2013 - 7:55PM

    Where is the voice of that great human rights crusader Asma Jehangir.?

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  • Feb 17, 2013 - 8:08PM

    So where is the great Imran Khan and his minion Sh Rashid?

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  • mahakaalchakra
    Feb 17, 2013 - 8:12PM

    @holy me:

    Were you born after 1960 who didn’t know about the genocide of 1971?

    If born after 1960, did you read the history of pre-1971 Pakistan?

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  • maheen shaikh
    Feb 17, 2013 - 8:28PM

    PROTEST and the nation will stand with u like it did 40 days ago

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  • pankaj
    Feb 17, 2013 - 9:01PM

    shias should look for asylum in some other countries like hindus seeking in India… this is I’m writing with full sincerity… RIP

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  • shadab
    Feb 17, 2013 - 9:26PM

    Pakistan is a failed stated because there is no security, no police no government and terrorist doing what they like. Now the country after it’s failed status, it looks it is heading to dis-integrate soon. A country cannot be strong by flying missiles frequently where as no law and order inside the country and surity for life for everyone because terrorist are doing at their will.

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  • weird
    Feb 17, 2013 - 10:27PM

    Not sure whether Times of India copying your article , or ET copying them or both of them are in same hands and interests :P

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-faces-growing-anger-over-sectarian-attacks-against-Shias/articleshow/18545692.cms

    not a single paper saying that it is a planned game of spreading anarchy same like what happened in Iraq

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  • gp65
    Feb 17, 2013 - 10:35PM

    @Saeed: “Where is the voice of that great human rights crusader Asma Jehangir.?”

    She is one of the few people who was speaking about Balochistan long before it became fashionable to do so. Same with other minorities also. You may blame her for other things – not for supporting sectarianism.

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  • SHADI
    Feb 17, 2013 - 10:39PM

    @ MIKA your attitude for blaming the current govenment is sickening, it was, is and always has been our security forces feeding these secretarian elements and till now you are unable to see the truth! wake up man!

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  • almaas
    Feb 17, 2013 - 10:45PM

    @mazharuddin:

    Oh shut up don’t defend those who have done this by referring to attacks on Sunnis in Karachi. They are nothing compared to this these people are being slaughtered for the mere reason that they are a minority. The government and army have both failed and its beyond me why these people don’t have a stronger independence movement. Time the people stopped blaming and then going and voting for the same old politicians. We need change now !!!!!!!!

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  • confused
    Feb 17, 2013 - 10:46PM

    I agree with Mr Magsi, this is no doubt a failure of our security agencies and establishment. They have failed us in Karachi too by not taking any action against PAC & TTP terrorsits in Lyari, Orangi Town, Malir, Kemari, Shershah, Al-Asif Square & Sohrab Goth! Blaming Rehman Malik for everything is living in fools paradise when you know where the actual problem lies. Arming the wrong people to gain unlawful momentary advantage will always result in future chaos

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  • Syed
    Feb 17, 2013 - 11:01PM

    Make Pakistan secular please!

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  • Feb 17, 2013 - 11:18PM

    @Mika: “We can thank democracy for not maintaining law and order”

    I would like to substitute the word “democracy” to ” extreme religious mindset” which believe themselves as righteous and thinks Shias wrong and wazib ul qatl

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  • Ehsan
    Feb 17, 2013 - 11:31PM

    I have said this before and I will say this again, the group responsible for this act of terror is “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi”, which is openly operating in Pakistan. They even have strong political connection to the country’s top political parties. Surprisingly, there is no media coverage of this group, or its members who roam the country openly.

    I feel sorry to say this being a Pakistani but this is “state-sponsored terrorism” !Recommend

  • goggi
    Feb 17, 2013 - 11:38PM

    Only mentally retarded people are capable of such heinous violence, either actively or passively. The current anarchy and civil war conditions in Pakistan has in the meantime a 66 years long learning curve which cannot be revoked in any way.

    Pakistani society had already started falling apart after its creation, among other reasons, due to this age-old conflict of sunnis and shias as well. As a small boy I use to witness every year sunni-shia-fasad in front of our grandmother´s house near “Uchi Masjid” inside Bhatti Gate. Mercifully those days they used only fists to hit each other and today they use weapons of mass destruction!

    When everyday killing of humans become a national drug?????????

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  • Kaspar
    Feb 18, 2013 - 12:01AM

    The people who sit tight on Shia killings “becasue they are not Shia,” must remmeber the famous poem by an anonymous writer during the Nazi rule in Germany. “I did not speak up…” whose last line was, “When they came for me, there was nobody left to speak for me.”
    There is a saying that when you begin something, think of the end. When they armed zealots in the name of jihad against the Soviet Union in AFghanistan, in association with the CIA, they should have thought what would happen when the guns of these mujahids are turned against Pakistan. The tragedy is that our rulers have still not woken up from their slumber, or they think they are too clever when they take no serious action against the militants. Now they are more worried about the presence of US troops in Afghanistan than they are about the brutal killings carried out about these militants, which include a number of foreign nationals as well. There is still time to take them head-on, or negotiate with them to bring them out of their hideouts and into mainstream politics, so that they some to know what they are worth! The trouble, however, is that corrupt politicians and religious militants are two sides of the same coin!

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  • Muhammad Imran
    Feb 18, 2013 - 12:25AM

    Pankaj…. Pakistani president is Shia so as the Speaker of Assembly..

    Give your advice to your Indian muslims who are treated as second class citizens, where even celebrities have to prove their loyalty to India.

    this is I’m writing with full sincerity

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  • Zia
    Feb 18, 2013 - 1:41AM

    No Humen should be killed…stop it!!

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Feb 18, 2013 - 1:59AM

    History of Pakistan 101:
    1947: Two nation theory,
    2017: Two Sect theory,
    2047: Two Sex theory (Under Taliban regime).

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  • Feb 18, 2013 - 3:16AM

    These Mullahs are destroying Pakistan from within

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  • Hello
    Feb 18, 2013 - 4:02AM

    @Muhammad Imran – if he/she were treated as second class citizens, how did they become a celebrity? Think before you write…

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  • Sohaib Ahmed
    Feb 18, 2013 - 5:34AM

    We cannot stop Shia killings until we stop hate factories which are spreading hate, terror and extremism day and night. here is my take on the shia killings in quetta. Hate is the reason http://stopextremism.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/hate-is-the-reason/Recommend

  • Muhammad Imran
    Feb 18, 2013 - 12:21PM

    Hello….. Instead of coming up with a sensible acceptance, you came up with counter question. This is just great, anyway Shahrukh Khan and Javed Akhter have been saying this so those who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones..

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  • Jeet
    Feb 18, 2013 - 9:07PM

    Pakistan should be divided into two regions. In one part secular, progressive, educated, liberal and minorities should be allowed to live. The other portion will belong to backward, gloomy, uneducated, mentally ill, suicidal, and depressed fanatics will live. The bad land people will turn on each other and will blast each other to complete annihilation. The good land people will then take over the empty bad land. These illiterate fanatics will take the whole Pakistan down with them if the present course continue. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s prediction about Pakistan in 1946 is sadly becoming true. This is the time for liberals to take charge and save the country from total collapse.

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