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Pakistan: Endless stream of targetted killings of Hazara Shias - editorials in Pakistan press

19 February 2013

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The Daily Times - 19 February 2013

The Shia genocide

After the horrendous bomb attack in Quetta on Shia Hazaras on Saturday, there is little doubt left in the hearts and minds of all Pakistanis that we are now facing genocide in Pakistan where 20 percent of the population is being targeted for its faith. The attack was once again claimed by banned Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which seems to relish the deaths of more than 80 Shias in one swoop. The helpless relatives of those who died at the hands of these radical savages have, once again, taken their protest to the highest authorities in the government, refusing to bury the corpses of their loved ones unless action is taken. The Hazaras held a demonstration like this previously after the January 10, 2013 bombing, which killed some 100 people. Their demands were met to some extent when the incompetent provincial government was replaced by Governor’s rule but, if this latest episode is anything to go by, nothing seems to have changed in the restive province of Balochistan. The Hazaras seem to have understood this and are now demanding that Governor’s rule be replaced by a military takeover so that the culprits are arrested. Whilst one understands their frustration and anger, one feels compelled to caution this extremely vulnerable and heartbroken minority.

When Governor’s rule was imposed about a month ago, the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) was given police powers, but that has not helped either. What is more, the FC is strongly suspected of being a major player in the violence that has plagued the province, accused by many as having a huge role in the missing persons matter. Far from being part of the solution, this demand for an army takeover may turn out to be part of the problem. Where do the Hazaras turn? So far, the federal government, which now is in charge in the province after the imposition of Governor’s rule, has proved its negligence when it comes to addressing this issue. The federal government must get its head out of the sand to prove that it is not totally powerless. The government must start ensuring that the intelligence agencies start doing their job. In a small city like Quetta, how can no one know what is going on? To prove that the sectarian monster is not confined to the Hazaras alone, a renowned doctor, Dr Haider Ali, and his 11 year-old son were shot dead in Lahore on Monday morning in what appears to be another sectarian killing. The doctor was Shia. This is a steady genocide, and to ignore it and stay silent is a crime in itself.

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Dawn - 19 February 2013

Editorial: Disturbing questions

WITH each attack on Balochistan’s Hazara Shias, it becomes harder to understand why those responsible continue to get away with their agenda of wiping out the community. Who carries out the attacks, and where they are based — in and around Quetta and Mastung, the home base of former chief minister Aslam Raisani — is publicly known. The madressahs that have mushroomed in these areas since the spread of extremist religious ideologies to the province exist in plain sight. And the attacks on Hazaras take place in certain areas and have demonstrated speci-fic patterns. So why the continuing intelligence failure? There are the straightforward explanations: that even if security agencies know which groups are responsible, it is hard to track them as they move around to avoid capture. That it isn’t possible to completely guard all civilian areas against attacks at all times. And that intelligence-sharing between agencies isn’t happening. The military intelligence agencies are better equipped and informed than civilian and police agencies, but poor coordination means that information isn’t used effectively.

But then there are the more sinister explanations, and the longer Hazaras continue to get killed, the more strength these will gain. Baloch nationalists claim that the state is using — and therefore patronising — anti-Shia groups to fight them. According to that narrative, Sunni extremism is foreign to the secular nature of Baloch politics and has been cultivated for a purpose, so that in Balochistan these militants are not the anti-state elements they are elsewhere in the country. Here they are a tool, and in the state’s calculation, using them has the inconvenient but accepted side effect of sectarian conflict. As attacks continue unabated, this theory is gaining currency. Locals point out that the base of anti-Shia ideology in the province is in the former chief minister’s stronghold in an area with a heavy Frontier Corps presence; or that two of the leaders of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Balochistan faction escaped a high-security prison in Quetta’s cantonment area; or that some pro-state Baloch groups have links to Sunni extremism.

Official denials will at this point not be enough. Only tough action to stop the attacks will. In part this is for historical reasons; though there are signs the state may be moving away from its earlier policy of supporting certain militants elsewhere in the country, memories of support for ‘useful’ militants still linger. And in the case of Balochistan, continued failure to do something about an obvious problem is reviving them. Is Balochistan’s sectarian problem an intelligence failure? Or is it deliberate negligence? Unless something changes on the ground, those questions will continue to be asked.

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The Express Tribune - 18 February 2013

Editorial : How many more deaths?

People gather after a bomb targeting Shia Muslims exploded in busy market in Hazara town, an area dominated by Shias on the outskirts of Quetta, on February 16, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

The focus of our counter-terrorism debate has always been the TTP and its base of operations in the tribal areas. Far less attention is paid to the other militant groups that are terrorising the country and as a consequence they are able to operate without hindrance. The February 16 bombing in Quetta, which targeted the Hazara Shia community and killed 80, should hopefully end the silence. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack, as they have for many dozens of previous attacks against Shias. This outfit is on a mission to eradicate the Shia community and yet the state is unwilling to take action. The LeJ operates freely throughout the country and its leaders address rallies without worry.

The Shia community, meanwhile, has to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity.

There was a time when the military financially and diplomatically supported anti-Shia militant organisations because they were willing to send people to fight in Kashmir. That policy turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and was even officially disavowed by Pervez Musharraf. These groups may no longer fight in Kashmir but are still waging war against Shias. And yet their former patrons either continue to support them or remain silent about their atrocities. False accusations are flung around, accusing the Shias of being more loyal to Iran than their own country and this is then used as a pretext to justify their killings. At the same time, no one seems to care that these anti-Shia terrorist groups are possibly receiving funding from another foreign country – Saudi Arabia.

The last time there was a heinous attack on the Hazara community, a series of inspiring sit-ins around the country sent out the message that we will not stay silent any longer. As heartening as these shows of solidarity were, they will never be sufficient on their own. Only the state has the power and ability to tackle extremist groups. The solution requires a blend of intelligence work, military action and better law enforcement. It is just the will that seems to be lacking. Until the gravity of the situation is recognised, Shias will continue to be slaughtered and the groups targeting them will become even more powerful and untouchable.