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Muslim Planet : Who is Killing Pakistan's Shias?

Who is Killing Pakistan's Shias?

In a statement issued on October 23, the UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon has urged the Pakistani government to bring to justice the perpetrators
of recent terrorist attacks on Shia Muslims that killed over 40
people, including several children. The attacks took place in the provinces of
Balochistan and Sindh for which a banned, yet proactive, Sunni extremist group,
the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed responsibility. The Secretary General has reiterated
that nothing justifies terrorism and called upon the Pakistani government "to do
its utmost to protect its citizens, including all minorities."

There is a problem on the government's side when it comes to dealing with
extremist violence. The Sunni groups attack the Shias so frequently that it
takes them only a few more days to stage a renewed assault. That said, every new
incident helps in covering up the previous one no matter how high a death toll
it causes. New attacks enable the police and investigators to close old cases
and pretend to be working on new ones. You must be wondering what the police do
in the meanwhile when there is no fresh attack. Doesn't it build public pressure
on the government? Of course, it does. The government certainly as an effective
plan to deal with such situations: blame the Indians.

Consider this.

Suhail Anwar Siyal, the Home Minister for the Sindh Province, where a suicide
bomber killed around twenty people in Jacobabad district, admitted that the LeJ
had accepted responsibility for the carnage but, in spite of that, he still insisted that it was the Indian intelligence agency,
the Research and Anlysis Wing (RAW), which had "spread across
Sindh". The Minister was reluctant to blame or criticize the LeJ because he
faces a more immediate threat to his safety from the deep-rooted Sunni outfit(s)
than a foreign country. So why risk antagonizing the extremist outfit when it is
safer and convenient to blame a foreign intelligence agency and quickly get
exemption for one's own shortcomings? The minister's role still remains
pertinent because if not he then who else will take action against these

The recent attacks, especially the one in Jacobabad, should not solely be
taken as a continuation of the past attacks on the Shias. It is the harbinger of
a much larger problem that has been brewing for several years and has now come
of age. The rise of militant Islam in Sindh province is deeply disconcerting
given Sindh's rich history of tolerance, diversity and acceptance of different
religions and sects. Unlike the provinces of the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and
Balochistan, Sindh had remained uncompromising to share space with the Taliban
and other militant groups on the land of the Sufi traditions. Sindh is home to
94% of Pakistan's Hindus. Except for Karachi, the province's capital, where
Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups have consolidated their grip in recent years, the rest of the
province provided no sanctuary to religious extremists. But that now seems
history as these armed groups have started attacks outside Karachi in interior
Sindh. That is bad news because Sunni militants do not only increase threats for
the Shias but they also detest moderate Sunni sects and, worse, the Hindus.

In a January 2015 report Conflict Dynamics in Sindh published by the United
States Institute for Peace, authors Huma
Yusuf and Syed Shoaib Hassan warned that extremist organizations were
increasingly active in Sindh's central and northern districts. Sectarian
militant groups and the anti-state Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP) were consolidating their presence in the province in the
rural areas.

"The escalating activities of extremist groups are having an impact on the
province's pluralistic society," they observed and urged Islamabad to "ensure
that the province does not become a new base for militants in the same way that
FATA and southern Punjab are."

A more recent report New Haven of Terrorists published last month by the
Washington -D.C.-based Sindhi Foundation and authored by a veteran credible
journalist, Hassan
Mujtaba, portrays even a more gloomy picture of Sindh. According to the
report, several radical groups, including the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam,
sectarian organizations, such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) have increased
recruitment, donation collection and other activities in Sindh. Better presence
in Sindh for these extremist groups means access to safer sanctuaries and new
rich sources of wealth. In Sindh, they can redouble their resources by attacking
NATO trucks and containers and kidnapping rich Hindu businessmen to extort

Back in July 2009, BBC correspondent Nisar Kokhar had reported about a fifty percent increase in religious schools
in Sindh. These seminaries are generally blamed for churning out Jihadists and
offering them safe hideouts. In that report, one progressive Sindhi activist had
shared his concerns about the future: "I fear the construction of so many
religious schools in Sindh will give birth to a new generation of extremists and
conservatives on the land of the tolerant Sufis."

As luck would have it, those feared days have arrived for Sindh.

The new generation of extremists seems to be absolutely clear about what they
should be doing as their first steps. They have started to attack and destroy
Shrines of many of the Sufis who preached peace and coexistence. According to Zia Ur Rehman of the Lahore-based the Friday Times,
unidentified assailants attacked and burned the shrine of one venerated Sufi,
Hazrat Noor Shah Bukhari, in Mirpurkhas.

After all, who is radicalizing the young Sindhis? How is the Jihadist culture
expanding so rapidly?

Yusuf and Hasan, the authors of the USIP report, provide shocking information
how these extremist groups take advantage of natural disasters, such as the
floods of 2010-11, and pose as humanitarian groups while going there to recruit
fresh fighters. For example, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity organ of the terrorist group,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, they wrote, established 13 relief camps and 6 medical centers
soon after the floods in Sindh in order to win the hearts and minds of the
people. One sectarian group, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama'at (ASWJ) "is currently on a
recruitment drive in Sindh--by some
estimates the groups has signed up
twenty-five thousand members in Sindh outside Karachi in
recent years."

It might sound like a cliché that Pakistan has hard times ahead. The 
Pakistanis have already seen the worst imaginable times while dealing with
violent extremism. Islamabad can't afford to give one last remaining of its four
provinces to the Taliban and sectarian groups. If Sindh falls in the hands of
Sunni extremists, the price the whole country will have to pay is going to be
much higher than what they have paid so far. 
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