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India-Pakistan
Sectarian menace
2012-03-02
[Dawn] TUESDAY'S brutal sectarian massacre on the Karakoram Highway in a remote part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's
... formerly NWFP, still Terrorism Central...
Kohistan
...a backwoods district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa distinguished by being even more rustic than is the norm among the local Pashtuns....
district bore a chilling resemblance to the butchery witnessed last year in Mastung, Balochistan
...the Pak province bordering Kandahar and Uruzgun provinces in Afghanistan and Sistan Baluchistan in Iran. Its native Baloch propulation is being displaced by Pashtuns and Punjabis and they aren't happy about it...
. As in the Mastung attack, passengers travelling in a convoy of buses, and comprising mostly Shia pilgrims returning from Iran to Gilgit via Rawalpindi, were pulled out and killed on the basis of their belief by men apparently in army uniform. Kohistan has not witnessed the sectarian bloodletting other parts of Pakistain have, yet it is possible the atrocity was carried out as communal tensions in neighbouring Gilgit-Baltistan spilled over. A few Sunnis were killed in Gilgit recently, and the targeting of passengers may have been a reprisal, with indications that the killers came from Chilas. Though Jandullah has grabbed credit, it is unclear if it is the same group involved in past sectarian attacks in Bloody Karachi
...formerly the capital of Pakistain, now merely its most important port and financial center. It may be the largest city in the world, with a population of 18 million, most of whom hate each other and many of whom are armed and dangerous...
or a new one. Certain names have developed into 'brands', and it is likely that the absence of a central organizational structure has propelled other jihad boy actors to carry out acts of terrorism using the name of more recognisable groups.

Unfortunately, no part of Pakistain is free from the scourge of sectarian terror. While Hazara Shias are routinely murdered in Balochistan, tribal-cum-sectarian violence has become a part of life in Kurram Agency
...home of an intricately interconnected web of poverty, ignorance, and religious fanaticism, where the laws of cause and effect are assumed to be suspended, conveniently located adjacent to Tora Bora...
; Bloody Karachi has witnessed several sectarian attacks; bombings and cycles of sectarian violence also occur in Dera Ismail Khan
... the Pearl of Pashtunistan ...
as well as south and central Punjab. Though the denominational schism has always existed, it took on a very bloody character during the Ziaul Haq regime, especially with the rise of sectarian death squads. Today, sectarian outfits in Pakistain have found common cause with pan-Islamic jihadis, fusing their anti-Shia worldview with a jihad-centric, anti-West outlook, which perhaps explains the heavy sectarian undercurrent in the overall rise of militancy in Pakistain. It is also troubling that overtly sectarian and jihadi concerns are now appearing on the same stage as 'mainstream' religious and right-wing parties, indicating the full acceptance of the former by the latter.

There needs to be greater vigilance where misuse of police and army uniforms is concerned. Also, buses and other vehicles must only be stopped at designated and clearly marked checkpoints and escorted by security forces when transiting 'sensitive' regions. Overall, while communities need to ensure such provocations don't result in escalation and reprisals, it is the state that must do the most by identifying, capturing, prosecuting and punishing those involved in sectarian terrorism. If it fails to do so, the current situation may well give way to wider communal conflict.
Posted by:Fred

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