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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pakistan looks the other way as extremists glory in murder

Syed Fazl-e-Haider
Dec 9, 2012

The surge in sectarian violence in Pakistan is a symptom of the growing influence of the Taliban across the country. It has been a consistent strategy of Taliban groups: when they target an area, they first attack sectarian minorities.

Taliban militants have stepped up attacks against Shiites across the country from Gilgit-Baltistan in the north to Balochistan in the south-west. In particular, in Balochistan the violence against the Hazara Shiite community has been intensive and indiscriminate. All of the sectarian attacks on Hazaras in recent weeks have been claimed by Sunni militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has officially been banned by Islamabad.

The group is part of a loose-knit extremist network, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP's leader, maintains ties to Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Sunni extremist groups including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The US has offered $5 million (Dh18.4 million) reward for information leading to the arrest of Mehsud, who has survived several US drone attacks since 2010.

Before the September 11 attacks in 2001, Pakistan's military had extensive ties with religious extremist groups, including organisations such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed. For the most part, however, security forces severed relations with the extremists after September 11 and took a U-turn in Afghan policy.

Under pressure from the US, then-president Pervez Musharraf announced that lashkars (armed forces) would be banned, including extremist organisations such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

But what we see on the ground today reflects on the state's de facto tolerance of these banned extremist groups. Although Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has officially been outlawed, it is fully operational and carrying out its terrorist operations across the country. The government has so far failed to protect Shia communities, particularly those of the Hazara, which have been labelled as infidels by the Sunni extremists...Continue Reading.... 

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