Pak-India Corridor Competion—Victory Goes To Side Which Overcomes Terrorist Roadblocks

[SEE:  India-Pakistani Competition Translates Into Competing Economic/Transit Corridors]

cpec BALOCHISTANRAW targeting CPEC, trying to destablise Pakistan: COAS

the nation pakistan

GWADAR: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has reaffirmed Pakistan Army’s resolve to provide security for $46bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and said that completion of the project will not only bring a true economic transformation to Balochistan but country and region as well.

Addressing a seminar on CPEC in Gwadar on Tuesday, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif said that in the place of today’s rugged mountains and lifeless barren deserts, we look forward to the emergence of modern infrastructure, special economic zones, health facilities and universities which will bring enduring benefits for our people.

“CPEC is a lifetime opportunity for Pakistan to improve the socio-economic equation of its [less privileged] areas and populace. I assure the people of Balochistan that it is [them] who will benefit the most from the fruits of this project,” the COAS added.

The army chief explained that the corridor ranged from Western China to the plains and coasts of Pakistan and promised that it will also benefit the country’s “remotest” areas of Gilgit-Baltistan.

General Raheel termed the CPEC as a “grand manifestation” of deep-rooted ties between China and Pakistan. “CPEC is indeed a corridor of peace and prosperity, not only for the people of Pakistan and China but also for the region and beyond,” he said.

The COAS termed transparency and good management as extremely important factors for the sustainability of the project.

“Socio-economic justice resulting from the balanced development will also increase people’s stakes in national unity and cohesion. For our enduring progress and prosperity, this sense of coherence will be our greatest asset,” the army general said.

General Raheel said that the project was being appreciated by world powers who consider it to be a “catalyst of economic transformation of the entire region”.

The COAS, while briefing the seminar about the positives of the project, also discussed the gravity of the prevailing challenges faced by the country with respect to CPEC.

“I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbor, has openly challenged this development initiative. We all know that hostile intelligence agencies are averse to this grand project.

“I would like to make a special reference to Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW, that is blatantly involved in destabilizing Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan,” said General Raheel.

The army chief assured the attendees that the security of CPEC was Pakistan Army’s “national undertaking” and that they will not leave “any stone unturned”. “We will continue to keep a close watch at its every step,” he added.

General Raheel said that a force comprising fifteen thousand men was responsible to secure the project under the ambit of Special Security Division.

“CPEC, besides being at the core of our national resolve, is a reflection of Pakistan-China friendship. It will be truly realized, whatever it takes.”

US Proxy Terrorist Force Executes 13 Punjabi Workers In Balochistan

[As an avid Baloch watcher, over the years I have compiled the following two maps at Google Map, marking countless attacks, most of them linked to the BLA (Baloch Liberation Army).] 

[My good friend Tariq Saeedi, editor of NewsCentralAsia, deserves Pakistan’s gratitude for his extensive investigative reports on the birth of the BLA, which were compiled by a team of international reporters at great personal risk (SEE:  Pakistan: Unveiling the Mystery of Balochistan Insurgency — Part One Pakistan: Unveiling the Mystery of Balochistan Insurgency — Part Two ).

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the BLA has dispatched a force of 200 or more men for a Baloch terrorist operation.  This is very significant, since a renewed BLA offensive on this scale (actually a CIA/RAW operation) means that the Evil Empire is up to something big.  This is a diversionary attack by the forces of Imperialism, intended to distract the gaze of world opinion, while Bandar’s “Plan B” operation gets time to gain control over the Islamist forces in Syria and the Egyptian military takes control of the Muslim Brotherhood.  

The implication of this kind of attack at this time, upon Punjabi workers leaving Balochistan, by Imperialist proxies, is that it was one of those “tickling” attacks that the CIA is so proud of (SEE:  CIA HAS BEEN TICKLING PEOPLE TO DEATH FOR YEARS).  This attack was meant to provoke a retaliatory response from the Punjabi Taliban, a.k.a., TTP.  The timing of the attack also coincides with the announced Aug. 20 hanging date announced by the Pak govt for the first of three Punjabi Taliban (a.k.a., Lashkar e-Jhangvi) at Sukkur Central Prison.]

“The three Lashkar-i-Jhangvi terrorists are Attaullah, to be executed on Aug 20, Mohammad Azam on Aug 21 and Jalal on Aug 22.”

Carnage in Bolan; 13 shot dead

QUETTA, Aug 6:

Gunmen disguised as security personnel killed 11 civilians and two security men after kidnapping them from Punjab-bound passenger coaches near Machh Town in Bolan district, about 80km southeast of here, on Tuesday morning.

“About 200 armed men wearing uniform of Frontier Corps and Levies carried out the attack,” Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said, adding that the militants had lined up the passengers in the mountains before killing them. Most of the victims were Punjabi labourers.

The coaches were coming from Quetta.

The banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the killings.

Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch condemned the killing and directed the authorities concerned to go after the perpetrators.

Officials confirmed the killing of two security personnel and said the other victims were civilians going to their hometowns of Rahimyar Khan, Sadiqabad, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan to celebrate Eid with their families.

According to sources, the militants first attacked an oil tanker carrying fuel for the Pakistan Air Force at a place near Machh town early on Tuesday morning. They engaged personnel of Levies, police and Frontier Corps deployed on the highway for security of vehicular traffic.

In the meantime, armed men set up a fake checkpost and started checking passenger buses coming from Quetta.

They stopped five buses at the checkpost and took away 21 passengers with them to nearby mountains. The sources said the armed men lined up 13 of the passengers after checking their identity cards and gunned them down. They released the other passengers, including six Levies personnel. The 13 bullet-riddled bodies were found in the mountains.

Security forces and local administration officials rushed to the site and the bodies were taken to the Machh District Hospital and later to the Civil Hospital Quetta.

“I brought 13 bodies to the Machh hospital,” Assistant Commissioner Kashif Nabi told Dawn. “The victims were hit from a close range in the head and chest,” sources in the Civil Hospital said. Some of them suffered multiple bullet wounds.

Bolan’s Deputy Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shah said the militants had attacked the oil tanker to engage security forces and set up their ‘checkpoint’ to kidnap passengers. One FC man was killed and the driver of a vehicle injured during an exchange of fire between security forces and the militants.

“Security forces are looking for the militants in the area,” Mr Shah said. Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told reporters that there would be a targeted operation and all resources would be used to capture the killers.

“The operation will cover a vest area,” Zubair Ahmed Kurd, a senior official of the local administration, said.

The 13 victims were identified as Ahmed, Shakeel Ahmed and Mohammad Bakhsh (from Sadiqabad), Mohammad Aslam, Saqib and Hawaldar Arshad (Rahimyar Khan), Shahid (Multan), Shakeel (Dera Ghazi Khan), Abdul Malik (Muzaffargarh), Mohammad Ashraf and Shaukat Ali (Faisalabad) and FC man Safeer Ahmed.

“We are labourers. My relative was going to Alipur village to celebrate Eid with the family but now I am receiving his body,” Mohammad Yousuf said in the Civil Hospital.

“I lost my brother and nephew,” said another man who declined to be identified. He said he worked in an optical shop. “Thanks God my two other relatives are safe, but I lost my bother and nephew.”

A spokesman for the BLA identifying himself as Mirack Baloch said their men had kidnapped and killed 13 people. Calling to journalists from a satellite phone, he said they had killed the passengers after checking their identity. He said 26 people had been kidnapped from different buses and 13 of them, including five Levies personnel, were freed after taking their official weapons.

But according to the officials, eight people escaped when the kidnappers were taking them to the mountains.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the killings and ordered arrest of the perpetrators.

Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai and Senior Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri also condemned the killings and said the elements involved in the inhuman act would be brought to justice.

This was the seventh such incident in Bolan.

 

Quetta Police Serve-Up Eleven Young Patsies

https://i1.wp.com/www.gulf-times.com/NewsImages//2013/3/13/8067ae67-dba0-48ce-bdaf-0399d98b16db.jpg source

Recovered or arrested?: Minors paraded before media

dawn

AS the security situation worsens, the law-enforcement agencies have come under tremendous pressure to not just bring matters under control but also to make arrests. The triumph displayed by the Balochistan police on Wednesday, therefore, was understandable. The pride with which 11 individuals, who, the police say, confessed that they had been involved in planting bombs and triggering blasts, were paraded before news crews and cameras was obvious. According to the Quetta police chief, the enforcers of the law received a tip-off about a militant outfit, the United Baloch Army. Resultantly, a raid was conducted and when the bullets stopped flying, it was found that the militants had escaped, leaving these individuals behind. The police arrested them, and obtained from them accounts of being used to plant and trigger explosives at various locations.

What’s missing from this stellar tale is what the police already know, but that has been given no consideration by either them or the media: these are children, aged between 10 and 17 years and come from poor backgrounds. They are “used by members of the outlawed organisation for their nefarious designs”. And, this being so, they deserved to be treated as children. In these circumstances, they should be seen as having been recovered by the police from the militants’ clutches. It seems these minors have been treated as cannon fodder by militants and law enforcers alike. Where one lured them towards a life of crime, the other clapped them in chains to stand in the media spotlight.

It is a measure of how state and society have themselves been brutalised in the face of brutality. Branded as murderers before a trial has been conducted, the hanging heads of these 11 children constitute a reminder of how callous a place Pakistan has become.

 

Editorial: The Bomber Boys of Quetta

Baloch Hal

Little known for its outstanding performance, the Balochistan Police stunned the world on Wednesday by bringing in front of the media at least 11 young members of a ‘terrorist gang’ that allegedly uses children to carry out bomb blasts in Quetta city. In an impromptu press conference in Quetta, Capital City Police Officer (C.C.P.O.), Zubair Mehmood, said the arrested boys, aged 11 to 18 years, have confessed their involvement in the Mizan Chowk bomb blast on January 1o, 2013 that killed 12 people.

According to the police, a relatively unknown group called the United Baloch Army (U.B.A.), which claimed responsibility for the January bombing in Quetta which ultimately led to the imposition of the governor’s rule in the province, had exploited the poverty and innocence of these children at the time of recruitment.

While this report is deeply shocking and requires the immediate attention, what remains at stake is its authenticity. The Balochistan Police is hardly known for its credibility and professional integrity. It has had a long history of making false and exaggerated claims to divert attention from its actual failures. The police carries out phony encounters and extract confessions by applying torturous methods. In the past, the Pakistani security forces had time and again made similar sensational claims about recovering huge cache of weapons from Baloch tribal and political leaders. How can we be sure that the arrested boys did not make their confessions after facing brutal torture and government intimidation. In other cases, the police have also claimed that so-called commanders of the Baloch armed groups had surrendered their weapons and joined the government. Each time, these cases were dug deeper, they turned out to be ridiculously shallow.

On a positive note, this exposé should pave the way for the international community, particularly for groups like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), to visit Balochistan to independently investigate the true impact of the decade-long conflict on women and children. There is a wealth of information that needs to be collected and distributed with the world how Pakistan’s war on Balochistan has actually plunged children in a state of fear and trauma.

Baloch children have seen rough displacement and harsh military operations in all these years. Hundreds of them have been marching in the streets of Quetta or staging set-ins in front of various press clubs, officials buildings to agitate against the enforced disappearance of their parents and siblings. All these sufferings of the children have been criminally ignored by the Pakistani government and these voices were never heard by the world because government functionaries also kept these children away from the international humanitarian groups and the media.

The C.C.P.O.’s dramatic account of child bombers is also disputed because of some factual inaccuracies.

For instance, the top police officer said Baloch nationalists exploited the poverty of these children. Those who fight in the name of nationalism have hardly cited their material poverty as the major motivation for fighting against Pakistan. Most armed groups and political parties, such as the Baloch National Movement and the Baloch Republican Party, have always said that mineral wealth of Balochistan is a secondary issue. The Baloch nationalists have been fighting for a separate homeland where they become the master of their own decisions, including the owners of their mineral wealth.

There is little material gain involved in encouraging people to become a part of a nationalistic movement. One such example is the group of women and children who have given up everything by sitting in hunger strike camps against enforced disappearances. People like Nasrullah Baloch and Abdul Qadeer Baloch, the chairman and the vice chairman of the Voice for Missing Baloch Persons respectively, could have easily given up their strike camps and gone out to eek out a living instead of fighting for justice. On the contrary, repeated threats and offers of bribe were also made to them by the Pakistani authorities and if they were ever interested, the government would be the first to buy them off.

Also, the  Capital Police Chief said some of the boys who were involved in the child bombings actually worked as garbage collectors. Those who live and work in Quetta know that children who collect garbage in the city are the Afghan refugee boys not Baloch kids. Different non-governmental organizations in Quetta have conducted surveys about the state of the garbage collectors and they agree that very few Baloch children collect garbage in Quetta. If garbage collecting children were easy to recruit then the Taliban would surely benefit from their availability  The truth of the matter is that both Baloch nationalists and Taliban draw  the bulk of their recruits from people who are actually motivated on ideological grounds and firsthand experience of facing injustice or undergoing instead of mere financial attraction.

We do not endorse the use of children for terrorist activities. If the assertions by the Quetta police are correct, Baloch nationalists must immediately abandon such despicable practices no matter how legitimate their political demands are. The mystery of child bombers should be resolved with the help of third party organizations like UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Because Pakistan has had a long history, dating back to the infamous 1970s episode of the recovery of huge cache of weapons from the Iraqi Embassy that Pakistan misleadingly insisted was meant to help the Baloch nationalists. Based on that event, Islamabad dismissed Balochistan’s first ever elected government and unleashed a massive military operation against the Baloch people who have endured a long history of Islamabad’s lies and fabrications.

MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR

Editor-in-Chief 

The Baloch Hal 

Published in The Baloch Hal on March 14, 2013

Allegedly “Unbiased” US Congressman Pushes Break-up of “Vicious, Murderous, Gangster Regime In Pakistan”

US Congressman Rohrabacher demands referendum in Balochistan

dawn

UNPO convened an international conference at The Royal Society, London entitled ‘Global and Regional Security Challenges in South Asia: What Future for Balochistan?’. -Press Release Photo

BRUSSELS: In an effort to shed light on the key role Balochistan plays in South Asia, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) convened a conference entitled “Global and Regional Security Challenges in South Asia: What Future for Balochistan”, which took place at The Royal Society, London on 24 February 2013.

Key speaker at this conference, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, gave a poignant speech urging the right to self-determination for the Baloch people.

The Congressman requested a referendum to be held in Balochistan on the question of independence, which would challenge the claims by Islamabad that the Baloch want to be part of Pakistan.

“As you may know, I have a resolution I submitted following hearings last year. This resolution basically says that the people of Balochistan have a right to control their destinies through the ballot box and we support a referendum for them to decide whether they stay part of Pakistan or not,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it has been American money and American support for a vicious, murderous, gangster regime in Pakistan that has kept this violence and horrendous reality as part of the lives of so many millions of people who live in South Asia,” Rohrabacher said in his speech.

He called for Pakistani officials to be tried for war crimes.

“First and foremost, we have to quit giving any military aid, and I would suggest we should quit giving any aid, to Pakistan who then uses our aid to murder and suppress people like the Baloch people, who are longing to have basic freedoms.

“We have to make sure that the evidence of this is clear to everybody and that the monstrous violence that is being laid upon the people of Balochistan is horrendous, he said.

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY) was also present.

The conference was opened by Marino Busdachin, General Secretary of UNPO, and Paulo Casaca, former MEP and Director of the South Asia Democratic Forum, who denounced above all the Pakistani government’s use of a ferocious ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan.

The first panel, chaired by Noordin Mengal, discussed Balochistan’s role in the world power game.

Athar Hussain, Director of the Asia Research Centre at LSE, Dr. Naseer Dashti, Baloch writer, and Mohammad Ali Talpur, columnist at the Daily Times, addressed issues such as Pakistan’s inability as a state to protect its citizen and the brutality with which it has addressed tensions with Balochistan.

The second panel brought together Burzine Waghmar from the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at SOAS, journalist Anna Reitman, Nasser Boladai, President of the Baluchistan People’s Party, and Hammal Haider Baloch, spokesperson of the Baloch National Movement.

This panel addressed the talibanisation of Balochistan, the rise of islamic radicalism in South Asia, security in Iranian Balochistan, the key role energy and mining resources play in Balochistan, and the influence of Iran, Pakistan, India and China in the region.

The third panel concentrated on Balochistan’s future and the different ways forward, a subject strongly backed by US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

The Congressman stated that Pakistan is not a friend of the United States and of those who believe in peace, prosperity and freedom for the people of the world.

The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud called for a united Baloch front in the struggle against the horrors imposed on the Baloch people by Islamabad.

Tarek Fatah gave a vigorous speech, pointing at the curse of colonialism and the lack of international support to Balochistan, while Pakistan keeps on betraying its international allies.

Prof Joshua Castellino of Middlesex University, spoke about the right to self determination of peoples, and Abubakar Siddique of RFE/RL, addressed issues of enforced disappearances and human rights in Balochistan.

The conference was concluded by Peter Tatchell, political activist and spokesperson for human rights of the Green Party (UK), who outlined his proposals for a way forward for Balochistan, stressing on the importance of forming a united Baloch front capable of convincing the international community.

Noordin Mengal concluded the conference by stating that a sovereign state of Balochistan would not only benefit the Baloch people, but the entire region.

This day-long conference produced the “Conference Declaration on the Restoration of the Rights of the Baloch People in light of Regional and Global Security”.

Hazara Militia Being Formed To Defend Quetta

( Jafria Alliance urges Swat-like operation in Quetta )

Pakistan’s Hazaras to take up arms over attacks

dawn

In this Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 photo, Pakistanis gather at the rubble of a market which was destroyed by a bomb blast on Saturday, February 16, 2013, in Quetta, Pakistan.  — Photo by AP

QUETTA: Ismatullah holds an AK-47 and checks vehicles on the road. “Enough is enough. We have no trust in the security forces any more and we’ll protect our community ourselves,” says the teenage Shia student.

Extremist bombers killed nearly 200 people in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta in the two worst bomb attacks to strike Shia Muslims from the minority Hazara community, just weeks apart on January 10 and February 16.

After each attack, thousands of Hazaras, including women and children, camped out in the bitter cold demanding that the army step in to protect them.

The government brokered an end to the protests, but refused to mobilise the troops.

Outlawed extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility and has threatened to exterminate all Shias. Few believe that dozens of men rounded up after the bomb attacks will ever be brought to justice.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court and rights groups accuse the authorities of failing to protect Hazaras and now young men like 18-year-old Ismatullah are taking up arms to defend themselves and their families.

Ismatullah’s best friend was shot dead last June near Hazara Town. He lost more friends when suicide bombers flattened a snooker hall on January 10 and a massive bomb hidden in a water tanker destroyed a market on February 16.

“I couldn’t control myself when I saw scattered pieces of so many children and women of our community,” said the first year college student.

“Our community is only interested in education and business, but terrorists have forced us to take up whatever arms we have and take to the streets for our own security.”

At the moment they operate as volunteers under the name, Syed-ul-Shohada Scouts, registered as part of the Baluchistan Scouts Association, an affiliate of the worldwide scouting movement.

For years, young men like Ismatullah have volunteered to protect sensitive events, such as religious processions during the holy month of Muharram.

But their chairman says the threat is now so great that they should be paid full time as an auxiliary to government security forces.

“We have around 200 young men who perform security duties on specific occasions, but most of them are students and workers, and can’t work full-time,” said Syed Zaman, chairman of the Hazara Scouts.

“We are trying to make a system to start their salaries for permanent deployment and also coordinate with the security agencies. Hopefully, we will be able to form a regular force… and salaries in a month,” he said.

Scouts president Ghulam Haider said it was a mistake to rely on government security when the first of two suicide bombers struck at the snooker hall in the Alamdar Road neighbourhood.

“It resulted in another bomb blast minutes after the first one and we lost many more people,” Haider told AFP.

“We didn’t want that to happen again, so immediately after the blast on February 16, we armed our youth to man the streets and entry points, which helped to prevent the chances of a second attack,” he claimed.

Hazara Town, where the market was bombed, is very exposed, in the shadow of the Chiltan mountains and near the bypass which links the Afghan border town of Chaman to Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi.

While paramilitary Frontier Corps and police patrol the main approaches, they are not visible inside the neighbourhood.

“Security agencies can’t protect us. They don’t know the area because most of them come from outside Quetta. So we’re planning to set up our own permanent posts inside our areas,” said Haider.

The police, however, have their doubts.

“If we start private policing by arming one particular community, it will set the wrong precedent,” said Fiaz Ahmed Sunbal, head of Quetta police operations.

He claimed police were planning to close entrances to Hazara Town, and would recruit 200 young Hazaras to patrol their own areas.

Haider says closing off roads will isolate the community but welcomed the recruitment of Hazara Scouts as a long-term solution.

Others warn that time is running out.

“If they don’t do anything and something happens again, we will take up guns and go out and kill our opponents. There will be open war,” said 26-year-old shopkeeper Zahid Ali.

Lahore High Court Sets Bail for Shaitan–To Hell With Hazara

[What greater proof could you need that this latest so-called “operation against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi” is just more Pak Army lies (SEE:  Pakistan targets militants, Shiites end protest).   In reality, LeJ, and by extension, all of the “Punjabi-Taliban”, work for Kayani and friends, so why would the govt. of Pakistan seriously interfere with their terroristic plans?  If LeJ is behind all the genocide of Hazara in Pakistan (and everyone knows that it is), then it is actually the Army’s proxy terrorists who are killing all the Shia.   The Hazara of Quetta must not understand or believe this fact, since they have demanded that the Army takeover Quetta.  Until the armies of Sunni murderers of the Saudi/Qatari/CIA terror alliance are stopped, then there will be no safe ground in either Pakistan or Afghanistan for the Shia Hazara.]

Extremist leader Malik Ishaq freed from jail

dawn

The Chief Monster of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Malik Ishaq was released from prison today. -File Photo

LAHORE: Pakistan on Tuesday released the head of a banned extremist group after a court granted him bail, following his arrest on suspicion of inciting sectarian hatred, his lawyer said.

Malik Ishaq, the leader of the feared Lashkar-e-Jhangvi organisation, which is said to have al Qaeda links, was held for making a “provocative” speech earlier this month.

Ishaq has been implicated in dozens of cases, mostly murder, and was accused of masterminding a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded seven players and an assistant coach and killed eight Pakistanis.

“The court has accepted his bail application and later he was freed from jail,” Arif Mehmood Rana, his lawyer told AFP.

Ijaz Shafi Dogar, a senior police officer confirmed to AFP that he was being freed as he was not wanted in any other case.

“He was set free this evening from Kot Lakhpat jail,” Dogar said.

Ishaq was detained over a speech he made at a religious school on August 19 in the wake of a rise in sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is regarded as the most extreme Sunni terror group in Pakistan and is accused of killing hundreds of Shias after its emergence in the early 1990s. -AFP

Hazara killers — supported from Punjab to the Middle East

[SEE:  The Stunning Investigative Story on the Birth of Balochistan Liberation Army]

Hazara killers — supported from Punjab to the Middle East

dawn

 

The February 16 bombing that killed over 90 people and injured more than 160, many of them critically, was the second major attack on Pakistan’s minority Shia Hazaras this year. — AP/File Photo

In the aftermath of the Quetta massacre, the arrests of a few Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants have been looked upon warily as nothing more than a ploy to placate an angry nation.

If there was sincerity and strategic considerations behind this move, however, the headquarters of the Sunni extremist group in Punjab would have been dismantled much earlier.

But with elections approaching, a full-fledged and whole-hearted operation against such militant groups seems highly unlikely, especially in the Punjab, the breeding ground of sectarian militants. This has much to do with the fact that in Punjab, extremist and militant groups have a strong electoral presence.

“I doubt that there will be a real crackdown,” says author and journalist, Zahid Hussain, talking to Dawn.com: “The Punjab government has been looking the other way for too long and pursues the policy of appeasement.” He added that it had even made a covert deal for the release of LeJ leader Malik Ishaq.

Seconding Hussain, defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi added: “The Punjab Government is known for patronising the LeJ and (its predecessor) Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).”

But it’s not only the Punjab government complicit in the inaction against extremist sectarian outfits. The centre hasn’t appeared earnest about the issue either.

Hussain has serious reservations about Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority, for example. The authority was created in 2009 under an executive order. “It remains dormant and a toothless body because the bill has yet to be passed in the National Assembly. There is also the unresolved matter of whether it should fall under the umbrella of the interior ministry when in the original charter, it was to be under the prime minister,” he explains.

And so the scourge of extremism will continue, as was seen last week when terror revisited the Shia Hazaras on Kirani Road in the south-western Pakistani city Quetta. The attack was also a grim reminder that without a national consensus in Pakistan on how to deal with domestic terrorism, the next attack is not far behind.

The bomb that killed over 90 people and injured more than 160, many of them critically, was the second major attack on Pakistan’s minority Shia Hazaras this year. A twin-suicide attack at a snooker club on January 10 had killed 92 and wounded 121. With the Hazara community living huddled together in certain localities, they have become an even easier prey and large numbers can be annihilated in minutes.

Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Chairperson Abdul Khaliq Hazara told Dawn.com that the terror and fear had reached such a crescendo that the Hazaras had stopped venturing out of their locales. “There is no place left in Quetta that remains safe for Hazaras, be it an educational institution, school, bus stops, government offices or a marketplace. Public space is increasingly shrinking for us,” he said.

Where the LeJ derives power from

The LeJ, which claimed responsibility for these attacks, is born out of SSP. It also has ties with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In fact, some of the top TTP leaders, like the current spokesperson, Ehsanullah Ehsan, were all members of LeJ in Punjab, before they became part of the TTP.

“These groups morph and gel and even support each other,” says Rizvi, who fears that “unless the government adopts a tough position and keeps up the pressure over an extended period of time” these attacks will continue.

Equally, if the government decides to pull the rug from under them, and has some successes to show to the people, it will gain legitimacy. “Nothing succeeds like success, and we saw that in Swat once the government decided to go all out; their efforts were lauded not criticized,” he points out.

The HDP chairperson agreed that “The state is more powerful than the militants. We believe the state knows who the culprits are and if it wants it can round up the militants, cleanse the city off them, even kill them, in just three days.” But, he adds, “They don’t want to.”

According to Rizvi, “Organisations like the LeJ, the SSP and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) are politically convenient, especially for all the Punjab-based political parties and even the present Punjab government – and they will not go beyond a certain point to enrage them.”

“So while they will condemn acts of sectarian attacks and militancy, they will never muster the courage to condemn a particular group,” he explains.

In addition, says Rizvi, these groups have embedded themselves in society by setting up schools, hospitals, mosques and other welfare organisations and created a strong support base, including those in the lower ranks of the police and the intelligence agencies.”

“There is no place left in Quetta that remains safe for Hazaras, be it an educational institution, school, bus stops, government offices or a marketplace. Public space is increasingly shrinking for us.”

It is very easy for the LeJ, a predominantly Punjabi group to thrive in Balochistan, he further explains. “With a non-existent provincial government and the support of the Taliban, the place became a safe haven.”

The LeJ made inroads in Balochistan and had steadily spread its wings (since 2004-05), where the ethnic Hazara community has been their main target. Talking to Dawn.com, senior journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai said: “Call it infiltration, or what you will, but the LeJ has succeeded in recruiting many Baloch, once considered quite secular.”

According to Hussain, the Baloch have “been indoctrinated into hating the Hazara community.”

Khaliq points out that the whereabouts of the militant camps was common knowledge. According to reliable sources, the training camps are run in Mastung and Khuzdar, from where earlier attacks on Shia pilgrims going to Iran have taken place. Those who are apprehended, meanwhile, are released for want of enough evidence – and if the evidence is there, it’s not produced in the courts.

The desire to eliminate Shias altogether is also constantly fed from the outside. “A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is being waged in Balochistan.” says Khaliq. It is widely held that these anti-Shia militants receive funding from the Sunni-Wahabi sheikhdoms of the Arab world. The Shias, on the other hand are perceived to be supporting Iran.

Hussain, meanwhile, expresses surprise over the mushrooming of madressas in Balochistan, which lacks “even the most basic facilities for locals”. The senior journalist adds that it’s common knowledge such ‘nurseries’ of extremism were being financed by Sunni-Wahabi leaning Middle Eastern countries.

So where do the agencies come in?

Some experts are also of the view that these assaults are carried out to deflect international attention from the ongoing separatist movement in Balochistan.

The HDP spokesperson insists that such acts of terrorism are carried out in collusion with the security and intelligence agencies.

Yusufzai, however, does not believe in this commonly held viewpoint. “These agencies would never allow their own country to get destabilised and they would never want to eliminate the Shia community. After all there are many Shias within these organisations too,” he points out.

According to Yusufzai, the intelligence agencies’ ‘incompetence’ can be attributed to “overwork”.

“Their hands are full with the ongoing separatist movement in one province, and the attacks by the TTP in others – and then these other militants fanning sectarianism. And if that were not all; these agencies are also being used for political purposes!” says Yusufzai.

Hussain plays down the involvement of the agencies, but adds, “They have the knowledge of who the culprits are but they are not focused on fighting these groups. So while they may not be in direct collusion; by their inaction they are helping these extremists gets stronger.”