Monday, January 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Jan 12, 2015

Selective drive The Jamatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the bombing of the imambargah (Shia mosque) in Rawalpindi on January 9 that killed eight worshippers and injured 18. It stands to reason that the target suggests a sectarian motive. Despite the claim of responsibility, investigators are pursuing the possibility of close coordination in the atrocity between the TTP and the fanatically sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), reportedly after a telephone tip-off. Two background facts lend weight to this line of inquiry. Some sectarian terrorists have been hanged in recent days, so this attack may be the beginning of blowback from the LeJ and affiliates. Amongst those with the hangman’s noose hanging over their heads was LeJ’s Akram Lahori, who received a last minute reprieve when the victim’s family pardoned him. However, the authorities are convinced Lahori will swing one of these days as there are 28 murder cases against him. Lahori is considered an important leader of LeJ. His and other LeJ terrorists’ impending execution has put the LeJ under pressure and it may be mounting a concerted campaign of terrorist attacks to try and stave off the inevitable. Second, the attacked imambargah lies in the area of Rawalpindi where a fierce sectarian clash between a seminary located in the area and the 10th Muharram procession occurred in November 2013, a clash that led to full-blown riots in which 10 people lost their lives. That too may provide a backdrop to the simmering sectarian tensions in the area that may have brought on the hit on the imambargah. But lest anyone rest sanguine that this is only a localised phenomenon, we need to remind ourselves of a grim reality of long standing. Shias have been targeted all over the country for many years in what some have categorised as a ‘slow genocide’. As though to drive home the point, another Shia doctor was assassinated in his clinic in Peshawar on Saturday. An area of concern is the reopening of schools today all over the country after their winter vacations were extended in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre of school children. The authorities, school administrations, parents and even children have the dread of what happened in Peshawar on December 16 still weighing heavily on their minds and hearts. Reports say schools and higher education institutions that are considered sensitive or are seen not to have adequate security procedures may not open along with the rest. However, that is insufficient to completely lay to rest the anxiety surrounding the safety and security of our little charges. God forbid that we live to see the black day of December 16 ever repeated. That can only be achieved if the drive against the terrorists is comprehensive, transparent, holistic and without discrimination. On this last condition, doubts and questions linger regarding the establishment’s practically continuing to turn a blind eye to proxies on our soil operating against neighbouring countries while paying lip service to having abandoned the good Taliban/bad Taliban binary. Of the 72 banned organisations in the country, only a few are planned to be moved against, those that are considered to have taken up arms against the state. Their cases would be tried by the recently set up military courts. Does this imply those that do not attack the state per se but challenge its writ by attacking people on a sectarian basis are absolved of all sin? And what if the suspected nexus between the TTP and the LeJ is found to be true in the case of the Rawalpindi imambargah bombing? Where will the ‘dividing line’ be drawn then? Another anomaly that has emerged is that while the religious parties are banding together to defend their madrassas and the constituency they represent from any drive to bring them into line and prevent them from feeding the terror machine, and while the government seems to be fumbling and indecisive regarding this basic task, non-religious civil society NGOs are being harassed by investigating their personnel, sources of funding, programmes, etc. If ever there was a case of misplaced concreteness, this would be hard to beat.

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