The presence of the militant outfit Da’ish in Pakistan may be scant, but the support for its ideology here is the real threat. The steadfast emergence of ISIS in the backdrop of other politically banned yet operational outfits is a matter of national security concern and must be dealt with an all-out comprehensive strategy to avoid such untoward incidents in the future.
Who are Hazaras, and why there have been targeted attacks against them?
The Hazaras, rooted in Uzbek-Turkic ancestry with a vast majority adhering to the Shia sect of Islam. They have been the victims of ethnic cleansing and mass murder in the region ever since they were recruited in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
From being shunned by Mughals to being expelled at the turn of the 20th century by Afghan Emir Shah Abdur Rehman Khan from Hazarajat (Kafiristan)many Hazaras found refuge in the Balochistan province along the western front. That area eventually became the state of Pakistan.
The Af-Pak border became a gateway for Afghan jihad in the 1970s and 1980s, giving rise to, among other jihadist groups, anti-Shia outfits like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). These groups reportedly enjoyed Pakistan’s patronage.
“Post 9/11, beginning with the 2001 Poodgali Chowk killings in Quetta, the Hazara population of Balochistan has been regularly targeted by the Taliban, LeJ, and SSP, the latter two having rechristened themselves into political fronts like Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ),” exclaims Kunwar Khuldune Shahid who is the correspondent for The Diplomat mentioned in her article.
That sectarian warfare flared-the anti-Shiite pogroms being carried out by the pro-claimed jihadist groups. These jihadi groups have enjoyed state patronage under the cover of strategic allies.
Support for Da’ish ideology is the real threat
A leading security analyst has said that the presence of the militant outfit Da’ish in Pakistan may be scant, but the support for its ideology here is the real threat. Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) Director Amir Rana, while speaking at a webinar hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on ‘Da’ish in Pakistan: An Evolving Militant Landscape’ said “Numbers do not matter.”
Mr. Rana added that the mentality and ideological support that is available for Da’ish in Pakistan is the real threat.
“High-profile attacks in the country in the past were conducted by sleeper cells rarely constituting of more than four to five people, so even if someone claims that there are not more than two to three dozen Da’ish terrorists, it is still concerning and pose a serious threat,” he noted.
The security analyst further noted that the majority of attacks claimed by Da’ish were executed by the local banned organizations. This collaboration gives the local sectarian groups a kind of global outreach and access to training and terror-financing.
The steadfast emergence of ISIS in the backdrop of LET and other politically banned yet operational outfits is a matter of national security concern and must be dealt with an all-out comprehensive strategy to avoid such untoward incidents in the future.
IPI Executive Director Prof Sajjad Bokhari said that the incidents of killings of innocent civilians and persecution of communities because of their beliefs, he said, underscore the responsibility of the State to protect them.
Lethargic state response
Crimes happen in almost every society in one way or the other but one thing that makes a difference is the state response. The state response has been quite pessimistic and decelerated. PM Imran Khan along with other team-leaders of prime importance should have assured their presence the day the wistful and regretful incident of beheadings took place at Quetta.
A half-witted response by the highest office of the country seems comparable to the sentiment giving an upper hand to the perpetrators in the future as well. ISIS’ presence in Pakistan is ringing the red alarms. The state must be cognizant of their endurance and must be in action against the potential sleeper cells. Besides further action against such hideous public confidence is all-important.
Another thing that sounds like an ultimate requirement is the widespread overhaul of madrassah education. Undoubtedly, Madrassah education is highly under the influence of their pre-fixed religiopolitical propaganda of pro-claimed leaders of different religious factions.
Repeated attacks including dozens of attacks in Quetta, Sehwan Sharif, Safora Goth Incident, and now the most recent attack in Quetta are a testament to the fact that the banned-organization wants a future in Pakistan. Only timely counter-action on religious, political as well as social fronts can assure the normalization of the security situation.
The presence of such outfits can pose a greater challenge to the rit of the state and declare themselves as stake-holders in the national say. It’s far better to nip the evil in the bud than to cry over spilled milk.
Let’s just hope that that the mournful assassinations of 11 coal miners of Balochistan would be the last among Hazaras. Hazaras are already amongst the deprived people of Balochistan. Their civilian rights must be protected. The matter needs to be taken up with due seriousness and the marginalization of Hazaras should be done away with once and for all.