PML N in the dock

Friday Times

Political Islam and national security policies are ravaging Pakistan. But neither the generals, who spawned this symbiotic process in the 1980s and nurtured it in the 1990s, nor the politicians, who exploited or condoned it for legitimizing themselves, have the will to turn back the tide. In consequence, the country is besieged by dozens of armed non-state ethnic, sectarian, jehadi, criminal, separatist and terrorist groups in one garb or another that have overrun law and order and plunged various communities into a blood bath. The minorities, in particular, are being targeted with a genocidal vengeance.

The targeted killing of Shias, in particular the Hazara community in Balochistan, has captured headlines in the last two years for three reasons. First, the scale of the killings is alarming – nearly 1000 have been killed in the last eighteen months, mainly in Balochistan, Karachi and the Northern Areas. Second, the assassins – Sipah e Sahaba, Lashkar e Jhangvi and various related offshoots – have been audacious enough to claim responsibility. Third, the civil-military establishment has admitted its unwillingness or inability to tackle this menace for reasons that are flimsy and self-serving.

The Ahmedis and Christians have been laid low by the blasphemy laws that enable mischief mongers and vested interests to target them with impunity. Chapels, charities, schools and homes have been attacked. Graves have been desecrated. In the Gojra riots in Punjab, 2009, a Christian community was forced to flee, its homes were looted and burnt down. In 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a notable Christian leader, was assassinated in broad daylight. The same year, a mob attacked a Christian community in Gujranwala. And last week, another frenzied mob burnt down 200 Christian homes in a Lahore suburb. In every case, the PMLN administration has either avoided pre-emptive action or stood by while the Muslims mobs have rampaged. Indeed, in every case, the provincial or local government in question has screamed its party-political innocence by scapegoating the police department, swept the inquiry report under the rug and refused to learn any lessons for the future.

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