Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A day of terror in Pakistan

While the world was focused on the terrorists in Lahore, who targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team but ended up killing five Pakistani police officers and two passersby, many failed to notice another terror attack in Quetta that killed five Shiites.

The newspapers across the globe on March 4 will highlight the audacious attack in Lahore. Few, if any, will mention the Shiite victims in Quetta who were gunned down in their car by two armed men on a motorbike.

Despite the fact that the perpetrators in both terror attacks are extremist elements among the majority Sunnis in Pakistan, only the high profile cricketers are being recognized as victims. The fact that Shiites have bore the brunt of extremists over the past three decades in Pakistan and that their plight has not raised any alarms in the capitals around the world this complacency is partly responsible for the terror unleashed today by seasoned militants in Pakistan and abroad.

Since the mid seventies, when Pakistan provided mercenaries for the American war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Shiites in Pakistan, and later the Shiite Hazaras in Afghanistan (remember Taliban destroying the Buddha statues in Baamiyan after they massacred the local Shiites) have largely been used for target practice by the extremists. For over three decades, veterans of the war in Afghanistan and other militants enjoyed a freehand honing their murderous skills using Shiites as targets.

While Shiites are still the target in Pakistan, the extremists have certainly broadened their horizons. It used to be the Shiite Iranian Air Force cadets or Iranian engineers who were killed by the extremists in terror attacks. Now it's every one. From Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmad Baig (the surgeon general of the Pakistani Army, who was a devout Sunni Muslim and was killed by a suicide bomber) to Benazir Bhutto (a Shiite) or to Daniel Pearl (a Jew) or to the Polish engineer Piotr Stancza (a Christian), no foreigner or local is safe from extremists in Pakistan. Beheadings and suicide attacks are in vogue.

This sorry state of affairs in Pakistan did not happen overnight. It is partly the byproduct of the complacency of the state and the society in Pakistan that remained unmoved when Shiites were killed in every part of Pakistan. The international community did not fare any better. From the United Nations to Capitol Hill, no one raised alarms. It was only in September 2001 that the world woke up to realize that it was too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

Had the Pakistani nation been alarmed by the senseless murders of Shiites, and had both the society and the state acted proactively in checking extremism amongst their ranks, Pakistan could have been prevented from ending up in a war with itself.

The precipitous slide into chaos may continue unabated if Pakistanis and the world recognize only the victims of terror in Lahore, but overlook, yet again, the five Shiite Hazaras gunned down in Quetta on the very same day.

Daily Times from Lahore rests the blame for the attack in Lahore on Pakistan's sectarian outfits.


From Dawn.Com

Tuesday, 03 Mar, 2009

QUETTA: At least five people were shot dead Tuesday in an apparent sectarian attack near Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, police said.

Two gunmen riding on a motorbike opened fire at the victims, who were travelling in a private car on the eastern by-pass outside Quetta, capital of oil- and gas-rich Baluchistan province which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

'All the five men, who were members of the Shiite Muslim community, died on the spot,' local police official Abdul Khalid told AFP.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the killings.

The attack came a week after four people were killed while getting into a car in Quetta.

Hundreds of people have died in Baluchistan since late 2004, when rebels rose up to demand political autonomy and a greater share of profits from natural resources.

Baluchistan has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants and last month an American UN official, John Solecki, was kidnapped in Quetta. A shadowy Baluch rebel group claims to be holding him.

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