- Unending agony
The kidnapping and shooting dead at close range of at least 11 coal miners in Balochistan’s Mach area after being identified as belonging to the Shia Hazara community, a heinous act of terrorism carried out by the Islamic State (IS), is yet another grim reminder of the fear and danger this minority lives under in Pakistan. Back in April 2019, a bomb blast at a market in Quetta claimed the lives of 24 people, mostly Hazaras, with both the TTP and IS claiming responsibility. The government has been expectedly typical with its response to the attack with a shower of condemnations that mean little to the families who have lost their loved ones. For years the Hazara community has been demanding that the state take better and more effective security measures to protect them from violent Sunni militant groups that continue to successfully target and kill its members, but to no avail. Groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, out of which an even more violent offshoot, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi emerged, were home grown terror outfits that emerged during the Zia era, fueled by his Islamisation policy, that gained tacit state support as part of a disastrously ill-conceived security strategy, eventually creating a monster that turned against the state. A more recent example of this, albeit to achieve a specific political outcome, is the rise to prominence of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in a matter of just a few years. Enjoying the support of a sizable section of the population as evidenced by its success in the past two general elections, the group has been relentless with its frequent lockdowns of the country through sit-ins characterized by fiery abusive anti-state speeches and clashes between its followers and law enforcement agencies.
A video of TLP protesters getting cash handouts from men in uniform after the end to the long-drawn Faizabad dharna gave credence to the perception that the group enjoyed the support of the armed forces. Serious security lapses, such as the latest attack on the Hazara community also highlights a failure of the security apparatus in the country to preempt and thwart terrorist activity through intelligence based operations. Perhaps a more focused and revised strategy is required to solidify the gains made in the war against terrorism over the past decade.