Mistaking the Enemy

By Malik Siraj Akbar

At least seventy five people were killed and two hundred were injured in one of the worst suicide bomb blasts in the history of Balochistan. The blast took place at Mizan Chowk, a popular venue in Quetta for political congregations, when the members of Shia community expressed solidarity with their Palestine brethren.

The loss of innocent citizens is indeed regrettable. In a country that is in the grip of religiously-motivated terrorism, the Quetta carnage is unlikely to continue as a running story for more than twenty four hours. Everyone will forget it as the news channels and newspapers will, unfortunately, start reporting a new bomb blast or investigating politicians’ corruption cases. With no history of ever successfully probed previous such tragedies, the police in Balochistan is least expected to debunk the elements responsible for the heartbreaking massacre.

An important aspect of the blast, however, needs urgent attention.

The people who were killed in Friday’s procession were mainly carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the United States of America and Israel. They have been misinformed by their religious leaders that America and Israel pose the greatest threat to whatever interests and ideological commitment they have. Sadly, the onus for the killing of 75 people was not accepted by an American or Israeli organization.

These protesters were too naive to blame the US and Israel for their woes. They should have actually identified the real enemy living in their own backyard. A militant religious group with a strong base in Southern Punjab, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), accepted responsibility for the suicide bomb blast.

It is not the first time that the LeJ has shaken the foundations of the society with its barbaric acts of terrorism. The banned underground organization, which has demanded a complete official ban on the religious processions of the Shia community, has been involved in the target killing of prominent Shia professionals ranging from doctors, policemen, politicians, religious scholars and bankers.

Since an overwhelming majority, if not all, of the Shias in Balochistan belong to Hazara tribe, the biggest victim of the cycle of sectarian violence are also the Hazaras.

Instead of protesting against America and Israel, our society must take a look at the internal enemy that is cutting our roots by injecting hatred on the name of religion. The enemy lies within our society and it is insane to blame America or any other country for the violence employed against the sectarian Shia minority. We have to worry about our home first and worry about Palestine and the rest of the world later on. It is utter madness to cry for the Muslims of the world and do nothing to guard the Muslims under constant threat inside our own society.

For how long will we hold the “foreign enemies” for our misery?

Sectarianism is not only Balochistan’s problem. Shias living across the country face the heat of religious fundamentalism. Days before the Quetta tragedy, Lahore was also rocked in a similar terrorist attack. There have been severe attacks on Shias in Karachi as well. All these cases of sectarian target killings and bomb blast go unpunished.

The attacks in Lahore and Quetta come at a time when the government is grappling with the worst floods ever recorded in the history of the country. The government can’t surely snub the issue of sectarianism by engaging itself with the relief operations. Sectarianism is the scourge of our age that needs to be battled and defeated for a prosperous present and a bright future for our coming generations.

Nevertheless, there is a striking difference between the tragedy of the floods and the menace of sectarianism. While the international community can reach out to us to overcome the flood challenges, there is nothing that the world can do to get us rid of sectarianism. It is our challenge. We have to accept and fight it. It is possible for the United Nations and its goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie to come forward to assist the flood victims but they have no formula to fix our problem with sectarianism and religious fundamentalism.

The government of Pervez Musharraf banned a number of religious organizations after coming under pressure from India in the aftermath of the attack on the Indian Parliament. The ban did not help in getting rid of the fanatics as they began to operate under new names.

Violence against Shias and Ahmedis has significantly increased during the PPP government. Islamabad and the provincial governments must do whatever it takes to guard the sectarian and religious minorities living in the country. No organization, which challenges the freedom of religious expression, should be given space in a democratic setup.

This article originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper

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