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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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TARGET PRACTICE

The killing of 84 Hazara-Shias in Quetta only a month after roadside bombs had killed close to a hundred of the same community in the same area has brought home a reality Pakistan is unwilling to face. Pakistan has defeated the very logic of its foundation. It is not the homeland of all Muslims who chose to make it their home — as its founder, M.A. Jinnah, had envisaged. It is the homeland of a certain kind of Muslims whose specifications are now being laid down by Sunni militants. The State, which had itself condemned a section of its population to second-class citizenship, obviously has no problems with this. Had it retained any love for the secular goals of its founder, Pakistan would not have remained a mute spectator to the atrocities on its minorities. The Hazara-Shias of Balochistan are part of the long list of minorities — Ahmadiyas, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs — who are sitting ducks for militant fire while the State looks the other way. In Quetta, the federal government has been pressurized into imposing governor’s rule, but the repeat bombings show that the administration remains as callous as before to the security of the Hazara-Shias. No headway has been made in the investigations into the January blasts, the perpetrators of which are not entirely unknown to the authorities. The recent blasts signal an unbelievable failure in intelligence, manned by the Pakistan army. This is tragic because the Hazara-Shias believe that army rule is the solution to their problem. Unknown to them, the military seems to have decided on a different set of priorities. For it, retaining the loyalty of militants long regarded as strategic assets, and directing their fire power away from military targets are much more important goals. In fact, the army does not wish to be seen doing anything that would turn militants’ ire on it. Hence neither has counter-insurgency been pushed to its logical conclusion, nor has the murderous sectarianism of these militants been discouraged. Naturally, militants trained in camps proliferating under the very nose of the administration have no compunction in targeting minorities.

Army rule in Balochistan will do nothing to secure the lives of Hazara-Shias other than boost the already inflated ego of the Pakistan army. It may even place them in direct conflict with the ethnic Baloch people, who have a longstanding grievance against military highhandedness.