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Pakistan killings: When faith is the only crime

comment Updated: May 13, 2015 22:18 IST

Terror has yet again raised its macabre head in Pakistan. On Wednesday morning six gunmen, dressed in police uniforms, opened fire inside a passenger bus killing at least 43 and wounding more than 13 in Karachi.

Jundullah, a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The sectarian motivation for the attack is beyond doubt: The bus belonged to an Ismaili community housing project, it was on its daily schedule dropping off workers and most of the passengers were Ismailis. The Jundullah spokesman reiterated this point saying that the Ismailis were targeted because they were “kafirs”.

The group, which has sworn its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), has threatened to continue its attacks on Shias and Christians in Pakistan. Jundullah was the group responsible for the November 2014 suicide bombing on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border, in which 60 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

Wednesday’s attack highlights yet again how unsafe Pakistan is for religious and ethnic minorities. Religious fundamentalists are increasingly targeting Shia Muslims, who form about one-fifth of the population. In March, a suicide bomb outside a church in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded 80 others.

Shortly after the church attack, a bomb at a Bohra (a minority sect) mosque wounded 12 people. In the same month, a Hindu temple in Fateh Chowk in Sindh was torched.

Twenty Shias were killed when a mosque in Peshawar was attacked in February and 60 Shias were killed in January during a Friday prayer at Shikarpur in the Sindh province. These attacks prove that the political establishment in Pakistan has failed to stand up for its minorities.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has, according to a news website, ‘taken notice of the matter’ and directed the interior minister to submit a report. But, going by past experience, little is going to come out of investigation reports after such attacks.

What Islamabad needs to do, and is most unlikely to do, is to act. By its inexcusable approach towards jihadism and fitful fight against terror, Islamabad effectively condones religious fundamentalists.

Mr Sharif should realise that mere reports will not put this genie back in the bottle.

In 2011, while referring to Pakistan’s approach towards jihadi groups and its duplicity in checking terror outfits, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours”.

Her words regrettably ring true far too often.