Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shia killing on the rise in Pakistan

The last two months have witnessed a surge in Shia killing, with tragic instances in Kohistan (K-PK), Parachinar (FATA), Khanpur (Punjab), and Quetta, Karachi, and D.I. Khan. The causes, again, are complex, and the local, national, and international forces all appear entangled. For one, I doubt that Jundallah (based in the Balochistan province, which claimed responsibility of the Kohistan attack on Feb 28) could have done this attack without support of the local militant groups in that remote area of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province (that is, if Jundallah did indeed carry out this attack). Jundallah's Washington connection is also well known. The attackers were also said to be wearing army uniforms.

On the interconnections among various militant groups and their foreign supporters as identified in wikileaks cables, see here.

The Pakistani media -- and police -- often frames the target killing of the Shias as a "sectarian conflict". The label implies that Pakistani Sunni and Shia communities are fighting against each other. That is far from the truth. The label also hides the fact that both Shias and Sunnis have been killed by the same militant groups (for instance, see here and here). The label, moreover, gives a sense of symmetry ("Sunnis kill Shias, then Shias kill Sunnis"), whereas in reality a disproportionally high number of Shias have been killed or injured in recent years. It is more appropriate to call the recent surge as "Shia" killing, not "sectarian" killing. Each incident also requires a nuanced analysis of the causes (consider, for instance, the entangled causes surrounding the December 2009 Ashura blast in Karachi).

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