The need to end the policy of tolerance towards sectarian groups | Pakistan Today

The need to end the policy of tolerance towards sectarian groups

No such thing as a ‘good militant’

Last week, Parachinar area of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was also under attack as a suicide bomber targeted an Imambargah in the busy marketplace in the main town of Kurram tribal region, killing 23 people

The provincial capital of Punjab witnessed yet another terror attack this week as a suicide bomber attacked a census team on Bedian Road, killing six people including three army officers. Reportedly the officials had prior information about a possibility of an attack on the census team, but as usual, security measures were not enough to stop the attack.

Just a day before the blast, Inspector General of Punjab police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera told a local news channel that the province had been cleansed of all terrorist groups and hideouts.

Last week, Parachinar area of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was also under attack as a suicide bomber targeted an Imambargah in the busy marketplace in the main town of Kurram tribal region, killing 23 people. The attack was followed by angry protests by locals in Parachinar, who were carrying the bodies of their loved ones. Parachinar, a Shia-majority area, has seen a lot of bloodshed in all these years but the political administration failed to do anything to stop the violence.

In the same talk show a day before the Lahore attack, the IG police, while responding to a question about sectarianism, defended banned sectarian organisations Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and said that the groups don’t use anti-Shia slogans in their rallies anymore. It is hard to believe that the IG has not seen videos available on social media in which ASWJ leaders are seen attending rallies where hate speech is practiced and hateful slogans are chanted.

The IG Punjab is not the only government official who seems to have a soft corner for the proscribed terror group, but a number of federal government officials have also multiple times justified the actions of banned outfits. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar holds meetings with the heads of banned outfits and justifies it on the floor of the parliament by saying that it is wrong to equate sectarian organisationswith terrorist groups. So, if the interior minister is to be believed, all the attacks claimed by ASWJ’s sister organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) targeting the Shia community of the country, do not fall under the category of ‘terrorism’. This approach of the government is one of the reasons why the attacks are still taking place.

Both Lahore and Parachinar attacks were claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group Jamat-al Ahrar and the group’s ideology is no different than that of anti-Shia militant group LeJ.

If the interior minister is to be believed, all the attacks claimed by ASWJ’s sister organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) targeting the Shia community of the country, do not fall under the category of ‘terrorism’

A number of former members of the LeJ became a part of the Jamat-al Ahrar when the group announced its separation from the TTP. Jamat-ul-Ahrar had also pleaded allegiance to global terror group Islamic State (IS), which makes it all the more dangerous. Differentiating between these groups would be a foolish thing to do. Government officials need to stop defending sectarian terrorists and instead launch a crackdown against them. No military operation can succeed until the supporters and sympathisers of the militants continue enjoying the government’s support.

It should be clear by now that the PML-N government’s policy of tolerance towards banned sectarian organisations is causing these attacks. The groups like Jamat-al Ahrar that are behind all major terrorist attacks in the country share the ideology of anti-Shia sectarian militant groups, and there is hardly any difference between them. It is about time the government stopped differentiating between militants. A militant is a militant is a militant — the policy of picking ‘good and bad’ terrorists has brought us where we are today and this flawed narrative needs to end now.

Ailia Zehra

The writer is a former staff member who writes on counterterrorism and gender equality among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at [email protected]



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