While mourners were observing Chehlum of 118 victims of the January 10 car bombings, another suicide-attack targeted the Hazara Shia community in Pakistan’s Quetta city on Saturday. Over hundred people have been killed and 200 others are wounded. Victims include over 30 women and children, 17 students and two teachers as building of a nearby school collapsed. Police officials say 800-1000 kilograms (about 2220 pounds) explosives loaded on a water-supply truck were used in the attack. The Al-Qaeda-allied banned terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. It is the second such massive bomb attack inside the Hazara ghettos of Quetta in 2013, where the community has been besieged within their two enclaves of the city. In media statements carried by local papers in Quetta, LeJ had “warned the Hazara Shias to leave Pakistan by 2012, while some escaped, many have stayed dear to their properties. We will not let them escape alive in 2013, and make Balochistan their graveyard.” LeJ spokesman Abubakr Siddique in phone calls to local media in Quetta said their “Jihad” will continue against Shias and warned there are 20 trucks ready with suicide bombers awaiting orders from top leadership.
After the previous attack in January, relatives of victims held a four-day sit-in protest that forced the Federal Government of Pakistan to dismiss the Provincial Government in Balochistan and impose Governor Rule. However, the Government never conducted a single targeted-operation against LeJ, nor any of their members were arrested. After some threatening statements in media, some of LeJ terrorists held at the high-security jail run by paramilitary in the Quetta Garrison, were brought to a civilian controlled prison in the city.
Few days before the January 10 bombings, Haji Rafiq Mengal Provincial President of Ahl-Sunnat Wal-Jammat (ASWJ) of which LeJ is the militant wing held a press conference in Quetta Press Club showing some sectarian Shia books to “prove” infidelity of the sect and thus the “legitimate” massacre in Quetta. It was extensively covered in all local newspapers, though the group is banned by the Government. LeJ has issued threats to media and journalists for extensive coverage.
The Pakistani Government and the powerful military-intelligence are, in a way, in complicity in this genocide-in-making by turning blind eye and deaf ear to the killings. Quetta is a small city with a huge military garrison and heavy presence of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI). How come the small group of LeJ terrorists operates with impunity? Elements within the military establishment have sympathy for the sectarian death squads. Talibanization of Balochistan is a campaign to weaken and counter the Baloch separatist insurgency. Several Lashkars have popped up in Quetta and other districts of the province to counter Baloch nationalists. The ASWJ madrassahs provide the manpower for these death squads; therefore the military sees them as ‘strategic assets’ and do not touch. It was obvious after the Governor Rule last month when the paramilitary Frontier Corps launched operations against the separatist Baloch Liberation Army but not LeJ in Mastung, the area where the group has its base and training camps.
The attacks on Hazaras in Quetta have been a targeted campaign since 2001. Over 1200 people have been killed, more than 200 this year so far. The attacks particularly surged after top LeJ masterminds Usman Saifullah Kurd, Shafiq-ur-Rehman and Dawood Badini broke away a high profile Anti-Terrorist Force jail in Quetta Garrison in January 2008. They were sentenced to death by court convicted for three attacks on Hazara Shias killing more than 150 people.
The Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2012 says, “Sunni militant groups, including those with known links to the Pakistani military, its intelligence agencies, and affiliated paramilitaries—such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi—operated with widespread impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials effectively turned a blind eye to attacks.”
In a statement on the January 10 bombings, HRW asked the Government of Pakistan to “hold accountable those responsible for ordering and participating in attacks on Shias across Pakistan, particularly the Hazara Shia in Quetta. As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offer a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies.”
The inaction of Pakistani authorities amounts to criminal complicity with sectarian death squads who are slaughtering Hazaras in Quetta on genocidal scale in a small city of few millions, while continuing targeted killing of other Shias across Pakistan. The UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon is presiding over the UN ignoring a genocide-in-making. The international community and UN member states need to take immediate notice, condemn the killings and take further steps. According to Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by UN GA, “any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide.