WHILE the level of extremist violence in the rest of Pakistan has fallen sharply over the past couple of years, Balochistan has seen no real reprieve.

In Quetta on Monday, four members of a Christian family were killed and one injured by gunmen while they were travelling in a rickshaw.

Belonging to Punjab, the family was visiting relatives in the Balochistan capital, and was likely being tailed by the assailants after they had identified them as Christians.

IS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place a day after Easter, in a statement on its news website.

This is only the latest in the outfit’s campaign of violence against the community. Last December, a few days before Christmas, at least nine worshippers were killed and around 50 wounded when suicide bombers sent by IS struck a church in Quetta.

In May 2017, the group kidnapped two Chinese nationals from the same city, alleging they were preaching Christianity, and murdered them a few months later.

Balochistan has witnessed sickening levels of sectarian violence during the last several years, mainly against members of the Shia Hazara community who are particularly vulnerable because of their distinctive physical features.

Aside from targeted killings, the latest of which claimed one man’s life and injured another this Sunday, many Hazaras have also been massacred in large-scale bombings such as those in early 2013. Most often, it is the virulently anti-Shia Lashkar-i-Jhangvi that has taken responsibility for these attacks.

While there are known to be linkages between IS and LJ — they have in fact carried out a number of joint operations — and among other terrorist groups, the profile of IS in particular is in the ascendant.

Attacks targeting religious minorities in the province and beyond, such as the suicide bombing at the iconic Lal Shahbaz Qalandar mazar in Sindh last February which killed over 70 people, are increasingly being claimed by the outfit.

The Nacta chief’s warning less than a week ago, that IS poses a clear and present danger to Pakistan given its growing footprint in neighbouring Afghanistan, is no overstatement.

In this context, Balochistan is especially relevant. Its long-standing crisis of governance, much of it self-created, is conducive for violent extremist groups to flourish on its soil.

Even a small garrison town like Quetta apparently cannot be secured from terrorists bent on destroying Pakistan’s pluralistic heritage.

The state should direct all its energies into wiping out their safe havens in Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2018

Opinion

Elite privileges
20 Apr 2021

Elite privileges

Elite bargains provide a powerful view of our political economy.
A conjurer of limitless hope
20 Apr 2021

A conjurer of limitless hope

Rehman Sahib came across as a battle-scarred soldier who was perpetually planning to regroup after a setback.
Cabinet lotto
Updated 20 Apr 2021

Cabinet lotto

To return to finance, the second change in the key ministry is interesting for how it differs from the first.
Election ex machina
Updated 19 Apr 2021

Election ex machina

Neither EVMs nor i-voting are new innovations, yet their use remains deeply controversial.

Editorial

Media blackout
Updated 20 Apr 2021

Media blackout

A free flow of information is the best way to counter rumour-mongering and fake news.
20 Apr 2021

Gas utilities’ reluctance

THE government has ‘ordered’ state-owned gas companies SSGC and SNGPL to remove impediments hampering the...
20 Apr 2021

Saudi-Iran talks

EVER since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, ties between Tehran and Riyadh have been increasingly strained,...
19 Apr 2021

Vaccine shortfall

THE hope that the slew of Covid-19 vaccinations approved for use since the end of last year would vanquish the ...
Another package
Updated 19 Apr 2021

Another package

Sindh has not seen much development worth the name during the PPP’s more than decade-long rule in the province.
19 Apr 2021

Cricket triumph

TEAM Pakistan have a number of reasons to rejoice after their 3-1 T20 series win over hosts South Africa on Friday....