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A new target

September 20, 2012

KARACHI was already on edge before Tuesday’s twin bombings struck a predominantly Dawoodi Bohra neighbourhood in the North Nazimabad area. The city was in the grip of protests against an anti-Islam film and targeted killings continued unabated. Elsewhere, in Balochistan’s Mastung district — the same area where pilgrims were pulled out of a bus and killed last year — a car bomb targeted a bus carrying Shia pilgrims returning from Iran. However, in the Karachi killing, the perpetrators targeted, perhaps for the first time, the Bohras, a peaceful, industrious, mercantile community. The perpetrators knew what they were doing: the site of the blasts is close to the city’s main Bohra mosque, while community members usually gather in the bustling commercial-cum-residential area after evening prayers, which is when the bombings occurred. The blasts came only a day after Mufaddal Bhaisaheb, son and designated successor of the current Bohra leader, was in the metropolis. Last month, a bomb had been discovered and defused in the same spot.

The bombings add a new dimension to the bloodshed, pulling the apolitical Bohra community into the vortex of violence. The authorities still need to confirm whether the attack was purely sectarian in nature, or if it was motivated by the desire to extract protection money from the community. All angles need to be examined. Nevertheless, what the blasts prove beyond any doubt is that nobody is safe in Karachi: if a peaceful community such as the Bohras can be targeted, anyone is vulnerable. Aside from spreading fear, such attacks also undermine the city’s economy. The Bohras constitute one of the city’s oldest and more financially stable business communities. But if people’s lives, properties and businesses are not safe from terrorist violence, who will want to invest in Karachi?

Even as other motivations for the killing are investigated, police have pointed to the possible involvement of a faction of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi believed to be one of the most active militant groups in Karachi, while its acts of terror in Balochistan are already established. Hence, instead of making half-hearted claims about investigating the attacks, the state needs to crush Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, as the outfit is fast becoming the primary source of terrorism in this country. Such action is needed against all terrorist groups as there are reports that members of smaller sects within Islam in Karachi are also being threatened. By not taking decisive steps to curb militancy so far, the security establishment has only facilitated the killers. Until the extremists’ infrastructure is dismantled and their operatives and planners tried and punished, there is little chance of the bloodshed abating.