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A new wave

September 29, 2012

SECTARIAN killings are becoming common in different parts of Pakistan, especially Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan and Karachi. Yet a particularly chilling aspect of such killings is emerging in Karachi: families — Shia and Sunni — are being targeted on the basis of their beliefs. So grim is the situation that on Friday, the country’s chief justice termed Karachi “the hub of terrorist activities”, blaming intolerance for the violence. Earlier this month, the chairman of a Shia trust and senior advertiser was attacked along with his son and grandson. Only the grandson survived. In the past week, there were a number of similarly gruesome incidents: three brothers were attacked last Monday in the Jaffar-i-Tayyar neighbourhood, one of whom died. Later that day, four brothers belonging to the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat were gunned down in North Karachi. A day later, a Shia trader was shot dead along with his two sons. While a few incidents of this nature occurred during the sectarian bloodletting of the 1990s, currently there seems to be no check on this horrific trend. It indicates that militants belonging to their respective sects are engaged in tit-for-tat killings, intent on killing several generations of a family. The police, administration and religious leaders are mostly silent, and there is only muted concern coming from political quarters.

Such a response to the steady stream of killings has been highly disappointing. The police are hardly bothered; no unit has been assigned the task of investigating the rash of killings of family members and bringing the killers to justice. The police need to actively investigate these cases, which are part of a pattern, and not treat the killings as ‘business as usual’. The silence of the religious establishment is also disturbing. Religious leaders agitate over a variety of issues; so why has there been no outrage over these brutal killings? The recently reactivated Milli Yakjehti Council, which features representatives from all the major Islamic factions in Pakistan, has said it wants to counter sectarianism. If that is the case, it should organise a meeting where the religious establishment — clearly and unequivocally — condemns such sectarian murders as a first step.