Monday, December 7, 2015

Deadly oversight

Extremist violence is on the rise in Sindh. Veengas Yasmeen holds the federal and provincial governments squarely responsible

Deadly oversight
Mourners at the funeral of a victim of the Jacobabad blast (Courtesy AFP)

Just days after the terrorist attack in Jacobabad, the Sindh government was celebrating its victory in local elections. Opposition parties called for a strike against the Sindh government. It seemed like business-as-usual for everyone. If anyone remembers the anguish of the Shia community, it would be the community itself.
This is a community in mourning for years now. Who cares about them? Well, our federal government is worried about Saudi princes and their hunting licenses. Has the government shown such seriousness when it comes to the National Action Plan? And if we tell ourselves that the Sindh government is merely interested in staying in power, what of Mr Imran Khan, who presents himself as a champion of Change? Have any of these political forces, which speak of “the people” and “change”, ever truly felt the loss of those people who were blown up on the 23rd October, 2015? Whatever their priorities might be, clearly the lives of Pakistani Shia are not high on the list. One can safely assume this based on the policies and actions of our rulers.
The site of a bombing in Jacobabad (Courtesy Reuters)
The site of a bombing in Jacobabad (Courtesy Reuters)
Was this the first murderous attack on the Shia community in Pakistan and Sindh? Certainly not!
The state may not pay attention to the painfully long list of bomb blasts in Sindh, but for us, the people of Sindh, these atrocities are seared into our collective conscious. We can remind the rulers that from January to October 2015, the number of bomb blasts numbered 23. In these attacks, 101 people lost their lives and 188 were injured.
The government knows very well the sensitivity and seriousness of terror threats, so how then can it fail at managing security? Upper Sindh is under threat for a long time now. If the government can provide heightened security for Karachi when necessary, why should other parts of Sindh be left at the mercy of terrorists?
Take, for instance, the fact that before the Jacobabad blast, there had already been an attack in Bolan, Balochistan. Upper Sindh’s border is connected with Balochistan, making Jacobabad and Shikarpur especially vulnerable. How could officials have ignored this?
In the light of these terrorist atrocities, one might be tempted to ask: what, after all, is the reason for this extremist violence?
Much of the answer might lie in the fact that Sindh is dotted with un-registeredmadrassahs.
Sindh is dotted with un-registered madrassahs
In July 2015, one Sindhi newspaper stated that, on condition of anonymity, an “apex committee” reported 48 madrassahs (24 in Karachi and 24 in other cities of Sindh) which have been linked with terrorist groups. Sindh has around 9,590 madrassahs, out of which only 6,503 are registered. How many of these un-registered madrassahs have been banned so far? Have federal and provincial governments even taken seriously this report on madrassahs, as presented by the apex committee?
The people of Sindh have not seen any action from the government apart from a deafening silence. Apparently, the government believes that deadly realities can be addressed by covering its eyes.
Yet another problem in Sindh that has sadly not received much attention is that of IDPs. Several people who came to Sindh as IDPs have received forged ID cards and are settling in Sindh as Pakistani citizens; no one knows where they’ve come from.
Last year, on March 15th, the Larkana Dharmshaal was set ablaze. While covering the story, I asked a local journalist for an insight into who could have been responsible. He told me that the temple had not been torched by locals, but rather by ‘strangers’ who were not originally from the area.
Even Sindh’s Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, admitted that “at least 15 militants had attempted to enter Sindh as IDPs, and had then been duly arrested”.
Children at a madrassah
Children at a madrassah
It is completely acceptable for IDPs to come and settle in the province for as long as they must, but under the umbrella of IDPs and unregistered madrassahs, it is militants who are establishing their foothold in the province.
Sindh is slipping into a horrible state of affairs. Extremists are encroaching into Sindh. Once established, their hold won’t be easy to break. We cannot look at the attack at Jacobabad in isolation: this problem will only get worse as we move forward, and it will sweep away Sindh and then Balochistan in its destructive wake.
The fact of the matter is that the National Action Plan has not been implemented properly in Sindh. Despite the Karachi operation and the results that it has reaped, the government has till now been unable to eliminate extremist groups from the province.
If NAP had been firmly put into practice in Sindh, we would not see unregistered madrassahs working openly and brazenly. One cannot help but ask: who has given permission to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) to work under the banner of ‘Ahl-e-Sunnat’?
The Jacobabad blast comes as a result of the failures of both the federal and provincial governments and their respective policies. The Shia community will continue to peacefully mourn those it has lost, but the government should not mistake silence for acceptance of things as they are.
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Original Link: Deadly oversight published in TFT on 27/Nov/2015

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