Shia Slaughter

Shia Slaughter

The protests by the Hazara Shia community in Quetta, Balochistan came to an end Tuesday when Islamabad promised to launch "targeted" operations against Sunni extremist groups.

But there is little hope that the Pakistan army is prepared to confront the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that has launched repeated and brazen murderous assaults on the Shia in Quetta and beyond.

This year alone more than 200 Shia in Quetta died in these attacks. In January, the suicide bombing of a snooker hall in Quetta killed 93 and injured nearly 200 people. When the Shia refused to bury the dead until Quetta was handed over to the army, Islamabad responded by dismissing the regional government and imposing governor's rule.

Last Sunday, in a terror blast at a busy market in Quetta, 89 Shia were killed and nearly 100 injured. The LeJ claimed credit for the attack. The Shia took to the streets again, as the governor of the province blamed the law enforcement agencies for "being too scared or clueless".

In their talks with the Shia leaders in Quetta, the government claimed that it has "detained" nearly 170 suspects and that there will be "targeted" operations against the LeJ with the help of the army.

Although the protests have ended, the violent sectarian extremism of the LeJ has thrived amidst the permissive political environment in Pakistan that has turned a blind eye to the mounting attacks on sectarian Muslim minorities as well as the Hindu minority.

Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies have a huge presence in Quetta, from where they conduct the campaign against a separatist insurgency by the Baloch nationalists, keep a close eye on Afghan groups that enjoy its patronage, and monitor the turbulent border with Iran.

The security forces, including the army, do not consider Sunni extremist groups like the LeJ as "anti-state" and have been willing to live with its excesses. Their current focus is on countering groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that have confronted the military in Pakistan.

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