News / Asia

Bomb Targeting Minority Shiites a Failure of Pakistan Security

Local residents stand over the rubble of a damaged market caused by Saturday's bombing in Quetta, Pakistan on February 17, 2013. Local residents stand over the rubble of a damaged market caused by Saturday's bombing in Quetta, Pakistan on February 17, 2013.
x
Local residents stand over the rubble of a damaged market caused by Saturday's bombing in Quetta, Pakistan on February 17, 2013.
Local residents stand over the rubble of a damaged market caused by Saturday's bombing in Quetta, Pakistan on February 17, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Sharon Behn
— The governor of Pakistan's Baluchistan province has lashed out at the country's security forces for failing to adequately protect the area's minority Shi'ite Muslims.  Analysts tell VOA that extremists are taking advantage of a lack of national consensus on how to deal with militant groups.

Governor Zulfiqar Magsi declared a day of mourning for the victims of Saturday's massive bomb blast, which left almost 80 dead and 160 wounded.

The attack in the provincial capital of Quetta appeared to target the minority Hazara community - Shi'ite Muslims who settled in Baluchistan province a century ago from Afghanistan.  A Sunni militant group claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Magsi said even though Pakistani security forces have a free hand to deal with extremist groups, they are failing to pre-empt attacks such as Saturday's bombing, which was in a crowded market area.
 
"There are two possibilities: one, you can't trust them (security forces), the second is, probably everybody's scared, because they probably think they may become targets themselves," said Magsi. "
 
Protesters fed up with the violence took to the streets in Quetta, the main southern city of Karachi and the capital Islamabad, demanding that the government take action.  Local Hazara called a strike and shuttered their shops.

The banned Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombing as well a similar attack in January that left more than 90 dead.  The group does not consider Shi'ites to be real Muslims.

Analyst Rasul Baksh Rais says the Pakistani state simply does not have the capacity to deal with the multiple militant groups operating in the country. As a result he says, the focus is on the Pakistani Taliban and the Baluchistan nationalist insurgency, not sectarian violence.
 
"It's not that the state has basically wiped its hands of minority issues, or the Shias being targeted," said Rais. "It's that it is Baluchistan - it's a place where the state's priority is a nationalist insurgency, and that, combined with a weak political government, has given space to Jundullah and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to team up to attack the Shia Hazaras in and around Quetta."
 
Jundullah is a Sunni militant group believed to have ties with al-Qaida.
Former Intelligence Services member, retired Brig. Asad Munir agrees with Governor Magsi that the latest attack pointed to an intelligence failure. But he says stopping future attacks will require a national policy on terrorism -- and pressure to force the government and security forces to act.

"If there is a consensus in the whole country that extremism in all forms is a threat to the internal security of this country, then we can handle it," said Munir. "This terrorism can only be handled by armed forces supported by police and other security agencies."

To date, the government has been unable to craft a national policy on how to deal with different extremist groups operating in the country.
Critics say Pakistan's powerful intelligence agencies in the past worked with militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to counter external threats, but then lost control over them.

Although banned, the group still often operates with impunity.
Human rights groups say sectarian attacks against Shi'ite Muslims have recently spiked in predominantly Sunni Pakistan. Last year, such attacks killed more than 400 Shi'ite Muslims.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid