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#ShiaGenocide: Massacre in Quetta provides damning indictment of Pakistan government and army: HRW

Mourners sit beside the coffins of Shia Muslim victims of twin suicide bombings in Quetta on January 11, 2013.

NEW YORK: The Pakistani government’s persistent failure to protect the minority Shia Muslim community in Pakistan from sectarian attacks by Sunni [Deobandi] militant groups [Sipah Sahaba Taliban aka LeJ-ASWJ], is reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. The government should immediately hold accountable those responsible for ordering and participating in deadly attacks targeting the Shia across Pakistan and particularly the Hazara Shia in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

On January 10, at least 4 bomb attacks took place in Quetta killing over 93 and injuring well over 150 people. Those killed included at least 8 police personnel and one journalist.

“2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. “As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies.

While sectarian violence is a longstanding problem in Pakistan, attacks against ordinary Shia have increased dramatically in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. In 2012, well over 400 members of the Shia population were killed in targeted attacks. Over 120 of these were killed in Balochistan province, the vast majority from the Hazara Shia community.

Similar attacks targeting the Shia population have taken place repeatedly over the last year in Balochistan, the port city of Karachi, predominantly Shia populated areas of Gilgit Baltistan in the northern areas, and in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Human Rights Watch said.

Sunni [Deobandi] militant groups such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi have operated with widespread impunity across Pakistan while law enforcement officials have effectively turned a blind eye on attacks against Shia communities. Some Sunni extremist groups are known to be allies of the Pakistani military, its intelligence agencies, and affiliated paramilitaries, such as the Frontier Corps, Human Rights Watch said.

While authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects in attacks against Shia since 2008, only a handful have been charged, and no one has been held accountable for these attacks.

“Pakistan’s tolerance for religious extremists is not just destroying lives and alienating entire communities, it is destroying Pakistani society across the board,” said Hasan. “Sectarian violence won’t end until those responsible are brought to trial and justice.”

Human Rights Watch urged Pakistan’s federal government and relevant provincial governments to make all possible efforts to promptly apprehend and prosecute those responsible for recent attacks and other crimes targeting the Shia population. The government should direct civilian agencies and the military responsible for security to actively protect those facing attack from extremist groups, and to address the growing perception, particularly in Balochistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, that state authorities look the other way when Shia are attacked. It should increase the number of security personnel in Shia majority areas and enclaves at high risk of attack, particularly the Hazara community in Quetta. The government should also actively investigate allegations of collusion between Sunni militant groups and military intelligence and paramilitary forces and hold accountable personnel found to be involved in criminal acts.

“The Pakistani authorities’ are just indifferent bystanders to slaughter at best or callously supportive of those perpetrating these massacres at worst,” Hasan said. “By their inaction in the face of massacre after massacre and killing after killing, Pakistan’s political leaders, law enforcement agencies, judiciary and military are presiding over a collective failure to address the growing perception that they are either in sympathy with Sunni extremists or utterly incompetent and unable to provide basic security. Either way, this is a crisis that neither Pakistanis nor the world can afford to ignore any more.” (Source: Dawn)


HRCP’s distress at escalation in terrorist bloodletting
The government should take immediate steps to clamp down on the murdering mayhem

Lahore, January 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the killing of over 100 people, predominantly the Shia Hazara, in a string of bombings in Quetta and other attacks in Mingora and Karachi on Thursday, and demanded that the government take immediate steps to clamp down on the murdering mayhem.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said, “In the first few days of 2013, HRCP finds itself lamenting for the second time large-scale sectarian bloodshed in the country. The callous targeting of members of the Shia including Shia Hazara community in Quettain two of those bombings on Thursday has caused the highest death toll for any sectarian attack in a day in Pakistan so far. Lack of any apparent distress at these brutal attacks and absence of much urgency to nab the killers has understandably prompted human rights organisations in the country and abroad to accuse the state of looking the other way, if not of downright complicity, as more and more citizens of the Shia faith are mowed down in appalling attacks.
If the government has any trepidation about its failure to stem the horrific spike in sectarian killings or the utter absence of its own writ, it has certainly done a good job hiding that. It defies belief how in a city like Quetta the attackers can manage to get through security checks and strike at will. A bombing in Mingora and the brazen bloodshed in Karachi on Thursday only demonstrate hastened descent into chaos as the general elections approach. The people expect much more from the police and the security forces than mere information on the nature of the explosions that claimed citizens’ lives. An ostensibly banned organisation has claimed the Quetta bombings. The network and sanctuaries of that and other banned outfits must be taken apart across Pakistan, including Punjab, and the killers apprehended and tried. Until that happens, the charges of the state being soft on the terrorists would not go away. That is also the only way to restore the faith of the citizenry in the state’s ability to safeguard their lives and well being.
Reflections are also in order on what could have been done to avoid fatalities among media workers in Quetta who were at the scene to cover the first bombing when the second explosion occurred. With escalating sectarian violence and the election-related violence that is almost certain to be the worst in Pakistan’s electoral history, because of weaponisation, brutalisation of society and the high stakes for all concerned, we might see journalists being caught up increasingly more frequently. HRCP hopes that the government, media organisations and journalists’ bodies would invest in safety of journalists through developing SOPs, safety gear and training on conflict reporting.”

Zohra Yusuf
(Source: HRCP)

حکومت پاکستان میں شیعوں کو عسکریت پسندوں سے بچانے میں مسلسل ناکام ہو گئی، یہ وحشیانہ قتل کی سازش میں ملوث ہونے کے مترادف ہے۔ ہیومن رائٹس واچ

نیویارک: ہیومن رائٹس واچ نے پاکستان میں شیعہ اقلیت کو عسکریت پسندوں سے بچانے میں مسلسل ناکامی پر حکومت کی مذمت کرتے ہوئے اِسے شہریوں کے وحشیانہ قتل کی سازش میں ملوث ہونے کے مترادف قرار دیا ہے۔ بدھ کو جاری ہونے والی رپورٹ میں پاکستانی حکومت کو کہا گیا ہے کہ وہ پورے ملک میں خاص طور پر کوئٹہ میں ہزارہ شیعہ برادری کے خلاف حملوں کے احکامات جاری کرنے والوں اور اس پر عمل درآمد کرنے والوں کو جلد سے جلد انصاف کے کٹہرے میں لائے۔ خیال رہے کہ دس جنوری کوکوئٹہ میں چار بم دھماکے ہوئے جس میں ترانوے لوگ ہلاک جبکہ 150 سے زائد افراد زخمی ہوئے۔ ہیومن رائٹس واچ پاکستان کے ڈائریکٹر علی دیان کے مطابق 2012 شیعہ برادری کے لیے سب سے زیادہ خون ریز تھا اور اگر حالیہ واقعہ سے اندازہ لگایا جائے تو 2013 کا آغاز بھی سوگوار انداز میں ہوا ہے۔ ‘ حکام کی جانب سے شیعہ برادری کے قتل عام پر بے حسی اور لاتعلقی کی وجہ سے ریاست، فوج اور سیکورٹی اداروں پر فرد جرم عائد ہوتی ہے’۔ ہیومن رائٹس واچ کا کہنا ہے کہ اگرچہ پاکستان میں فرقہ وارانہ تشدد ایک دیرینہ مسئلہ ہے لیکن حالیہ برسوں میں عام شیعہ افراد پر حملوں میں ڈرامائی اضافہ ہوا ہے۔ رپورٹ کے مطابق گزشتہ سال چار سو سے زائد شیعہ افراد کو ہدف بنایا گیا جس میں سے ایک سو بیس بلوچستان میں ہلاک ہوئے۔ رپورٹ میں مزید کہا گیا کہ گزشتہ سال اس طرح کے حملوں میں بلوچستان، کراچی، قبائلی اور گلگت بلتستان کے شیعہ اکثریتی علاقوں میں انہیں ہدف بنایا گیا۔ ‘کالعدم عسکریت پسند گروپ لشکر جھنگوی ملک میں بلاخوف و خطر کام کر رہا ہے جبکہ قانون نافذ کرنے والے ادارے بھی ان کے شیعہ برادری پر حملوں کو نظر انداز کرتے ہیں’۔ رپورٹ کے مطابق کچھ سنی انتہا پسند گروپوں کے بارے میں کہا جاتا ہے کہ ان کے پاکستانی فوج، اس کے خفیہ اداروں اور فرنٹیر کورپس کے ساتھ تعلقات ہیں۔ رپورٹ میں کہا گیا کہ حکام 2008 سے اب تک شیعہ برادری پرحملوں میں ملوث درجنوں ملزموں کو گرفتاری کا دعوی کر چکے ہیں لیکن کسی بھی ذمہ دار کو اب تک سزا نہیں دی گئی۔علی دیان حسن کا کہنا ہے کہ پاکستان میں مذہبی شدت پسندی کو برداشت کیے جانے سے نہ صرف لوگوں کی ذندگیاں برباد ہو رہی ہیں بلکہ مختلف برادریاں الگ تھلگ ہو رہی ہیں، اس شدت پسندی سے پورا پاکستانی معاشرہ برباد ہو رہا ہے۔ان کا کہنا تھا کہ فرقہ وارانہ تشدد کا خاتمہ اس وقت تک ممکن نہیں جب تک ذمہ دارن کو انصاف کے کٹہرے میں نہیں لایا جاتا۔ڈان

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  • Shi’ite leader challenges Pakistan army chief over attacks

    Pakistan Shi’ite leader criticizes army chief after bombings
    7:18am EST

    By Gul Yousufzai

    QUETTA, Pakistan | Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:07am EST

    (Reuters) – In a rare challenge, a Shi’ite Muslim leader publicly criticized Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Kayani over security in the country on Friday after bombings targeting the minority sect killed 118 people.

    The criticism of Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the South Asian state, highlighted Shi’ite frustrations with Pakistan’s failure to contain Sunni Muslim militant groups who have vowed to wipe out Shi’ites.

    “I ask the army chief: What have you done with these extra three years you got (in office)? What did you give us except more death?” Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads a national council of Shi’ite organizations, told a news conference.

    Most of Thursday’s deaths were caused by twin attacks aimed Shi’ites in the southwestern city of Quetta, near the Afghan border, where members of the minority have long accused the state of turning a blind eye to Sunni death squads.

    Shi’ite leaders were so outraged at the latest bloodshed that they called for the military to take control of Quetta to shield them and said they would not allow the 85 victims of twin bomb attacks to be buried until their demands were met.

    The burials had been scheduled to take place after Friday prayers but the bodies would remain in place until Shi’ites had received promises of protection.

    Shaheedi said scores of bodies were still lying on a road. “They will not be buried until the army comes into Quetta.”

    Violence against Pakistani Shi’ite is rising and some communities are living in a state of siege, a human rights group said on Friday.

    “Last year was the bloodiest year for Shias in living memory,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch. “More than 400 were killed and if yesterday’s attack is any indication, it’s just going to get worse.”

    A suicide bomber first targeted a snooker club in Quetta. A car bomb blew up nearby 10 minutes later after police and rescuers had arrived.

    In all, 85 people were killed and 121 wounded. Nine police and 20 rescue workers were among the dead.

    “It was like doomsday. Bodies were lying everywhere,” said police officer Mir Zubair Mehmood.

    The banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack in what is a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood where the residents are ethnic Hazaras, Shi’ites who first migrated from Afghanistan in the 19th century.

    While U.S. intelligence agencies have focused on al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pakistani intelligence officials say LeJ is emerging as a graver threat to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, strategic ally of the United States.

    It has stepped up attacks against Shi’ites across the country but has zeroed in on members of the sect who live in resource-rich Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is capital.

    The paramilitary Frontier Corps is largely responsible for security in Baluchistan province but Shi’ites say it is unable or unwilling to protect them from the LeJ.


    The LeJ wants to impose a Sunni theocracy by stoking Sunni-Shi’ite violence. It bombs religious processions and shoots civilians in the type of attacks that pushed countries like Iraq towards civil war.

    The latest attacks prompted an outpouring of grief, rage and fear among Shi’ites, many of whom have concluded that the state has left them at the mercy of the LeJ and other extremist groups who believe they are non-Muslims.

    “The LeJ operates under one front or the other, and its activists go around openly shouting ‘infidel, infidel, Shi’ite infidel’ and ‘death to Shi’ites’ in the streets of Quetta and outside our mosques,” said Syed Dawwod Agha, a top official with the Baluchistan Shi’ite Conference.

    “We have become a community of grave diggers. We are so used to death now that we always have shrouds ready.”

    The roughly 500,000-strong Hazara people in Quetta, who speak a Persian dialect, have distinct features and are an easy target, said Dayan of Human Rights Watch.

    “They live in a state of siege. Stepping out of the ghetto means risking death,” said Dayan. “Everyone has failed them – the security services, the government, the judiciary.”

    Earlier on Thursday, a separate bomb killed 11 people in Quetta’s main market.

    The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for that blast. The group is one of several fighting for independence for Baluchistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves.

    Baluchistan constitutes just less than half of Pakistan’s territory and is home to about 8 million of the total population of 180 million.

    In another attack on Thursday, in Mingora, the largest city in the Swat valley in the northwest, at least 22 people were killed when an explosion targeted a public gathering of residents who had come to listen to a religious leader.

    No one claimed responsibility for that bombing. Swat has been under army rule since a military offensive ejected Pakistani Taliban militants in 2009.

    The LeJ has had historically close ties to elements in the security forces, who see the group as an ally in any potential war with neighboring India. Security forces deny such links.

    In a measure of the outrage, several Pakistani social media users posted Facebook comments urging the U.S. to expand its covert programme of drone warfare beyond Taliban strongholds on the Afghan border to target LeJ leaders in Baluchistan.

    Among the dead in Quetta was Khudi Ali, a young activist who often wore a T-shirt with fake bloodstains during protests against the rising violence against Shi’ites.

    Ali’s Twitter profile said: “I am born to fight for human rights and peace.”

    (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Katharine Houreld in Islamabad and Matthew Green in Lahore.; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


  • Black Thursday: Bloodbath in Quetta
    By Mohammad ZafarPublished: January 11, 2013

    Security personnel examine the site of a bomb explosion in Quetta. PHOTO: AFP
    A string of bombings left at least 93 people dead and over 150 wounded in one of the bloodiest days of violence that Balochistan has seen for years.
    “A suicide bomber detonated the explosives inside a crowded snooker club on Alamdar Road, a Shia-dominated neighbourhood of Quetta,” Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told The Express Tribune.
    “Fifteen minutes later, another explosion went off outside the club as police, mediapersons and rescuers rushed to the site,” Durrani added.
    A senior police official said 81 people were killed and 121 injured – some of them critically. “The fatalities include a television journalist and cameraman, eight police officials and five Edhi volunteers,” Mir Zubair Mehmood, the capital city police officer (CCPO), told a news conference.
    The two media men were identified as Samaa TV reporter Saifur Rehman Baloch and Imran Sheikh.
    Hamid Shakeel, the deputy inspector general of police (Investigation Branch), said the snooker club was situated in the basement of a four-storey building which collapsed with the impact of the blast.
    Moments before the blast, the home secretary said, a man was seen carrying a bag into the crowded snooker club. The man is suspected to be a suicide bomber.
    As soon as mediapersons, police and rescue officials reached the site, the second blast went off. Television channels counted the two explosions as suicide attacks. But the home secretary later described the second as a time device that was planted in a car. Most of the casualties were caused by the second blast.
    The bombings disrupted power supplies and plunged the Alamdar Road neighbourhood into darkness. The area is dominated by the Hazara community, who are Shias by sect. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the blast and said their target was the Hazara community.
    A spokesperson for the militant group told Quetta-based journalists in a phone call that the first one was a suicide blast and the second was a planted bomb.
    The casualties were driven to the Civil Hospital where a state of emergency was already declared. Dozens of injured are in critical condition, medics said, adding that the death toll could rise.
    “We have enough life-saving medicine to treat the injured,” Health Department official Dr Saleem told The Express Tribune.

    An old man cries over the death of his relative in the Quetta blast. PHOTO: AFP
    After the Alamdar Road blast, there were two more blasts on Prince Road, which is part of the commercial district of Quetta, whipping up fear and panic among residents.
    Earlier in the day, a massive bomb went off near a paramilitary checkpoint at a busy roundabout of Quetta, killing around a dozen people, including a paramilitary soldier, and injuring 40 others.
    The United Baloch Army (UBA), an insurgent group, claimed responsibility for the blast which took place in Bacha Khan Chowk, the commercial district of the provincial capital.
    “It was a time device,” Quetta police chief Mir Zubair said. “The bomb was planted underneath a vehicle parked near a picket of the Frontier Corps (FC),” he told journalists as investigators sifted through the rubble for more clues. “FC personnel were the target,” said police investigator Hamid Shakeel. The explosion destroyed at least 15 vehicles, three of them belonging to the FC, and 10 nearby shops. One of the FC vehicles was turned into a heap of mangled metal. An explosives expert said the bomb weighed 20 to 30 kilogrammes.
    After the blast pools of blood, shattered windows, charred pieces of metal and merchandise from street vendors littered the roadside. Home Secretary Captain (Retd) Akbar Hussain Durrani confirmed 11 fatalities. “Among the dead were an FC soldier, a naib tehsildar and a Revenue Department official.” However, an Edhi rescue official added that one of the injured died while being driven to a hospital.
    “One FC personnel was killed and 10 were injured – two of them seriously,” said Murtaza Baig, the spokesperson for the paramilitary force.
    Most of the casualties were shifted to the Civil Hospital where medics told The Express Tribune that they have received 35 injured – some of them with critical wounds. Another 15 injured were shifted to other hospitals of the city.
    The UBA claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to Quetta-based journalists. The group’s spokesperson said the paramilitary force was the target. The UBA is one of many groups fighting a bloody insurgency in the province.
    The group had earlier kidnapped John Solecki, former chief of UNHCR in Balochistan, who was later set free.
    It was the deadliest day in Quetta since a suicide bomber blew himself up at a 2010 mourning procession, killing around 50 people. (With additional input from Agencies)
    (Read: Are we serious against terrorism?)
    Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.


  • Imran expresses deep concern over rampant acts of terrorism claiming hundreds of precious lives
    By Arsalan Faisal Mirza | 45 Views | | National

    ISLAMABAD, Jan 11: Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan Friday strongly condemned the terrorist attacks that took place in Quetta and Swat on Thursday causing loss of over one hundred lives and leaving many others injured. This combined with terror attacks in other areas and target killings have left over 130 people dead in a single day. The PTI chief said the innocent people were being killed but the government has limited its role to issuing a condemnation and condolence messages. “No strategy is visible to combat the menace of terrorism and find an endurable solution,” he deplored.

    Imran Khan said that the situation has deteriorated to an extent that even personnel of law enforcement agencies and media men were not safe. He strongly condemned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for its genocidal campaign against Shia Hazara community in Quetta. This sectarian strife combined with random acts of terror is leading to a strong feeling of instability in the country, he asserted.

    He said that the situation in the entire country but particularly in Balochistan has been chaotic for quite some time. “Unfortunately the governments both Federal and Provincial have done nothing to take stock of the situation and devise a workable plan. The result is that this province, which is full of natural resources are slipping out of control”.

    Imran Khan stressed the need for a political consensus to address the issue of terrorism and extremism. A comprehensive plan has to be devised which includes political initiatives plus the use of force to create enduring peace. Expressing his deepest sympathies for the families of the deceased, he also felt that the government should initiate a robust plan to take care of them. They should not be left to fend for themselves and the government should provide them due compensation and a permanent source of sustenance for the heirs of the deceased.


  • Formidable power of Pakistan’s anti-Shia militants
    By M Ilyas Khan
    BBC News, Islamabad

    The key to the increasing power of these groups is not just their ideological fervour but also their ability to set up militant training camps
    Continue reading the main story
    Related Stories
    Profile: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
    Wednesday’s bombings of a Shia Muslim neighbourhood in the Pakistani city of Quetta that killed almost 100 people is a grim reminder of the power of sectarian militants to act as the arbiters of peace – and war – in this country.

    Since 2004-05, they have steadily spread their wings in south western Balochistan province, where the ethnic Hazara community of Shia Muslims has been their main target.

    Figures released by the Balochistan government place the number of Shias killed in the province between 2008 and 2012 at 758. Members of the Hazara community say the figure is much higher.

    Continue reading the main story

    Founded in the 1980s, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a Sunni Muslim militant group blamed for a string of sectarian and high-profile terror attacks
    Banned in Pakistan in 2001 and designated a terrorist group by the US in 2003
    The group has ties to other militant networks such as the Pakistani Taliban
    It regularly attacks Shia targets, but has also been linked to major attacks such as the 2007 assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto
    Profile: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
    The hatred these Sunni militant groups bear towards Shia Muslims is fundamentally theological although the groups’ origins date back to the late 1970s, the time of neighbouring Iran’s Shia revolution.

    The historic split between Sunni and Shia originate in a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over which of his four companions should lead the Muslim community.

    The group which has claimed responsibility for the blast, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was born out of another group called Sipah-e-Sahaba, whose name literally translates as “Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet”.

    So their anti-Shia agenda is there in the very origins and name of this group. But over the last few years there has been a dramatic escalation on attacks against Shia Muslims around Pakistan, with some activists naming 2012 as the worst year in living memory for Shia killings.

    The key to the increasing power of these groups to wreak havoc on Shias is not just their ideological fervour, but also their ability to set up militant training camps – and Pakistan’s complex political environment.

    Balochistan training camps
    The bombing reflects the extent to which the Pakistani policy of using Islamic militancy as a foreign policy tool has, in the course of three decades, compromised its ability to clean up its house.

    Continue reading the main story
    Sunni and Shia Muslims
    Muslims are split into two main branches, the Sunnis and Shias
    The split originates in a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community
    There are also differences in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organisation
    The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis
    Pakistan – where Shias are a minority – has a history of sectarian bloodshed dating back to the 1980s
    The geographical spread of these outfits today is unprecedented in terms of both their striking capability and their ability to paralyse life in areas of their influence.

    In December, activists for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is now banned, closed down Karachi, a city of more than 15 million people, when one of their leaders was injured in a gun attack blamed on a rival sect.

    Credible reports from the region say the group has also set up several residential and training camps in the remote Mastung area of Balochistan, from where they have been attacking buses carrying Shia pilgrims to holy sites in Iran.

    A couple of very large arms dumps uncovered by the police in Quetta in recent months indicate that they have copious supplies of arms, ammunition and explosives, and the tactics they use during attacks show them to be highly trained.

    But sectarian militants also have vast influence in the north-western tribal region of Pakistan, where some analysts believe they form the backbone of the Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

    Not many people know that some top TTP leaders – such as the late head of the suicide training squad, Qari Hussain, and the TTP’s current spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan – were all members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab at one time or another before they became part of the TTP.

    Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliated groups also provide crucial technical and manpower support to other major groups in the tribal region, such as the Haqqani network and other groups.

    Shia pilgrims are frequently targeted on buses by sectarian militants
    Electoral power-brokers?
    With this kind of spread and influence, can the sectarian militants be defeated at all?

    Most analysts believe the state is far more powerful than the entire Pakistani militant network, but at the moment it lacks the will to pull the ground from under them.

    There are various reasons for this.

    In Punjab province, which is the breeding ground of sectarian militants, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its parent organisation, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, have a strong electoral presence due mainly to the state patronage they enjoyed during the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf.

    All the major political parties in the province depend on this vote bloc in many areas of central and southern Punjab to win parliamentary seats.

    Therefore, any kind of a crackdown on these groups would run contrary to their interests, especially when elections are approaching.

    The country’s powerful military establishment also has an ambivalent attitude towards these groups. Even as cadres of these groups are clearly seen as an enemy because they work with the Taliban, they serve several other major interests.

    Useful in a crisis
    In Balochistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliates have helped dilute the impact of an armed nationalist separatist movement by diverting international attention to the issue of targeting Shias.

    Elements in the military establishment have also felt a need to use the street protest power of these groups as a second line of defence at times of international crises.

    Last year, these groups formed a major part of the movement launched by an alliance of Jihadist religious forces, the Defence of Pakistan Council, to put pressure on the Pakistani civilian rulers not to reopen the Nato supply routes through Pakistan.

    In addition, these groups have provided both political and military support to Pakistani objectives against India in the disputed region of Kashmir.

    As things stand, the Afghan endgame, in which the Pakistanis are fishing for a major role, is yet to play out to the finish, and the border with India in Kashmir is far from stable.

    So while the destructive potential of these groups is not lost on anyone in Pakistan, they have not outlived their utility quite yet.

    And if they continue to prove their anti-Shia credentials day after day, they will not have lost their utility for the Sunni-Wahabi sheikhdoms of the Middle East as well, from where they receive the bulk of their funding.