YET another series of attacks against the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan over the weekend has raised fresh questions about the state’s inability or, as some quarters darkly suggest, unwillingness to take on the sectarian killers in the province headlined by the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Balochistan. To be sure, with only a small number of hardcore militants believed to be involved, stopping them will not be easy. But there are disturbing signs that the killings are yet to shake the political and security apparatus in Balochistan out of its stupor. Even more problematically, members of the provincial government are being accused by the Hazara community of either providing sanctuary to the killers or of turning a blind eye to their presence in certain areas.
What is clear is that Balochistan has a growing problem of radicalisation. A network of madressahs and mosques has mushroomed in Baloch areas like the districts of Mastung, Khuzdar, Noshki and Kalat. With little to no oversight of their operations, the network has injected into parts of the Baloch population a growing intolerance along sectarian, i.e. Sunni-Shia, lines. Add to that mixture the recruiting of LJ type militant outfits and a relatively small problem can snowball. In Balochistan, the surge in targeting the Hazara community this year and particularly in the last few weeks is not well understood. It could be that a ‘deadline’ for the Hazaras to leave Quetta, for example, set by the militants has expired. Or with the space for sectarian attacks in other parts of the country somewhat reduced, the Hazaras in lawless Balochistan are an easier target.
Whatever the reasons for the surge in killings and attacks, the matter seems to be beyond the control of regular law-enforcement agencies. Police in Quetta are themselves targets of sectarian killers and do not have the resources to fight back or defend themselves. And if the police’s political bosses in the provincial government are disinclined to take on the sectarian militants, there’s little the police can do anyway. Which leaves the intelligence apparatus. The LJ in Balochistan is precisely the kind of entity that intelligence agencies are meant to track and help dismantle. The damaging war against Baloch separatists being led by the intelligence agencies is real enough but it’s not reason enough to preclude other actions by those agencies. But what if the agencies see strategic reasons to leave some groups untouched? The Hazaras of Balochistan are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.