Targeted operation against LJ: What are the options?
On February 16, 2013, a second deadly attack on the Shia Hazara community took place in Quetta within the span of just over a month.
This time too, the religious and ethnic minority, desperate for justice, declared they would not bury their loved ones until their demands were met. Among these demands was the call for a targeted operation against extremists operating in Balochistan – particularly the anti-Shia sectarian outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), which claimed responsibility for the attack.
This sentiment has been receiving increasing support across Pakistan, especially in the wake of the devastating Quetta attack in HazaraTown. There is a growing demand to focus on home-grown sectarian outfits, many say, as opposed to worrying about what’s happening across the border in India.
A targeted operation, however, would need to be a focused and sincere one. Many have been skeptical of arrests made within days of the blast, where four suspects were killed and the mastermind of the attack was reportedly arrested along with seven other suspects.
Meanwhile, the public also remains cynical after an increasing number of reports which indicate that political parties themselves are unwilling to crack down on LJ and its predecessor Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) because of electoral concerns. News reports also indicate that such concerns include seat adjustments for the upcoming elections between the Punjab government and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).
With the facts on the ground indicating that political parties may not be willing to seriously crack down on sectarian outfits, a number of questions arise.
Should the government go all-out and launch such an operation that specifically targets organisations like the LJ? If so, who should go about it? Would the operation be carried out by the police, or should the requests that the army be called in to clean up the way they did in Swat in 2009 be paid heed to? The army itself, meanwhile, has found itself defending itself against having links with the LJ.
Furthermore, where should such an operation take place? Should it be limited to Balochistan, or should bases be cracked down in Punjab as well, the heartland for many of these sectarian outfits?
Most certainly a consensus must be reached between the federal and provincial governments, as well as powerful institutions like the army, on deciding what to do next.