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Terrorism in Punjab, Pakistan!

Interesting Article: "Pakistan: Punjab Terror Assessment 2012 – Analysis" by SATP / Punjab published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that at least 18 Shias were killed and 30 others wounded when a bomb exploded near a procession marking the Arbain or the Chehlum (40th day of Hazrat Imam Hussain’s martyrdom), in Khanpur city of Rahim Yar Khan District on January 15, 2012. However, no militant outfit has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data, a total of 137 persons, including 110 civilians, 19 Security Force (SF) personnel and eight militants were killed, in total 20 separate incidents in 2011, as compared to 316 persons killed in 2010, and 422 killed in 2009, reflecting a significant attenuation in fatalities. While the Province registered a 56.64 per cent decline in overall fatalities in 2011, the possibility of escalation of violence cannot be ruled out as a result of the considerable and increasing presence of religious zealots, actively pursuing their mission of radicalizing the population on religious lines and recruiting them into armed “Allah’s squads”. Want to know more?

Partial data compiled by SATP recorded three suicide attacks in Punjab, which claimed a total of 63 lives, in 2011. 2010 had witnessed six such incidents, with 264 people killed. In addition to the suicide attacks were at least 13 bomb blasts in the Province, which claimed 94 lives and left 281 injured. In 2010, the number of bomb blasts stood at 20 with 275 fatalities. The Province registered eight major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) in 2011, as compared to 12 such incidents in 2010.

An overwhelming structure of religious fundamentalist formations, with their anti-India and anti-West agendas, and the circulation of anti-minorities and sectarian hate literature, remained a commonplace in Punjab through 2011. ‘Public gatherings’ led by religious ideologues in Punjab have become the major source of potential militant recruits. Extremist organizations recruit cadre, including potential suicide cadre, at such rallies. In one significant incident, on November 29, 2011, the Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD), on a false pretext of a ‘science exhibition’, mobilized young students, aged between 10-15 years, from the Jhumra Sandal Islamic School in Faisalabad District, and the Tameer-i-Seerat Model School Sharaqpur in Sheikhupura District, for a rally at Lahore, where JuD leaders vowed to convert Pakistan into a ‘Taliban State’ and to train young people to wage jihad (holy war) against America and India. Addressing the rally at the Press Club, JuD leader Maulana Ameer Hamza declared that the Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani should know that he had the full support of JuD, which would turn its followers into skilled fighters. 2011 began with the assassination of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer in Islamabad on January 4, 2011, by his own bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri, a member of the Punjab Elite Force.

Qadri had shared his intentions with other members of the security detail, but the latter failed both, to prevent him from carrying out the assassination or to react during the incident. Qadri was reportedly incensed by the Governor’s denunciation of the controversial blasphemy law and his advocacy for Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death on November 7, 2010, for alleged blasphemy. Currently, Aasia Bibi’s husband, Aashiq Masih, who is guilty of no crime, is on the run with his five children, while Bibi remains on a death row, with her mercy petition pending with President Asif Ali Zardari. Islamic clerics, meanwhile, have offered a bounty of about USD 8,000 to anyone who would kill her. When Qadri was taken to court on January 5, 2011, lawyers showered him with rose petals, and there has been significant expression of support for the assassin from a number of religious leaders and groups. A gathering of at least a thousand people at Data Darbar in Lahore expressed support for Qadri on January 4, 2012, and called for his release.

Supporters of various religious parties that form the Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Rasalat Mahaz (TNSM) also staged protests at the Lahore Press Club at Minar-e-Pakistan. Participants in the rally, mostly Barelvi Muslims, held up portraits of Qadri and chanted slogans in his honor. A resolution was adopted at the end of the rally asking President Asif Ali Zardari to declare clemency for Mumtaz Qadri and punishment for Asia Bibi. According to official reports 131 people have been arrested across Punjab on blasphemy charges. 11 of them have been sentenced to death. 35 people, including Taseer and Bhatti, have been killed between 1990 and 2011, for either ‘committing’ blasphemy or defending those charged with blasphemy. Taseer’s and Bhatti’s assassinations are only a dramatic instance of the fanatical violence that has come to afflict Punjab. Worse, the ever-feuding Deobandi and Barelvi sects appear to have joined forces in the Province, further amplifying the threat to minorities and sects regarded as ‘deviant’ by these Sunni formations. Religious hardliners based in Punjab also appear to have moved towards greater radicalization, and have strengthened their mutual ties.

Amidst rapid radicalization, the Pakistan Government imposed bans on radical formations in Punjab, but, these bans have been far from effective. Banned Deobandi anti-Shia outfits like the SSP and the LeJ have a stronghold in the southern part of the province. On occasion, these groups have sought to circumvent these bans by operating openly under a new banner. For instance, the banned SSP resurfaced as Ahl-e- Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ), while LeT continues to work openly under the banner of JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation. Islamabad has evidently failed to devise a unified strategy against the mounting intimidation and violence of terrorist groups in Punjab, and no alternative voice can, today, find expression in the Province. The terrorists in Punjab have demonstrated, in the past year, that no high office is beyond the sweep of their lethal reprisals, and even the smallest voices of dissent against their extremist creed will be stifled with exemplary brutality. Out of this comes one voice that seems to bring some hope from this region. Imran Khan, the new poster boy of Pakistani politics, believes he can nix terrorism against India emanating from Pakistan if voted to power. The cricketer-turned politician said he wanted a new beginning in the sub-continent. Jihad is multi-dimensional and Muslims have thought about it in multiple ways, though temporal rulers used it to earn gains, says Ayesha Jalal.

Talking in terms of South Asia, she said Islam in the sub-continent was shaped by the sub-continent and did not arrive as a finished product. "The good thing about Islam was that it could absorb the local cultures,'' she said. Speaking on the subject, Ayesha said more often than not, jihad had been evoked by Muslims against Muslims rather than non-Muslims. "It has been a term legitimated to legitimize oneself,'' she argued, adding it cannot be denied the terms have been distorted by the Muslims and that history, too, had changed its meaning.



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