Sectarian killings in Karachi the highest in two decades
KARACHI: Sectarian blood-letting in Karachi has reached its worst level in two decades as extremists fight a renewed campaign to hunt them down, analysts said on Tuesday.
An apparent suicide attack on a Shia mosque during evening prayers on Monday was the latest in a bloody spiral of attacks. It killed 19 people and wounded more than two dozen. Five deadly attacks in Karachi have claimed 46 lives in less than a month, confirming the city’s reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous cities.
“As far as I remember, the last time I saw violence of this magnitude was in 1984,” said Shia leader Hasan Turabi. Analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi saw the latest attacks as a bid by militant groups to distract government efforts to dismantle them and hunt down their leaders such as Amjad Farooqi, the Al Qaeda-linked militant said to have masterminded two plots to kill President Pervez Musharraf. The perpetrators, analysts suspect, are militants belonging to Sunni majority, to which President Musharraf belongs.
Unlike the president, who sees himself as an enlightened moderate, the militants are Deobandis, followers of a South Asian brand of Islam akin to the ultra-conservative Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia.
President Musharraf made die-hard militants his enemies by abandoning support for the Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan and joining the US-led war on terror in late 2001, and later by pursuing peace with India.
“All these groups think they have been betrayed by the government of Pakistan,” political analyst Hasan Askari said. “These attacks appear to be meant to create chaos to avenge this betrayal. And if you want to create chaos, you can make it a sectarian or any other form.”
“They are engaging in this kind of violence to deter the government from taking any new punitive measures against them,” said Rizvi, former head of political science at Punjab University.
“They are doing this to show they are powerful enough to disrupt governance and undermine the government’s credibility.” “There can be other reasons for these attacks but the main reason remains the same — the war on terror,” said Dr Mutahir Ahmed, professor of International Relations at Karachi University.
The first recorded outbreak of violence was in 1963 in the rural Sindh town of Khairpur, some 450 kilometres northeast of Karachi, where over 150 Shias were killed in a mob attack. It spread to Karachi in 1978. Over the next six years hundreds of Shias and Sunnis were killed and scores of mosques were burnt to the ground.
“Sectarian militancy in Pakistan further rose with the Islamic revolution in Iran, followed by the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said Jamil Yusuf, former chief of Karachi’s Citizen-Police Liason Committee.“The past two or three years have seen the rise of highly-motivated militants, who are not scared of death and want to become martyrs by killing members of the rival sect,” police investigator Manzoor Mughal said. afp