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EDITORIAL: Terrorists struck in Quetta, again, on Thursday. Four people were killed and 16 others injured when an improvised explosive device went off near the main gate of a college where the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Ideological group, a breakaway faction of the JUI-F, was holding a conference. According to the police, the target of attack was leaders and workers of the group. The explosion occurred when they were coming out of the conference. Luckily for them, provincial emir of the party Maulana Abdul Qadir Luni and other senior leaders had left by then. All those killed or injured were JUI-I workers and its seminary students. No one has claimed responsibility for the carnage.

So who the perpetrators might be? Surely, not the Baloch insurgents. In the past, however, the TTP militants had killed several JUI-F leaders and activists in the erstwhile FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as in Balochistan for what they deemed the party’s conciliatory stance towards Islamabad. The JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also escaped two abortive assassination attempts. But a lot has changed since then. The Maulana’s ideological brothers, the Afghan Taliban, are back in power in Kabul, and to them the TTP also pays allegiance. The main suspect, IS-K/Daesh, is embattled with the Afghan Taliban. It has considerable presence in Balochistan as well. IS-K terrorists have regularly been killing hapless members of the Shia Hazara community in Quetta and wherever they go in Balochistan to earn livelihoods or for other needs. As for the motive behind the latest atrocity, those familiar with the local political dynamics point out that the JUI-Ideological is even closer to the Afghan Taliban than the JUI-F. Some of its members are said to be holding important positions in the Taliban government. In so doing they seem to have invited trouble for their colleagues back in Pakistan, flouting also the authority of this state, for which their leadership should be held to account.

Some of it is the backwash of more than 40 years of America’s two wars and an intervening internecine conflict in Afghanistan. Before any of this happed the people in Balochistan proudly spoke of their age-old secular traditions. Outside influences from the across the border as well as the establishment of several foreign-funded seminaries in the province have played a significant role in radicalising the local people. Many of those involved in various terrorist attacks in that restive province were not the IS-K’s Afghan foot soldiers, but its locally recruited suicide bombers and facilitators. The powers that be, of course, are aware of the factors responsible for the present state of affairs. Things will not change for the better as long as the status quo persists. Good faith efforts need to be undertaken to resolve the political issues causing Baloch alienation from the Centre, which also creates space for extremists to operate in. But equally important is that the policies engendering religious extremism across the country must be rethought.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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