Omar Waraich: A brutal escalation of sectarian violence

Comment

Yesterday's massacre was a brutal escalation of sectarian violence in Pakistan's largest and wealthiest province: Punjab.

In the past year, attacks have spread as outlawed hard-line Sunni terror groups have re-emerged. But the latest assault, with its multiple targets and closely coordinated execution, is an approach that has usually been targeted at security personnel rather than religious minorities – and so marks a raising of the stakes.

Last August, masked gunmen laid siege to a colony of Christians in the town of Gojra. Families were forced to flee as 45 homes were set ablaze, and after the assault, nine people lay dead. Last month three members of the Ahmedi community were killed and others subject to armed robberies in the city of Faisalabad.

Blame for both was cast on the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a vicious sectarian group that started life attacking Pakistan's Shias and is now central to a network of militant groups linked to the Taliban. Its even nastier offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is widely considered to be al-Qa'ida's franchise in Pakistan.

Yet far from taking on these groups, the provincial Punjab government has displayed dangerous indulgence. Earlier this year, its law minister toured the town of Jhang alongside the SSP's leader, courting votes in a local by-election.

Yesterday's attack was widely suspected to have been the work of militants closely aligned with the SSP. When al-Qai'da arrived in the western borderlands, hardline Sunni outfits like the SSP and LeJ provided them infrastructure: a steady supply of recruits and a network across the country.

An army offensive in Punjab is unlikely to work and may even inflame the problem. But there is broad support for a concerted police effort against the SSP and like-minded groups. For that to happen, however, the provincial Punjab government will have to grasp the urgency of the problem.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn