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Pakistan needs a strong hand to put down violence

With elections round the corner, the government will have to show that it is keen to protect the minorities

Gulf News

Another blast in Pakistan. More innocent people killed. A militant group claims responsibility. People accuse the government and intelligence agencies for not providing security. The timeline of a blast has become quite predictable. This time the Hazaras, a Shiite ethnic group, have been targeted by the militant Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group that had also said that it was behind a bombing last month in Quetta, which killed nearly 100 people. Since then Shiite leaders have called on Pakistan’s military to take over security in Quetta.

The government has come under fire earlier, too, for failing to protect minorities and for doing little to contain hardline groups determined to foment sectarian violence. More than 400 Shiites were killed in Pakistan last year. Some hardline Shiite groups have struck back by killing Sunni clerics. There have also been more than 2,000 killings in Karachi in 2012.

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies say militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi want to destabilise the country, but that only means officials need to be more vigilant.

This time the toll is too high for anyone to sit back and pass it off as just another blast. Growing sectarian violence is piling pressure on the government, along with that of the Taliban insurgency.

What is missing in Pakistan is a strong voice — a voice of authority, a voice of reason, a voice that says enough is enough. Unfortunately, what resonates is a disturbing silence waiting to be broken only by the not-so-sporadic blast claiming more innocent lives. Pakistan’s leadership will have to convince its people, especially the minorities, that it is keen to protect them or it will have to face their ire at the polls.

A leadership that does not protect its people, whether it is 
the majority or the minority, is answerable to those who elect them. The country today needs a strong hand — a hand that will put down violence firmly, but at the same time lift the downtrodden and assure them that they can live without fear or