Who is responsible for the al-Quds attack?

Published: September 4, 2010
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A woman in Karachi marks al-Quds day

A suicide attacker targeted the al-Quds rally this Friday in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Fifty Pakistanis are dead and with over 100 injured the figure could rise further.

It was highly irresponsible of the organizers of the rally – and the government officials who gave it the green signal – to endanger the lives of Pakistani citizens only two days after attacks that targeted public events. In pure security terms, this is a serious lack of judgment on the part of the organizers. The Pakistani government must proceed with criminal charges against the organizers who, in their callousness, put politics before the lives of our citizens at a time when we face foreign-backed terror. The relevant government officials who licensed the procession should be questioned about the sources of their assessment that it was safe to hold huge rallies in these times.

Getting the facts straight

This al-Quds Day rally was organized by shia groups that support Iran’s call for al-Quds Day to be held on the last Friday of Ramazan. But it is by no means a Shia religious event. A majority of Pakistanis support al-Quds Day, regardless of religious affiliations. Personally, I fully support Tehran’s courageous stance on al-Quds, the holy city under Israeli occupation. It’s also important to remember that the al-Quds Day is a political event launched by the government of Iran. It is not a religious event.

In Pakistan, the organizers of the rally should have put the safety and security of Pakistani citizens ahead of everything else. A smaller, symbolic public event could have been arranged instead of a large one. The crime of the organizers is compounded by the knowledge of what happened in Karachi and Lahore two days earlier.

Unfortunately,  proxy sectarian groups allegedly backed by Saudi and Iranian have endangered the lives of Pakistanis for years and put foreign interests before Pakistan’s national interests. These groups must and should be banned. It is also important to avoid playing into the hands of the terrorists who did this. Everyone knows we have sectarian groups in the country. But is every attack on one group the work of the opposite group? Not necessarily.

In other words, Pakistan’s indigenous sectarian groups have weakened over the years and their foreign support, from Saudi Arabia, Iran or elsewhere, has been considerably curtailed. The remnants of the groups are being reorganized on the Afghan border – with another group arming them and financing them and providing them a new safe haven.

There are higher chances of the attacks being the work of the terror-export enterprise that hides in Afghanistan and has been targeting Pakistan since 2005. The first evidence of this is the fact that responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by a terror group based on the Afghan border.

With an attack on a minority worship place earlier in the day in Mardan preceding the Quetta attack by a few hours, it is clear that this is not just a sectarian issue but an organized campaign by Pakistan’s enemies. And surely they will find supporters inside Pakistan. Apart from existing sectarian groups, it is easy to recruit and brainwash young Pakistani teenagers, convince them to wear explosive belts and blow themselves up anywhere.

It’s not just Pakistan. Iran has seen attacks on Shia mosques by elements claiming to be Sunnis. But there are no Sunni sectarian groups in Iran. The terrorists who have been attacking Iranian targets are based in US-controlled Afghanistan claiming to represent Sunnis. The attacks in Quetta on Friday and in Karachi and Lahore on Wednesday share the same origin as the attacks in Iran: they are masterminded by terrorists who hide on the border with Afghanistan and have links to foreign intelligence agencies based there. Reportedly India has shown a lot of interest in these groups and established contacts with elements linked to them.

Let us also remember there are external powers in our neighborhood that could have an interest in perpetuating chaos in the region. United States officials and commentators became uneasy when the focus in Pakistan turned to the floods and the humanitarian disaster and no one was talking about Washington’s war on terror. That’s when at least one US media outlet spun into action and contacted terror ‘spokespersons’ on the Afghan border and solicited statements that can best be described as spreading panic during a national emergency.

A time to protect ourselves

It is important that non-religious and non-essential public events in Pakistan – political and religious – be curtailed under these circumstances, regardless of sect and politics. If the government and the army can call off parades on days of national significance, including Independence Day, then unnecessary public congregations can be curtailed as well.

Patriotic Pakistanis, Shias and Sunnis, must step forward and show courage by telling our emotional religious figures that saving the lives of Pakistanis is more important for the time being. Pakistani religious figures that refuse to do this and hide behind weak religious pretexts must be charged with endangering the lives of Pakistani citizens.

ahmed.quraishi

Ahmed Quraishi

The author is a journalist and a public policy professional, with government & private sector experience across Pakistan and the Middle East. He tweets @Office_AQPk (twitter.com/Office_AQPk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.