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HRCP’s distress at escalation in terrorist bloodletting

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the killing of over 100 people, predominantly the Shia Hazara, in a string of bombings in Quetta and other attacks in Mingora and Karachi on Thursday, and demanded that the government take immediate steps to clamp down on the murdering mayhem.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said, “In the first few days of 2013, HRCP finds itself lamenting for the second time large-scale sectarian bloodshed in the country. The callous targeting of members of the Hazara community in Quetta in two of those bombings on Thursday has caused the highest death toll for any sectarian attack in a day in Pakistan so far. Lack of any apparent distress at these brutal attacks and absence of much urgency to nab the killers has understandably prompted human rights organisations in the country and abroad to accuse the state of looking the other way, if not of downright complicity, as more and more citizens of the Shia faith are mowed down in appalling attacks.

If the government has any trepidation about its failure to stem the horrific spike in sectarian killings or the utter absence of its own writ, it has certainly done a good job hiding that. It defies belief how in a city like Quetta the attackers can manage to get through security checks and strike at will. A bombing in Mingora and the brazen bloodshed in Karachi on Thursday only demonstrate hastened descent into chaos as the general elections approach. The people expect much more from the police and the security forces than mere information on the nature of the explosions that claimed citizens’ lives. An ostensibly banned organisation has claimed the Quetta bombings. The network and sanctuaries of that and other banned outfits must be taken apart across Pakistan, including Punjab, and the killers apprehended and tried. Until that happens, the charges of the state being soft on the terrorists would not go away. That is also the only way to restore the faith of the citizenry in the state’s ability to safeguard their lives and well being.

Reflections are also in order on what could have been done to avoid fatalities among media workers in Quetta who were at the scene to cover the first bombing when the second explosion occurred. With escalating sectarian violence and the election-related violence that is almost certain to be the worst in Pakistan’s electoral history, because of weaponisation, brutalisation of society and the high stakes for all concerned, we might see journalists being caught up increasingly more frequently. HRCP hopes that the government, media organisations and journalists’ bodies would invest in safety of journalists through developing SOPs, safety gear and training on conflict reporting.”

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