“Pakistan Reels With Violence Against Shiites,” by Declan Walsh for The New York Times, December 3 (thanks to Bill):
QUETTA, Pakistan “” Calligraphers linger at the gates of an ancient graveyard in this brooding city in western Pakistan, charged with a macabre and increasingly in-demand task: inscribing the tombstones of the latest victims of the sectarian death squads that openly roam these streets.
For at least a year now, Sunni extremist gunmen have been methodically attacking members of the Hazara community, a Persian-speaking Shiite minority that emigrated here from Afghanistan more than a century ago. The killers strike with chilling abandon, apparently fearless of the law: shop owners are gunned down at their counters, students as they play cricket, pilgrims dragged from buses and executed on the roadside.
The latest victim, a mechanic named Hussain Ali, was killed Wednesday, shot inside his workshop. He joined the list of more than 100 Hazaras who have been killed this year, many in broad daylight. As often as not, the gunmen do not even bother to cover their faces.
The bloodshed is part of a wider surge in sectarian violence across Pakistan in which at least 375 Shiites have died this year “” the worst toll since the 1990s, human rights workers say. But as their graveyard fills, Hazaras say the mystery lies not in the identity of their attackers, who are well known, but in a simpler question: why the Pakistani state cannot “” or will not “” protect them.
“After every killing, there are no arrests,” said Muzaffar Ali Changezi, a retired Hazara engineer. “So if the government is not supporting these killers, it must be at least protecting them. That’s the only way to explain how they operate so openly.”…
The murders in Quetta, for instance, involve remarkably little mystery. By wide consensus, the gunmen are based in Mastung, a dusty agricultural village 18 miles to the south that is the bustling local hub of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the country”s most notorious sectarian militant group.
Like so many Pakistani groups that combine guns with zealotry, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi thrives in a wink-and-nod netherworld: it is officially banned, but its leader, Malik Ishaq, was released from jail last year amid showers of rose petals thrown by supporters. Now Mr. Malik lives openly in southern Punjab Province, protected by armed men who loiter outside his door, allowing him to deliver hate-laced statements to visitors. Shiites are “the greatest infidels on earth,” he told a Reuters reporter last month….
In the worst killing this year, militants dragged 26 Hazara men from a bus headed for a religious pilgrimage site in Iran, and executed them in front of their wives. The episode occurred near Mastung….
Now largely confined to home, Mr. Hussain is still not safe. Threats come via Facebook and Twitter, he said, through taunting messages about the “Shia kaffir” “” infidels.
The campaign of fear has forced the Hazara to retreat into ethnic enclaves on the edge of the city. Businesses have moved from the city center to Alamgir Road, a Hazara quarter where discreetly armed men stand watch on street corners. Even the ambulance drivers are armed.
One driver cocked his pistol before leading the way to the site of a recent attack. Across the street, the flag of a banned Sunni group fluttered from a shop with graffiti that read: “There is one treatment for Shiites “” it is called jihad.”…