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Pakistan bombing hints at free rein for radicals in Quetta

A bus bombing in Quetta is the latest attack on Shiite Hazaras. The lack of arrests have prompted the Hazaras to suspect the state is complicit.

By Correspondent / June 19, 2012

Security officials survey a damaged bus which was hit by a bomb attack in Quetta, Pakistan, June 18. A car bomb exploded near a university bus on Monday killing three students and wounding over 25 other people, most of them students, in Pakistan's southwest, police said, and reported by local media.

Naseer Ahmed/REUTERS

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Quetta, Pakistan

The bombing of a university bus mostly filled with Shiite Hazaras killed at least four students in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province on Monday.

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Balochistan borders Afghanistan and is widely seen as the base for the Afghan Taliban leadership. Yesterday's attacks were carried out by another set of jihadis in the region, a reminder that the large Pakistani security presence here has focused more on pinning down an ethnic uprising than cleaning up Islamic militancy. 

More than 130 ethnic Hazaras have been killed in some 30 separate attacks since May 2011, bringing the death toll above 700 in the past 10 years, according to the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP).

The banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has taken responsibility for Monday's bombing. The Sunni extremist group has openly declared that the community is “worthy of killing” because of its Shiite beliefs.

Considering Pakistan's strong security presence in Quetta, Hazara leaders say their group should have better protection. Some leaders further allege that the government turns a blind eye to Sunni militants in the hopes of distracting ethnic Baloch from their long-simmering, secular nationalist fight. 

Pakistan's security establishment has traditionally viewed ethnic nationalism as a more present danger to the state than Islamic militants, which it has used as tools of foreign policy across the border in Afghanistan. 

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has carried out attacks in Afghanistan, including a December suicide attack in Kabul that killed 80 people. Today, Afghanistan's Attorney General Eshaq Aloko said that though Lashkar-e-Jhangvi planned the attack, “it was masterminded by some spy agencies in our neighboring countries.” His comments are seen as a “veiled reference to Pakistan intelligence,” according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

Inside Balochistan, the accusations are similar. 

“Government agencies are well aware of where our target killers hide out. Yet they fail to arrest them and bring them to justice,“ says Ahmad Ali Kohzad, secretary-general of the HDP. “Our security agencies are allowing these groups to operate in our territory because they constitute a strategic asset for established interests."

Human Rights Watch is also chastising Pakistan for failing to curb, by their count, the killings of 275 Shiites in Balochistan since 2008. “While authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects, no one has been charged in these attacks,” the groups said in a statement.

Military presence

Army cantonments occupy around half of the city's territory, checkpoints abound, and 27 platoons (almost 1,000 soldiers) from the Balochistan Frontier Corps (FC) – a federally controlled paramilitary force – patrol the streets alongside city police.

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