Quetta: Pakistan`s minority Shiite Muslims have started using the word "genocide" to describe a violent spike in attacks against them by a militant Sunni group with suspected links to the country`s security agencies and a mainstream political party that governs the largest province.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group of radical Sunni Muslims, who revile Shiites as heretics, has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks throughout Pakistan.
Linked to al Qaeda, it has been declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US, yet it operates with relative ease in Pakistan`s populous Punjab province, where Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and several other violent jihadi groups are based.
The violence against Shiites has ignited a national debate and political arguments about a burgeoning militancy in Pakistan.
The latest attack was a massive bombing earlier this month that ripped apart a Shiite neighborhood in Pakistan`s largest city of Karachi, killing 48 people, many of them as they left a mosque after saying their evening prayers. So far this year nearly 300 Shiites have been killed in devastating bombings, target killings and executions.
The unrelenting attacks also have focused the nation`s attention on freedoms that Pakistani politicians give extremists groups, staggering corruption within the police and prison systems and the murky and protracted relationship between militant groups and Pakistan`s military and intelligence agencies.
"The government doesn`t have the will to go after them and the security agencies are littered with sympathisers who give them space to operate," Hazara Democratic Party chief Abdul Khaliq Hazara, told The Associated Press in a recent interview in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan where some of the most ferocious anti-Shiite attacks have occurred.
He labeled the killings as the "genocide of Hazaras," whom are mostly Shiites and easily identified by their Central Asian facial features.
"I have a firm belief that our security agencies have not yet decided to end all extremists groups," said Hazara. "They still want those (militants) that they think they can control and will need either in India or Afghanistan," he said.