Wednesday’s terrorist attack at Imambargah Qasr-e-Sakina is the fourth terrorist attack since the past 8 weeks, three of which have targeted Shia worshipers killing almost 100 innocents and injuring dozens more. It is impossible to continue ignoring the devil in the room which is the rise in sectarian killing. Still the country is not divided along sectarian lines, but could that be on the brink of changing?
In response to the rise in anti-Shia killings, CM Sindh has announced that the government would issue weapon licenses to all Shia seminaries, imambargahs and mosques. This was a key demand of families of victims of the Shikarpur attack, but there are some worrisome meanings behind this announcement.
By requesting increased weapon licenses, Shia are announcing that they no longer have faith in the state – government and military – to protect them. And why should they? They feel that they are on their own to secure their own lives in their own country, and statistics suggest it may be the case. By honouring the request and issuing new weapon licenses, the state is confirming that they are not in a position to protect citizens.
It should be noted that it is not only Shia and not only Sindh that are facing this terrifying reality. Following the brutal terrorist attack against APS Peshawar in December, teachers were issued weapons to defend themselves and their students from terrorists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. KP Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani confirmed that the state was incapable of protecting its citizens: “The number of police in the province is not enough to guard 35,000 schools, colleges and universities — that’s why we have allowed teachers to carry firearms.”
One of the key criteria of a ‘failed state’ is “Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein.” When the state’s answer to rising terrorism is to give citizens weapons and tell them to defend themselves, how long can the citizens have faith in their state? And if the state’s answer to sectarian attacks is to issue more weapons, can the result be expected to be anything other than a rise in sectarian attacks? Army continues to issue triumphant press releases and government continues to declare its resolve to end terrorism. On the streets, though, the citizens are being handed guns and told to fend for themselves. It’s a recipe for failure.