LAHORE  - Intelligence and law enforcing agencies have intensified clampdown on the religious extremists particularly the Afghan Trained Boys (ATBs) as the menace of sectarianism swells swiftly in the Punjab province. In Karachi, the sectarian strife is already going out of control. The Afghan Trained Boys are the men trained in Afghanistan during the Afghan war of the 1980s and returned to Pakistan after the Soviet occupation forces left the war-torn state. The police, counter-terrorism department, and Special Branch are deeply monitoring the activities of the hundreds of ATBs due to suspicion of their direct or indirect involvement in the terrorist activities.

Early this month, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khan Baig while addressing the first RPO conference of 2014 at the central police office warned that the elements involved in spreading sectarianism are enemies of the nation and they deserve no mercy.

The top cops reviewed the anti-sectarianism campaign launched in 2013 in detail and also discussed the cases related to sectarianism including the arrests of accused persons, process of investigations, cases pending in the courts. The police were also ordered to ensure strict action against the elements found involved distributing, printing, and spreading hatred-material.

Although the administration has undertaken effective measures to control sectarian violence in the country yet the emotional simmering and bubbling rumbles among followers of opposing sects pose serious threats to peace and harmony. Security experts believe the possibility of sectarian violence is being exploited by hostile elements who have devised schemes to destabilize Pakistan through sectarian violence.

The unfortunate events which took place in the Raja Bazaar of Rawalpindi on the day of Ashura last year and left several innocent people dead besides destroying business worth billions of rupees also points at a highly sensitive vulnerability of Pakistan.

Retaliatory attacks resulted into the killings of religious leaders and activists of different sects under a well-prepared scheme. The aim was to ignite the fire and facilitate its quick spread. So far, sectarian leaders have shown maturity, sense of purpose and wisdom, in understanding the designs of anti-Pakistan forces who are trying to inflame the sectarian fire with a view to destabilize Pakistan. There is no doubt that some foreign forces are involved to promote sectarian violence in Pakistan since they feel no shame in their schemes to fight proxy wars inside Pakistan. Such forces not only provide financial support to different sects but also give their weapons, training, and ideological motivation to continue with the sectarian violence. Their tactics are to kill the leaders and key communicators to see the violence spreading at a fast speed. Such foreign intervention in inciting the religious disharmony against the sanctified fiber of the country has been established on more than one occasions. The neighboring country’s involvement in creating sectarian violence and religious unrest in Balochistan has repeatedly come to fore. On several occasions, the fact had been conveyed to Indian leadership through diplomatic channels. Unfortunately some Muslims countries are using the prevalent religious environment to promote and strengthen their schools of thoughts in Pakistan through massive funding directly to leaders and organizations of respective sects.

There is no respite in sectarian violence in the Punjab province as the police are unable to hunt down the killers behind such attacks. Security experts say that religious scholars of different sects should educate their followers on fostering tolerance and on the significance of interfaith harmony to make Pakistan a peaceful nation. In Lahore, a 35-year-old Charted Accountant, Ali Hussain Qazilbash, was killed in a drive-by shooting at a traffic signal near Firdous Market in Gulberg area on Wednesday in what appeared to be a sectarian attack.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat provincial chief Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muavia was assassinated in a drive-by shooting near Ring Road when he was on his way home after Friday prayers in December. Two weeks later, a leader of the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh Jafaria (TNFJ), Allama Nasir Abbas of Multan, was shot dead by unidentified armed men in Lahore. Gunmen on motorbikes shot and killed a 45-year-old professor of ophthalmology and his 12-year-old son in Lahore’s posh locality of Gulberg in a similar sectarian attack in February last.