While there was a clash between two groups in Bhakkar after Friday prayers, there was also firing outside a mosque in Islamabad. Both events are sectarian in motive. The Bhakkar clash was exceptionally bloody, for no less than 11 people were killed, six on the spot. The Islamabad clash is perhaps more worrisome, even though only three people were killed, because it once again raises questions about how killers brought weapons inside the federal capital even though only a week had passed since the nation witnessed how a sole gunman bought the federal capital to a standstill. It seems everyone is quick to point at our successive governments and military regimes’ policy of wooing the clergy and tolerating militants to be used for different purposes, and sadly there is little indication that this habit will ever come to an end.

While sectarianism has certainly been boosted by Zia era shenanigans, it has grown into horrific proportions by consequent inaction. It is the responsibility of the government to combat the atmosphere of intolerance that is one of its root causes. At the same time, the perpetrators of this violence should never be shown any leniency since they are acting virtually beyond the pale of civilization and the only thing fit for them is the gallows.

But it should not be forgotten that this sectarianism, in the form as it exists now, arose only recently. While this has led to thousands of deaths, never before has the state seemed so helpless.

Pointing a finger at a foreign hand, is a way to shirk responsibility. Some of the groups – once formed by the military during the Afghan jihad now are in no one's grip, some have formed private armies and now operate in South, North Waziristan and other areas. Once we accept this fact only then will we be able to completely eliminate the scourge.

It is only by a firm response, in which terrorists are brought to justice, that the country can hope to avoid being further plunged into the bloodshed it is already wallowing in.