KARACHI - While the media is focusing on the changing political landscape, the hydra of extremism has raised its ugly head in the religiously serene interior Sindh.

The upper parts of the province have been stirred up by a series of protests last week after a bomb blast near Jacobabad targeted Ghulam Hussain Shah Bukhari, custodian of the Dargah Hussainabad, in Qambar.

According to police, the assault appeared to have been carried out on sectarian grounds. The attack on Bukhari, in which his grandson, Shafique Hussain Shah, 17, was killed, has set off alarm bells, raising sectarian tension between the Barelvi and Deobandi schools of though in upper Sindh.

The ambush sparked protests in Jacobabad, Larkana, Qambar, Dadu, Khairpur, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Tangwani, Qambar, Shikarpur, Garhi Yaseen, Lakhi Ghulam Shah, Sukkur, Panu Akil, Ghotki, Khanpur Mahar, Mirpur Mathelo and several other towns in upper Sindh soon after the news about the blasts was aired.

In yet another bombing at Ghulam Shah Ghazi shrine in Maari village near Shikarpur three persons were killed and more than 27 injured. Custodian of the dargah, Hajan Shah, two children and three women were among the injured.

These two highly sensitive incidents occurred in tandem with the space of five days breaking the religious peace and tranquility in the land of Sufis. In the recent past, a similar blast had taken place at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi.

There was also an appalling case reported in last December, when a man accused of blasphemy was dragged from a police lock-up and burnt alive in Seeta village of Dadu district.

Political analysts, who are watching the emerging extremists’ phenomenon in upper Sindh, are of the view that after international donors and aid agencies were banned from working in rain-hit areas in upper Sindh, extremist cells working in these areas found opportunity to do more than just providing relief.

The government’s ban on international donors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) prohibiting them from working in the rain-stricken areas of lower Sindh had created an opportunity for some outfits with extremist mindset to work in these areas.

Subsequently, a large number of Hindu families from upper Sindh have migrated to India due to the alleged forced conversions of Hindu girls and kidnapping of members of the minority community for ransom. Although the media has raised a hue and cry, the PPP government has downplayed the issue of migration so far.

Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan, is rather fast becoming the home of the Taliban, criminal gangs and hooligans, and has been witnessing the worst form of religious, sectarian and ethnic strife.

According to reports, in 2012 alone, violence claimed around 1,938 lives. With elections round the corner, it is said that the city may tip into bloodshed as armed wings of political parties and non-political forces battle for control over it.

Observers say Karachi Port and its satellite, Port Qasim, handle practically all foreign trade to and from the country, including crucial oil imports. If the city is thrown into turmoil, it would cause port operations to cripple severely. Many political leaders openly advocate Karachi’s law and order responsibility being handed over to the Army as it is beyond the capabilities of local law-enforcement agencies.

This is buttressed by a statement made in the court by the Sindh Police chief that while the Rangers could only arrest people and hand them over to the police for prosecution, the police force itself had many personnel of dubious political patronage who felt powerful enough to disobey such orders. It is not difficult to comprehend that such persons may have easily been subverting efforts to fight sectarian violence-related crimes.

This is in addition to the fact that the police force in the city is grossly under strength, as only 8,000 policemen are available for normal policing in police stations at any given time, the rest being deployed on other errands. The traders in the city are stated to be arming themselves as neither the security agencies nor the protection money being paid by them is buying them security, and they have proven to be an easy target for the extortionists.

Business community leaders assess that in the current wave of violence in Karachi the losses suffered by traders is around Rs20billion and that by the industrialists at around Rs45 billion. They say that some 4,000 industrial units have been shut in Karachi, and many businessmen are planning to shift their business either to Middle Eastern countries or Bangladesh.