Central leader of anti-Shia group Ahle Sunnal Wal Jamat (ASWJ), Aurangzeb Farooqi, escaped an assassination attempt on his life in the Quadiabad area of Karachi. Mr Farooqi has survived at least two assassination attempts before in 2012 and 2013. During the attack in 2012, 6 persons were killed including four policemen deployed for Mr Farooqi’s security. As the ASWJ is a violent sectarian organisation, its leadership and members will remain vulnerable to counter-attacks. Its leaders including founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi and chief Azam Tariq were also killed during attacks. Back then, the group went by the name of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). SSP was banned by the state, and the group changed its name to ASWJ. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant group that routinely carries out killings of Shias in Pakistan and openly claims responsibility for them, is also an offshoot of the SSP.

If history is anything to go by, it is highly likely that current members of the ASWJ leadership will eventually be assassinated. It is the nature of the game they are in, and they are aware of it. In such a scenario, what should the state do? Should it provide security to ASWJ leaders? Should it sit back and watch as they’re targeted by other groups or individuals who either seek revenge or have other motives? Would that break the cycle of sectarian violence that has claimed the lives of thousands of people during the last three decades? Would that establish the writ of the state and rule of law? Certainly not.

Mr Farooqi and others of his ilk envision a Pakistan which has no place for Shia citizens. For this purpose, they regularly spew venom and incite violence against the minority community. Their speeches are available for all to hear and lament over. The state should not put the lives of its policemen at stake to protect such entities who promote and thus attract violence. Their abrupt killings, though deplorable as it should always be the law that holds them accountable, are a logical conclusion of the lives they lead. The state must stop playing the hapless bystander. It should ensure successful prosecution of sectarian militants and hatemongers who remain a threat to the peace of this country. No non-state actor should be allowed to inflict violence against others. Be it ASWJ or those behind attacks on its leaders, the state has a responsibility to ensure that the law is allowed to take its course. The country’s establishment needs to employ a blanket policy against non-state actors no matter how useful they may appear at any given time. Whether Mr Farooqi deserves to live or die should be decided in a court of law, not on the streets of Karachi. By adhering to skewed policies and not doing their part, the civilian government and military establishment are helping perpetuate violence.