LAHORE - The sectarian strife ignited in Rawalpindi by anti-state elements on Friday has spread to different parts of the Punjab province, thanks to the poor police planning which prompted violent attacks in the otherwise peaceful locality. 

Curfew is in place in Rawalpindi after armed clashes left more than 10 people dead and injured dozens others. Pak Army and paramilitary troops are struggling hard to maintain peace in Mulatn, Chishtian, and Bahawalnagar. The paratroopers are ordered to stay on standby in case any emergency situation erupts in Lahore and other big cities.

Police sources revealed that the law enforcing agency had received intelligence inputs prior to the Friday’s clashes that some foreign sponsored miscreants were all set to provoke sectarian violence in the Punjab province.

Despite strict warnings, the police high-ups did not take the threat-alerts as serious as were required to ensure harmony and brotherhood among different schools of thought.

The media campaign launched by the provincial police with the slogans of high-alert, foolproof security, and massive deployment since the holy month began, proved a futile exercise as the cops fled to safer places soon after the clashes erupted. The police had no back-up plan to control the angry mob when the tension soared.

Ironically, the chaos began in the garrison town in the afternoon when a group of men reportedly snatched guns from the police and began firing at their opponents. Later, unknown men put a portion of the Raja Bazaar and a mosque on fire. The blaze burnt down dozens of shops in just a few hours as there was no police, paratroopers, and rescue workers to keep the things under control.

A police officer, seeking anonymity, admitted that the poor police planning was the main reason behind the violence which went wild within a few hours. The government had to call in the paramilitary troops when the police had virtually surrendered to the miscreants.

During the last couple of days, the Punjab police consumed millions of rupees released by the provincial government for Muharram security but the law enforcing agency failed to equip the policemen with rubber-bullets, tear-gas, and other anti-riot tools. Where the police authorities spend huge funds worth Rs110 million in a few days? The provincial police must be held accountable and the officers found guilty in maintaining peace in their districts should be given exemplary punishment.

High-level inquiries should also be initiated against the top police officers, who were given key postings on the recommendation of no other than the Punjab Chief Minister.

Pakistan is passing through the most critical and testing times of its history. External forces are operating without restraint to damage the core fiber of national edifice while internal political instability, poor governance, menace of terrorism and scourge of corruption are encouraging the enemies of Pakistan to harm its interests.

Security experts say they believe intelligence agencies belonging to foreign hostile forces are having a leisure time in working against the national interests of nuclear-armed Pakistan. They also feel no hesitation when they covertly propagate against vital institutions of the country including Pak Army, intelligence agencies and other law enforcing agencies.

Terrorism in Pakistan is being nurtured by external forces and their intelligence agencies are deeply involved in promoting terrorism and sectarianism inside Pakistan. So far, Pakistan has been the main victim of terrorism and no other country in South Asia has suffered causalities, damage, and bloodshed as has been borne by Pakistan.

Unfortunately hostile divisive argumentations and urging have been intrusively effective to create fissures in our social order, fundamental composition, perceptions and proclivity of thought process. Most of our intellectuals, writers and analysts suggest that we need to look inward or we need to set our house in order. Such a psyche directs us to doubt own assets and ignore wrongs done by others. Pakistani leadership, media and intellectuals should shed away irrational fears and learn to defend the interests and prestige of Pakistan with courage and audacity.

Pakistan is a peace loving country and it has been misjudged by foreign elements who erroneously labeled Pakistan “a terrorism sponsoring state.” 

The sectarian incident in Rawalpindi has not only damaged the country’s image abroad but it also created lawlessness like situation in the major cities of the Punjab province.

Defending accusations against Pakistan is the duty of every Pakistani irrespective of its location, status, occupation and social or political affiliation.

We are one when it comes to the image of Pakistan and we have the guts to defend our country through all available means. We must denounce terrorism in all its forms (non-state actors or state sponsored). We should not only openly reject terrorist activities but also condemn foreign illegitimate interference or involvement in Pakistan.

Our political and religious leadership must pick up courage and show strength of character to uncover the real face of actual terrorists and defend the cause of Pakistan by assertively countering allegations against the country.