The grenade attacks targeting two Shia Ismaili jamaatkhanas in Karachi on Tuesday, in which a woman and her child were killed, are yet another indicator of where Pakistan stands after over six decades of its creation. Once again we have proof of how far we are from the dream of a pluralistic, inclusive state in which Muslims of various persuasions as well as citizens of other faiths were meant to live peacefully without having to contend with the tactics of a violent minority seeking to impose its extremely narrow interpretation of faith on them. In this case, as in so many other instances of terrorism before it, senior police officials suspect the involvement of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi — an Ismaili doctor had given evidence against the militants currently on death row. However, there have also been reports that the Ismaili community has been receiving threats from the TTP. Indeed, let alone religious minorities who have all too often faced the wrath of the militants, no sect within Islam seems to have been spared either. Shias, Barelvis, Sufis and Deobandis not subscribing to the militant worldview have been killed individually and collectively. Last year, Dawoodi Bohras joined the list as a predominantly Bohra neighborhood in Karachi was bombed, while community members were also shot in Hyderabad. And now, the Shia Ismailis have become the latest Muslim group to be attacked.
The Ismailis are a peaceful, progressive and largely apolitical community that has done much for Pakistan’s health and education sectors, especially in regions where the government has failed. In the past there has been anti-Ismaili violence in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, mostly in the form of communal flare-ups. But the Karachi attacks bear the all the hallmarks of the militants. What should the state’s response be, apart from issuing the usual condemnations and orders for increased security at places of worship? The answer seems deceptively simple: the authorities must take decisive action against violent non-state actors with sectarian and militant agendas. But of course the million-dollar question is: will it?