Another terror attack in Pakistan. This time, the terrorists attacked a police training academy in Quetta, killing 60 police cadets and guards and injuring over a hundred. As the world expected, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took responsibility for the attack – but Pakistani authorities were not convinced. They have pinned the blame on another organisation – Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). At a time when ISIS and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are the terror groups in vogue, where did the LeJ come from and who are they?
Is the LeJ a New Group?
Nope, not even close. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been around since before ISIS came up on the horizon. It has its roots in a sectarian Sunni militant organisation called the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which carried out violent attacks against the Shia community in Pakistan. The SSP emerged in the mid-1980s and in 1996 spawned the LeJ. The group is named after the founder of the SSP – Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who was assassinated in 1990 by rival Shia militants. It broke away from its parent organisation because LeJ’s founders – Akram Lahori, Malik Ishaq and Riaz Basra – believed that the SSP was moving away from its original goals.
What Does it Want?
The LeJ is a sectarian group and wants to establish Pakistan as a Sunni state under Sharia law. To this end, it attacks Shias, Christians and other minorities living in Pakistan. It affiliated itself with the Taliban as well as al Qaeda and has carried out numerous attacks with support from the two groups, and has itself supported their activities in Pakistan.
What Prominent Attacks has the LeJ Carried Out?
Remember the American journalist Daniel Pearl and his brutal killing by al Qaeda? LeJ was involved in that. It claimed responsibility for bombings in January 2013 that killed 125 people as well as bombings in February of the same year in Quetta that led to the death of 81 and wounded 178. The last major attack that it took responsibility for was the assassination of the Shuja Khanzada, a Pakistani politician in 2015. Since then, this would be the first major attack carried out the group.
If It Hates Shias, Why Attack a Police Academy Where Some May Be Sunni?
Because the Sunnis at a police academy would be there to work for the state. This makes them legitimate targets in the eyes of LeJ as their end goal is to coerce Pakistan into becoming a Sunni state. To achieve this goal, while it attacks Shia civilians, it also takes aim at state and security targets like the police academy in Quetta.
So, LeJ Isn’t a Danger to India?
While Lashkar-e-Jhangvi may only target Pakistan, it has been known to provide support and shelter to groups like Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), both terror networks that carry out attacks against India. And, of course, any terror organisation is always a danger regardless of who it targets. The planned targeting and killing of innocents to coerce a government to accept a group’s political goals is a subversion of the state that cannot be deemed as anything but dangerous.