Malik Muhammad Iqbal joined the Police Service of Pakistan in 1976. During his career, he held important positions at the hotspots of sectarian violence across Pakistan as Capital City Police Officer in Lahore and Deputy Inspector General in Gujranwala, Multan and Karachi. He also headed the Punjab Police’s special branch before becoming the Inspector General of Balochistan Police and then the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency. His last assignment has been as the head of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority.
On April 16, 2012, Herald asked him to hold a live blog where people could pose their questions about sectarian violence. The blog has been edited for space, clarity and grammar.
9:11 Comment From SHM. Why have the police consistently failed to curb sectarian violence in the country
9:16 Malik Iqbal. It is the collective responsibility of the society because it is our attitude towards religion which determines how the society as a whole takes shape. The intolerance towards others’ beliefs/faith is the basic reason for extremism. The police on its part is doing its level best to control such types of crimes which have assumed dangerous proportions in recent times because of multifarious factors. The foreign intervention on account of using one extremist against the other is the primary cause for this dilemma. Anyhow, there is a lot of room for improvement in the performance of the police which also requires capacity building in areas such as training and fighting terrorism.
9:16 Comment From Lubna Shah. In your experience as the DG of Balochistan, who is to blame for the violence in Balochistan? The Army, government, Taliban or the Baloch themselves?
9:33 Malik Iqbal. As IGP Balochistan it is my experience that we cannot hold responsible either the Army or the Government for the present state of affairs. It is in fact the foreign hand which is patronizing some disgruntled elements in order to destabilize Pakistan. They have been able to identify existent weaknesses in our society and they are actively exploiting them. To my mind LEJ and TTP are involved in the indiscriminate killing of the Hazara community in Quetta. I have no doubt in my mind about the capability of the Law enforcement agencies to handle the situation provided political will is there. However, it is important we should pay full attention towards the capacity building LEAs.
9:34 Comment From Ahsan Majeed. Could you tell us how your experience of sectarian violence was different in different provinces? Is the type of violence in Sindh different from that of Punjab? Or are the causes the same?
9:37 Malik Iqbal. As far as the sectarian violence is concerned, the primary cause according to my experience is extremism and intolerance in the society. Whether it is Sindh or Punjab, the causes are the same. However, the involvement of different groups cannot be ignored. This is the unholy alliance of different groups who are working against each other to establish their own hegemony at the cost of lives of innocent citizens.
9:38 Comment From SHM. You were given a grant of 15 million Euros even then NACTA failed to take off, why?
9:45 Malik Iqbal. As far as NACTA is concerned there is a basic need for providing a legal framework for the organization to function properly. The donors have been reluctant to cooperate until such a legal framework is put into place. This is the primary reason for the failure of NACTA.
9:45 Comment From Naveed Hazara. The Balochistan Police as well as some Ministers are saying that there are hurdles to taking action against those religious militants. Being an ex IG in Balochistan, what do you think those hurdles are?
9:49 Malik Iqbal. Personally speaking, I do not agree to this statement. My firm belief is that political will is the foremost requirement to handle such like crimes. The Hazara community is being targeted by the unholy alliance of LEJ and TTP. There is need to handle these elements with an iron hand and the administration should not hide behind such lame excuses.
9:50 Comment From Mohammad A Dar. First of all why do sects exist? Where are the sources of sectarianism? Does anyone have strength of knowledge to correct the path of Ummah, misguided by so-called, self-appointed scholars in the name of religion? Can you elaborate please?
9:56 Malik Iqbal. Sects have existed since a very long time. Because of the tolerance between various sects and respect for each other’s faith untoward situation were rare at best. The basic principle is that one should not leave his own faith and should not interfere with the faith of others. As long as we were strictly adhering to this golden principle, the society was full of tolerance resulting in peace and tranquillity. When the extremist elements from abroad entered our society and tried to impose their own faith upon the others, it meets stiff resistance and society falls apart on the basis of religious divisions. It is my suggestion that if we follow the golden principle of respecting the faith and ideas of others it is bound to bring reconciliation and peace among all. One cannot be the judgemental about other people’s faiths.
9:57 Comment From Cyrus Howell. During the past year, no politician has dared raise the issue of reforming the blasphemy law. Intolerance by extremists against both Muslims and non-Muslims has increased enormously and there has been a dramatic rise in the number of sectarian attacks, which are usually perpetrated by Sunni extremists against Shia citizens. Why do you think this is so?
10:12 Malik Iqbal. The present situation cannot be termed as a clash between Sunnis and Shias. In fact, these are the extremists who are actively involved in creating a wedge between various sections of the society by attacking their faith. It is the collective responsibility of the society as a whole to put up a bold stance against these elements, even the politician cannot be held responsible for this inaction. The extremists have so far succeeded in creating an atmosphere of hostility between different sects and are using one against the other.
As far as the Blasphemy Law is concerned, it is based on the basic faith of Muslims. It is a very delicate issue and needs to be handled extremely tactfully. Any misguided zealousness may result in a far more alarming response from the masses than anyone would imagine.
10:12 Comment From I.W Khan. Today’s news is that around 400 Prisoners from Banu Jail were helped by Teherik-e-Taliban to escape. They were fighting there for 2 hours. Where was the security force? Where was the military? Where were the security helicopters? Pakistan security forces have failed so many times. These 400 escapees will be a source of additional violence. Do you agree?
10:15 Malik Iqbal. No doubt this was a serious situation which will have far-reaching consequences. One cannot tend to agree with such a sweeping statement questioning the capability of the LEAs. The police and other agencies are very actively pursuing the re-arrest of these escapees and responsibility is being fixed for negligence of duty if any. Till the final outcome of the inquiry one should avoid indulging in a blame game.
10:15 Comment From JUMA. Are secret agencies involved in genocide of Hazaras in Quetta to weaken the Baloch independent movement? In order to show the world that it is a sectarian issue in Balochistan not an independent one?
10:18 Malik Iqbal. This statement is based on heresy and has misconceived the actual issues. The Hazara community in Quetta is being targeted, as far as my personal knowledge goes, by the unholy alliance of LEJ and TTP in order to destabilizePakistan. Some Baloch dissidents are also supporting this unholy alliance for their own benefit. The Hazara community is loyal to Pakistan and any such suggestion is totally based on conjectures and is far from reality.
10:21 Thank you all for joining in. I hope you enjoyed the session.