Last week, three policemen were killed in Quetta (the capital city of Balochistan province), among whom two belonged to the Hazara community. Both the incidents occurred in a matter of hours, raising suspicions among the common dwellers who, being themselves survivors, sufferers, and observers of the same precarious situation a few years back, were quick to react towards these two separate incidents as the revival of sectarianism. However, it is essential to analyze the role of violent extremist entities such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and anti-Shia militant organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), who were once the active militant networks that carried out manifold violent attacks against the Shias of Pakistan that are they again regrouping themselves for their malicious activities? According to the statistical data available on the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), in the last two years, a surge has been observed in terrorism incidents nationwide. Last year alone, 365 such incidents were carried out, claiming 229 civilians and 379 security personnel’s lives. This year, up until now, 255 terror attacks have been recorded, majorly targeting security forces with 336 casualties in just 7 months. However, for the last eight years, one of the most successful intelligence-based operations against terrorists and extremists has been underway. The operation is codenamed ‘Operation Radd ul Fasaad’ (Elimination of Chaos). The operation has ruptured the organized terror groups’ backbone, forcing them to either cease their operations or flee the country. Still, their complete eradication is yet to be achieved. First-tier leadership of LeJ was eliminated by the end of 2017, and the organization broke into several splinter groups and fled to Afghanistan. Some splinter groups merged into TTP and some into the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP – Afghan chapter of ISIS/ISIL). While Lashkar-Jhangvi Al-Almi had the backing of both TTP and ISKP and operated as rental fighters on their behalf inside Pakistan. Despite these mergers and rebranding, one thing remained constant: anti-Shia ideology, which provided these terror groups with a motive to operate collectively and effectively. From 2015 onwards, strict actions were taken against the proscribed terror groups, and their hidden networks were disrupted or eliminated. Historical roots of sectarianism in Pakistan date back to the early 1980s, when Tehreek Nifaz-e-Fiqh Jafriya (TNFJ), a Shia political organization – came into existence post-Iranian revolution-, publically opposed Zia-Ul-Haq over Zakat and Ushr Ordinance. Jhang, a city on the east bank of the Chanab River in central Punjab, was where traces of spreading anti-Shia narrative were found. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, a radical Sunni cleric (from the Deobandi school of thought) resident of Jhang, started spreading the anti-Shia narrative in the early 1980s and later, in the mid-1980s, formed SSP as a political party. Tariq Khosa, former Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was then posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police in Jhang, recalled one incident when, on the 7th of Muharram, Shia took-out procession and passing by the mosque where Jhangvi was serving as preacher and custodian. Jhangvi was delivering the anti-Shia sermon, which instigated sentiments of Shias conducting a procession. Khosa, along with 25 other policemen, reached the scene and warned Jhangvi to stop, but he did not listen and was eventually arrested. Khosa told the Senate standing committee in 2012 that right after Jhangvi’s arrest, he was summoned by the District Commissioner and Superintendent of Police, who ordered him to release Jhangvi immediately because President Zia was unhappy with the development. When a state becomes the protector of such sectarian organizations, the implications are bound to have a giant impact on the state’s social and political fabric. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi is also considered the founding father of the anti-Shia proactive movement in Pakistan. Jhangvi along with his other confidants, formed one of the notoriously known political parties named as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in 1985. Later on, this anti-Shia movement took a violent route and commenced killing high-profile Shia personalities around the country throughout the 1980s; events following till 1995 completely transformed the sectarian outlook of the country. Malik Ishaq, Riaz Basra, along with Akram Lahori co-founded Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the violent militant wing of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), in 1996 to avenge the death of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. Two violent sectarian networks emerged, on the one hand, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – LeJ (an anti-Shia violent group), and on the other hand Sipah-i-Muhammad – SM (Shia-led militant group) were formed to target each other in a tit for tat killing strategy which engulfed the country in the late 1990s and early 2000s. From 2015 onwards, strict actions were taken against the proscribed terror groups, and their hidden networks were disrupted or eliminated. But the approach utilized was not legitimate and was based on short-sightedness. Numerous police-led encounters made headlines in which high-profile leadership of LeJ and SSP was targeted. The then law minister of Punjab and the current Federal interior minister Rana Sanaullah argue why: “If a wanted criminal is killed in an encounter, the first public response is that this is a good act,” he says in an interview. “The person killed was after all a murderer and not a law-abiding citizen.” If a law minister of Pakistan’s largest province Punjab, himself does not have faith in the country’s judicial system, what hope are you left with on institutions? Though of most wanted criminals, these extra-judicial killings are visibly illegitimate and unsustainable solutions to this eminent problem of sectarianism. The divide sowed on an ideological ground cannot be ripped out with bullets. Instead, long-term policy options based on a factual understanding and knowledge of the current scenario must be devised to eradicate the menace of sectarianism. Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) should be trained for counterinsurgency and counter-extremism operations. Institutions such as National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) should be granted intellectual autonomy to formulate feasible long-term counterterrorism academic discourse, which can eventually provide our policymakers with a clear policy roadmap. Lastly, the most important thing is public awareness campaigns and programs must be launched to teach common citizens about religious tolerance. The writer is an independent researcher based in Quetta, Balochistan.He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.