Baloch-majority areas in Balochistan — where once the feudalism and the Sardari system were embedded for centuries — have enjoyed a traditionally secular ethos. Religious freedom, tolerance and coexistence were widespread, and have been observed as important features of Baloch society. In the past, they preferred nationalism over religion. There have been heated arguments between the religious and liberal mindsets among the Baloch people. The common belief is that they are first the descendants of the Baloch following that they are Muslims. They practiced their religious beliefs freely and did not dislike other sects. For the last couple of decades, terrorist organisations have been operating in Balochistan to counter Baloch nationalism and the centuries-old liberalism among the Baloch ranks. In the 1980s era General Ziaul Haq introduced the madrassa system in Balochistan. Madrassas and mosques can be seen adjacent to each other in every village where people once seemed less inclined towards religion. General Zia sowed the seed of religious extremism that began to seep into Baloch society as well. Some decades ago, the people in Baloch secular society took comfort in the belief that life was about to get a lot easier. No fear of religious hatred, no fear of sectarian killings. And everybody on the Baloch land heaved an enormous sigh of relief while doing their religious practices without fear that anybody would persecute them based on religious differences. The orgy of religious terrorism has put the peace of Balochistan in shambles. The only way to get rid of religiously motivated terrorism is to indiscriminately eradicate extremist groups from the province Baloch society which once was recognised for its secularism, is now held hostage by religious hard-line and radical elements. The extremist Mullahs believe that anyone not tempted by their brand of faith deserves to be killed. The unfortunate attacks on a Sufi Saints shrine in Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi district which killed more than a dozen devotees is reported to have set a series of latest religious assault that spread panic in the province. The Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks, particularly those targeting Sufi shrines such as the one on Pir Rakhel Sha shrine in Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan on Thursday. The biggest tragedy to the people of Balochistan is acknowledged that terrorist organizations Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP, and elements from the militant Islamic state have built their obnoxious nests in the province, despite many intelligence-based networks we still fail to trace them. The explosion at Jhal Magsi was the third major attack on a shrine in a short period of time within a in Balochistan. In November last year, at least 52 people were killed in an ISIL claimed suicide bombing at a shrine in Hub district of Balochistan, which also followed another suicide bombing at the Sha Noorani shrine in Khuzdar district left over 50 dead and around 100 injured. And more recently, four major religious terrorist incidences occurred in Balochistan within the space of a year as a suicide bomber attacked the emergency services ward at Quetta’s civil hospital on August 8 2016 when at least 70 lawyers were killed. When their they went out to inquire their colleague was gunned down hours earlier, and TTP splinter group, Jammat-ul-Ahrar (JUA), has claimed responsibility of these horrific attacks. This was followed in October in the same year by an attack on the police training college Quetta, carried out by three heavily armed terrorists, killing 61 cadets and injured more than 65 others. The Islamic state of Iraq and Khorasan province claimed responsibility for the attack and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed to have collaborated with them. The martyred cadets of the Police Training College (PTC) Quetta were nearly all in their early 20s. It is still questionable as sources told that 700 cadets, who had finished their passing out parade two days earlier, received directives from a senior officer to stay in the academy instead of leaving for their homes. Not only that, people were also further shocked when they witnessed that the government did not provide ambulances, and dead bodies of the cadets were seen on top of the van buses being shifted to their hometowns. This tragic negligence of the government severely rubbed salt on the wounds of the bereaved families. In June 2013, a female suicide bomber carried out the attack on a bus carrying students of Sardar Bahadur Khan women’s university (SBKWU). More than a dozen students of women’s university were killed. Banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts. The Zikri community, largely settled in Makran, came under attack of religious fundamentalists in the 1990s. The Baloch basically believe in left-wing politics. It is because of this reason that most dislike the religious political parties. In a recent bid, the liberal-minded Baloch people lashed out at a nationalist political party when it supported a JUI candidate in Quetta cum Chagai NA-260 by-election in July this year. Above all, the Hazara community has been the prime target of the sectarian violence in the province. In the past decade or so, thousands of Hazara Shias have been targeted and killed in various attacks and shooting at the hands of religious hardliners in Balochistan. Since 1999, nearly 200 targeted attacks on the Hazara community were claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. In 2012-2013, two massive bomb blasts were reported to have killed hundreds of Hazaras. In protest, the families refused to bury the dead for days in protest. It seems the government turns a blind eye to the plight of the Hazara community and other minority groups in the province. The orgy of religious terrorism put the peace of Balochistan in shambles. The only way to get rid of religiously motivated terrorism, is to indiscriminately eradicate religious extremist groups in the province. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, ‘peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal’. We should leave no rooms for a better policy to tackle the sectarian violence. We could all look forward to a long era of calm, peace, prosperity and progressive growth in Balochistan. The writer is a freelance columnist and blogger, write on socio-political and literary issues, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, October 12th 2017.