Terror in Pakistan
Nature abhors a vacuum. And the failure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-month-old government to articulate its long-promised terrorism strategy is now being widely blamed for the political inertia that seems to have invited a wave of killings that has struck Pakistan in the last few days.
By Friday evening, at least 60 had died in two days, in a series of attacks that included at its bloodiest the deaths of 30 at the funeral of a policeman in Quetta in the southwest. The officer had been killed only hours earlier, and 21 of his colleagues died at the funeral.
The Quetta massacre was followed on Friday, the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Fitr, by another hit on a mosque in the city, with gunmen killing nine people in an attack on a politician. In the same troubled province of Baluchistan earlier in the week 13 bus passengers were killed by separatist militants, while across the border in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province a bomb killed 14 women and children from the same family as they gathered in a graveyard to pay their respects to a dead relative. On Friday a suicide bomber attempted to blow himself up in a Shia mosque in Islamabad.
Some, but not all the attacks have been claimed by the Pakistan Taliban who make no apologies for targeting police and promise to continue doing so. Others are the product of anti-Shia sectarianism that has seen a sharp violent rise in recent monts, and yet others , of separatist militants of the Baluchistan Liberation Army.
Instability and rising tension has also been fuelled in the disputed and divided province of Kashmir where on Monday last India said five of its soldiers guarding the Line of Control (LoC) separating Pakistan and India were killed in an ambush by gunmen from Pakistan. The latter insists its forces were not involved.
Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League were elected at the end of a violent campaign during which militants attacked parties Islamists saw as liberal or secularist. Sharif’s conservatism and promise to engage in dialogue with the militants spared his party from the violence and in part contributed to his victory. Apparently to little avail. The killing continues unremittingly.
Accusations and counter-claims have raged since, with observers suggesting that divisions between the country’s powerful and still largely independent military, led by by Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the government may be contributing to the sense of drift.
“Every day it seems the state is losing more and more control,” analyst Ahmed Rashid warns. “The attacks are occurring across the country, and becoming more pernicious. The militants can see that the government doesn’t have a national security plan.” Sharif’s focus on reviving the country’s sick economy is pointless unless it comes up with an answer to the violence.