The two blasts in Mastung, Balochistan, and Hangu, KP, on Eid Miladun Nabi, indicate that the terrorist threat to Pakistan that escalated since the Taliban takeover of Kabul two years ago, has increased rather than been brought under control. The Mastung blast was much worse, for 54 people were killed, including the DSP Mastung, while four were killed in the Hangu blast. However, though both blasts took place in mosques, unusually filled because Friday coincided with Eid Miladun Nabi, the police may well have been targeted in both attacks, with the DSP Mastung among those killed in Mastung, and the Hangu attack taking place after an attack on a nearby police station was foiled. The Tehrik Taliban Pakistan has issued denials, which leaves the Islamic State another suspect. IS had considered the Taliban ‘soft’, and TTP factions which wanted a more ‘forward’ policy gravitated to the IS. This is the first example of intra-Sunni terrorism for some time, after the attacks on Khushal Khan Khattak’s tomb in 2017.
Does this indicate that there will be further attacks in the future on religious holidays? The Eids are a few months away, and Ashura will be after that, but all three will be coming inevitably. The only means of protecting peaceful worshippers is to eliminate the terrorist menace. The track record of the responsible agencies so far shows that they have not been very good at their job. The challenge from Afghanistan will not be easy to control, for to begin with, any terrorists coming from there will be able to mingle with the population, if necessary for a long time. Further, apart from those IS recruits in Pakistan, the flow from Afghanistan is likely to have increased as the Taliban put pressure on it, and members decide to get away to safer havens.
Pakistan can only deal with the situation through an elected government which is allowed to handle the situation, and not brushed aside by those who assume they know better, even though their record has been one of incompetence and failure. Also, the blasts took place as a result of intelligence failures. Less emphasis on political manipulation and more on anti-terorism would yield better results. Unfortunately, with election season approaching, there will be more motivation to focus on the polls. Add in the opportunities offered by large gatherings, and also that the sectarian terrorists are also against election in principle, and you have a recipe for disaster.