Second time in a week two major acts of terrorism were reported when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque in Satellite Town, leaving 15 people dead, including a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), and 19 others wounded. Three days ago, a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle came under a targeted attack in a busy market of the city. These back-to-back attacks have been claimed by Hizbul Ahrar and its coalition in terror Islamic State.
While the market attack was purportedly carried out to martyr FC personnel, the mosque attack leaves several questions in terms of the target. The causalities include, beside the DSP, the prayer leader of the mosque. DSP Ishaqzai’s son, Najeebullah, was also killed in the Sariab Road area in December. Several injured people are being treated for life-threatening injuries. Initial investigations indicated that the bomber used an improvised explosive device in the attack. The mosque is the part of the adjacent seminary in Ghousabad which is patronised by prominent cleric Sheikh Hakimullah.
The law enforcement agencies have yet to ascertain the motives behind the attack. If the pattern is analysed, the Satellite Town mosque bombing can be linked to the Kuchlaq mosque explosion in September. Kuchlak gained notoriety when clerics associated with the Afghan Taliban came under attack within days. In November, two FC personnel were martyred and five others injured when an IED struck their vehicle. On October 15, an IED blast claimed the life of a Rapid Response Force sniper on Quetta’s Doubel Edge Road. After one week, another IED blast struck nearby Spinny Road and this time the targets were two police officials. On account of its proximity to Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan remains a province where terrorist attacks are still too common.
These are perpetrated by a number of groups including anti-Hazara sectarian terrorists, Baloch separatists, TTP, Hizbul Ahrar and the Islamic State (IS), the last three mostly targeting security personnel besides settling scores with one another. Most of these networks are stationed in Afghanistan and return to their safe havens in the neighbouring country after playing havoc in Balochistan. The deadly Friday attack in a mosque in Quetta that killed at least 15 and injured 18 has been claimed by the IS which targeted the mosque because a leader of their rival Taliban network was supposed to offer prayers there The attacks seem to be the outcome of internal fighting of militants’ ranks in Afghanistan. The clerics falling prey to bombings have been associated with militants in one way or another.
The Balochistan government does not possess the expertise needed to cope with the modern-day terrorists. Prime security agencies that now also include NACTA alone have the means to rid Balochistan of the menace of terrorist attacks. We should keep an eye on all those people providing shelter and funds or extending other facilities to the terrorists in any part of Pakistan. It is also clear that the National Action Plan has not been implemented in full.
NAP was always meant to be more comprehensive than just military operations in the tribal areas. The main challenge was to fight the ideology of militant groups so as to halt its spread around the country. To do this required the state to realize that no distinctions should be drawn between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militant groups. All such groups share similar aims even if their methods differ and all need to be treated as equal threats. This latest two devastating attack needs to be taken seriously and NAP strengthened so that this country can finally defeat the militant threat that has taken so many lives.