It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that whoever planned and detonated the bomb that killed at least 45 and injured more than 140 others knew or believed that there was little chance of security services looking in their direction. The bomb was large, possibly 150kg, which rules out a suicide bomber but points to a vehicle-borne-improvised-explosive-device (VBIED). It was packed with ball-bearings – the best tool to inflict maximum damage to human victims. It went off very close to where a much smaller device had killed two people about a year ago. Then too, as on Sunday night, the target was the Shia community. The security services were even slower to respond than is usual, in large part because so many had been diverted to VIP protection and protocol duties associated with the engagement party of a female political figure at the Mohatta Palace. This is unlikely to have escaped the notice of those who planned this atrocity. Local people, many of them injured, set about rescuing others and helping themselves. The hospitals quickly came under pressure, and urgent appeals for blood donations went out across social media sites.
For the butchers it was a soft target – a densely populated inner-city community where security is at best lax and generally completely absent. Driving a light van into the area would be nothing unusual, nor leaving it parked while the driver made a getaway. It was timed such that the streets would be busy with people going about their daily lives, and will be counted a success by those who did their horrible work. Condemnations were swift, if vapid and repetitive. The Sindh chief minister was seen visiting the hospitals around midnight to deliver words of comfort – along with an offer of Rs1.5 million for each bereaved family and Rs1 million each for the injured. But do people have any reason anymore to see a hope for the better in these rituals? Strike calls went out from all sides and dawn on Monday saw the city ghost-like. The breakfast TV shows had assorted politicians vowing to catch and punish the killers – which never happens. There is a numbing frequency of such attacks now. The Shia community – and anybody else who happens to get in the way – is under sustained and deadly attack. They have been dying in the hundreds since the start of the year. There have been no arrests in connection with either any bombings or individual murders, such as that of a prominent eye-surgeon and his young son in Lahore. Banned groups operate openly, make statements and even – as with the TTP recently – offer to ‘negotiate’ with the government in search of a ‘peace deal’. This government has at its disposal significant forces with which to counter terrorism yet it appears to be unwilling to crack down in force, across the country, against people who are highly visible and vocal. One might reasonably conclude that this is because there is little desire to be moving in that direction. We would be happy to be proven wrong in that conclusion.