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May 13, 2017

Mastung attack


May 13, 2017

Terror returned to Pakistan  on Friday  after an apparent suicide bombing targeted the convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F in Mastung, killing at least 25 people and injuring over 40 others. Haideri, who suffered minor injuries, was leaving an investiture ceremony he had been attending at a local seminary. No one has claimed responsibility yet although the attack must have involved multiple people since eyewitnesses reported that the bomb was followed by intense firing. Mastung has been the scene of previous attacks, including the 2014 killing of Hazara passengers on a bus by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The JUI-F itself has been targeted in Balochistan, with party chief Maulana Fazlur-Rehman barely escaping an assassination attempt in Quetta last year. This latest act of violence is sure to raise questions about security since Haideri is a prominent political figure who was at a public event in an area with a strong militant presence. But we also have to accept the reality that it is near impossible to protect every potential target of the militants. The solution must be offensive rather than defensive, with the ultimate aim to wipe out militant networks. When militants retain the ability to strike anywhere and at any time, foolproof security cannot be provided.

Balochistan has been in the news recently for the external problems the country faces. There was the attack by Afghan security forces on a census team in Chaman and Iran’s accusation that members of the Jaish-e-Adl who carried out an attack on its border guards then sought refuge in Balochistan. The Mastung attack is a reminder that the internal challenges we face are even greater and cannot be blamed on other countries. Even if militants hide in Afghanistan, they are a homegrown phenomenon and for too long we allowed them to operate without taking action. Apart from the 2014 Hazara bus massacre, in 2011 the LeJ also killed 26 Shia Muslims in Mastung who were travelling to Iran for pilgrimage. Some militant groups have been tolerated over the years because they were seen as being part of our strategy of strategic depth. Unsurprisingly, they turned their guns on the entire country. It is not enough for the government to say that it is targeting all militants; it now must show that with actions. Just issuing rote condemnations after such attacks is not enough when they aren’t followed by a demonstrable commitment to ridding the country of the militant menace.

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