Pakistan is seeing a surge in terrorist attacks. On Friday, at least 50 people were killed and dozens more injured when an explosion ripped through a religious procession in Balochistan province’s Mastung district. The incident took place on the occasion of Eid Miladun Nabi, a religious event and a national holiday in the country that marks Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
The second suspected suicide bombing on Friday took place in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that killed at least three people and injured 12 in the city of Doaba.
Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar condemned the incident, vowing that the war against terrorism will continue until the end of the last terrorist.
US State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller also condemned the suicide attacks in the two provinces. “Pakistanis deserve to practice their faith without fear. Our deep condolences to families who lost their loved ones,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
In the month of August, Pakistan saw the highest number of attacks on its soil since November of 2014, according to a report published by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), largely blamed on the post-Fall of Kabul situation in Afghanistan that gave a renewed freedom and support to militants operating with its aftermath now becoming precariously evident.
The report stated that the country witnessed 22 suicide attacks in the first eight months of 2023, in which 227 people were killed and 497 injured, while southwestern Balochistan province and the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northwestern Pakistan were the most affected. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Khorasan offshoot of the ISIS terror group (IS-K) have claimed responsibility for several attacks in the past.
The recent bombings are a continuation of a series of attacks this year. More than 100 people were killed in January in a suicide bombing that targeted a mosque in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In February, militants targeted a key police station in the city of Karachi in an attack that lasted for hours and killed at least five people. In July, a suicide attack on a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam rally in northwestern Bajaur district killed at least 44 and injured 200 people.
The world marked the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks this month. One cannot help but look back at its impact on millions of lives lost ever since and the recent bombings in Pakistan show the ramifications the South Asian country still deals with. The Post-9/11 wars have contributed to some 4.5 million deaths in conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, according to a report by Brown University researchers, as people in war zones continue to suffer the direct and indirect consequences.
“There are reverberating costs, the human cost of war,” The Washington Post cited the paper’s author and co-director of the Costs of War project Stephanie Savell as saying, taking into account the collapse of economic, social and health conditions because of the war. The overall impact of the War on Terror on Pakistani civilians and the military has been enormous. Despite Pakistan’s past efforts to improve the security landscape in the country through operations like Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad, it continues to be at a vulnerable position and a major target of cross-border terrorism.
Where Islamabad’s claims about terrorism being sponsored by its neighbors, such as Afghanistan and India, must be heard and taken seriously on a global level to take into account the untold amount of human suffering inflicted on Pakistani civilians, the state also needs to reconsider its own policies that have fostered extremism on its soil and let extremist groups proliferate in every nook and cranny. The state’s complex relationship with religious extremism has greatly hampered progress and harmed minorities in Pakistan. In many religious circles and rightwing parties, the sweeping victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2021 was celebrated.
The recent wave of attacks continues to pose a serious challenge to the Pakistani regime as it grapples with an economic crisis, political instability and a climate emergency. Pakistan also faces a dwindling geopolitical relevance with the shifting ties in the international arena, India’s growing importance on the global stage and China’s indifference. The spike in extremist violence is an alarming development that also points to a misalignment of priorities in the corridors of power, from failing to curb religious extremism to security lapses.