Suicide bombing at shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan

At least 76 people were killed on February 16 when a Terrorist attacked the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif town of Sehwan District in Sindh, injuring up to 250 others, reports The News. The blast happened inside the premises of the shrine as a dhamaal was happening, with an outsized number of girls and youngsters said to be among the casualties. Devotees throng the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate during a dhamaal and prayers. The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a terrorist entered the shrine through its Golden Gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which did not explode, he added. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack through Amaq, the group’s affiliated news agency.

The shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a place that welcomes all regardless of their creed or caste was built in 1356 in honour of one of Sindh’s most revered poet, philosopher and Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh province. No other shrine in the country captures the essence of religious unification like this.

On the evening of 16th February 2017, after the evening Sufi prayers, everyone gathered for their ritual dance Dhamaal (Sufi whirling). Dhamaal is a form of active meditation in which a person ceases to exist and merges with the supreme. Amongst the gathering was a bomber, who is believed to be an Afghan national. After bypassing the security check at the shrine, he threw a grenade that failed to explode. Then he killed himself by detonating a bomb inside the shrine hall under the dome, near its Golden Gate, where around 400 devotees were gathered. He had used a suicide jacket, with the ball bearings in the jacket acting as deadly splinters and causing casualties. The attack was perfectly planned and aimed at causing maximum damage as it was carried out inside the premise of the shrine at a time when hundreds of devotees were gathered to participate in Dhamaal and prayers.  The blast had killed nearly 90 people and 150 were injured. There is no medical facility in the vicinity of the Shrine which could handle the casualities. With the nearest medical complex located 40 to 50 kilometres from the site of the blast, the provincial chief minister had to accept the lack of sufficient medical facilities in Sehwan but said that the government had ordered ambulances to move from the nearby Dadu and Hyderabad areas.

On 22 February 2017, a few days after the attack, Pakistan Military launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad to eliminate terrorism. However, with all the words spoken and actions done, it is high time for Pakistan to review and enhance its internal security techniques. Over the last decade, the collapsing internal security environment has slowly turned into Pakistan’s most important national security threat. The high death rate at the shrine has made it one of the worst attacks in Pakistan recently. At least 74 people, mostly lawyers, were killed in a suicide bombing of a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta. Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy, which is mainly based on imperative measures, has proven to be ineffective in not only countering but also uprooting the homegrown hazard of terrorism as it does not focus on counter-extremism and counter-radicalization approaches. Rather, it revolves around Pakistan’s strategic interests in the region, especially vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. The incident came as the Pakistani Taliban and rival Religious militant groups carry out their threats of a new offensive. The violence has broken into pieces a period of improving security, highlighting how militants still undermine stability in the country.

To oppose the poisonous ideologies which gave birth to terrorism, the government needs to take stringent measures for morphing and regulating the Schools at the earliest available opportunity, who are deemed responsible for spreading such ideology. People of Pakistan have been witness to several other such incidents making their life miserable. The government has been turning a blind eye to such crimes, and even justifies them in the name of faith. As actions speak louder than words, it is the right time for the government to stop sympathizing with people through soft words and should rather take up the issue immediately and uproot the menace of terrorism with some actions.

Such incidents yet again prove that the terrorism bred on Neighbour Country’s soil has been a threat to Neighbour Country itself, challenging and mocking incompetence of country’s internal security system. The porous nature of the Afghan-Pakistan border assists the movement of Bellicose Outfits to their safe havens in the northwest region of Pakistan. India has been insisting that Pakistan should stop supporting the Bellicose Outfits and their breeding. Bloodshed has been the soar point in souring Indo-Pak relation.

Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy supporting coercive measures has proved ineffective in not only countering but also eradicating the homegrown hazard of terrorism as it has adopted the approach of Barelvis to fight the Deobandis creating competitions between the two sects. Pakistan’s strategic interests in the region, especially vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan has ensured that it cultivates Bellicose Outfits as strategic asset. Hence, to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan it supported Taliban and the Haqqani Network in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Although the security operations in the tribal areas may play a significant role, and should not be underestimated, nevertheless, a peaceful Pakistani society without extremist ideology demands countering the Communal narrative which has indoctrinated the youth into the destructive Religious Extremism path. Until this is realized, the extremist ideology will continue reverberating among the most vulnerable segments (i.e., the youth) of Pakistani society.

Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of *SUBAH KASHMIR”

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