It was an eventful two days in Pakistan. On Sunday, a suicide bombing occurred in the country’s capital, Islamabad, killing 19 people “on the first anniversary of the ending of a siege at the city’s Red Mosque, in which more than 100 people died during fighting,” reported BBC News. Media outlets, including the BBC, specified in their coverage that the victims of the attack were mostly policemen, who were deployed as part of a security operation for the rally commemorating the event. The Washington Post reported that more than 10,000 “conservative Islamist protesters and mourners” had gathered at the mosque. The news agency added, “Witnesses said the crowd was just beginning to disperse when the explosion tore through a cluster of policemen near a post office a few hundred feet from the mosque.” According to the Financial Times, “Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. Intelligence officials, however, said they were investigating possible links to Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal warlord who has led an Islamist insurgency in the region along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.” Interior Secretary Kamal Shah told media outlets that a team of senior policemen and investigators have been formed to investigate the attack, although he noted, “At this stage it is too early to say who is behind it.” [Image from the BBC]
Just one day after the Islamabad attack, one of the capital’s most deadly blasts in recent history, another Pakistani city, Karachi, was struck by a series of bombings that wounded at least 37 people. Six blasts occurred throughout the country’s bustling port city, and media outlets reported that one person was killed, although children were among those injured. Karachi police told CNN a motorbike, a bicycle and a truck were involved in three of the bombs. According to the AFP, “One of the blasts happened near a school, injuring several of the children. Another completely destroyed a car, leaving half a charred chassis and two wheels.” Both the news agency and The News reported, “Tension gripped several neighborhoods affected by the bombs, with mobs pelting cars with stones, burning tires and chanting anti-government slogans.” [Image from CNN]
Although there was no “immediate claim of responsibility,” police said “the blasts appeared to be small and aimed at raising tensions in the city, rather than major attacks.” Karachi police chief Babar Khattak told the AFP, “Apparently the purpose was to create panic in the city. There is also a possibility that these people who planted the bombs wanted to fan ethnic tensions in the city.” According to a Pakistani media outlet, PM Yousaf Raza Gilani sent a message from Malaysia appealing to “Pakistanis to remain peaceful and united.”
Although the bombings in Islamabad and Karachi may not be directly connected, the fact that they occurred just a day apart further signifies the country’s degenerating security situation. Although there are many militant groups that espouse different ideologies and rhetoric in Pakistan, it is often in their common interest to perpetrate acts of violence that further destabilize the current security environment. As a result of such attacks, tensions and anti-government sentiment are often exacerbated, which is ultimately detrimental for the country’s current state of affairs. Although the Pakistani government has indicated their commitment to countering such forces, their responses to such attacks must be stronger and far more united. Rather than just releasing generic condemnations, responses from all members of the ruling coalition (PPP, PML-N, ANP, etc.) should continue to vilify these groups so that blame is shifted towards those conducting the attacks, rather than just those in power.