Over the past few weeks, Pakistan has seen a spike in suicide bombings around the country. The trend began on the 13th of February, where 13 were killed and over 100 wounded during a protest in Lahore, a city near to the Indian border and host to attacks in the past. Two days later, suicide bombers targeted a government compound and a government van in Northwest Pakistan near to Peshawar. Seven people died in the two separate attacks, both of which were claimed by the Taliban.
The violence culminated on the 16th, when an attack on a Sufi Shrine in Sehwan killed 75 people and wounded over 250 of the religious minority. Unlike the previous bombings, ISIS claimed the killings. Islamic State holds a relatively small presence in Pakistan, but as with other branches of the terrorist organization it has grownin significance while ISIS loses land in Iraq and Syria. (Masood)
Pakistan’s military has responded with raids targeting suspected terrorist and militant groups, specifically in the northwest of the country and the province where the Sufi shrine attacks occurred. 100 militants were reported to have been killed in this retaliation; however, the specifics of these operations are unknown and possibly exaggerated. This was coupled with the military firing two missiles and closing off borders crossings with Afghanistan. (BBC)
Afghanistan has also come under Pakistani scrutiny of late, despite the country’s leaders condemning the attacks. Pakistan claims that Afghanistan has been supporting militants involved in the attacks, claims that are denied furiously by Afghanistan. Moreover, the Afghan government has also expressed dismay about the now-closed border crossings, and accused Pakistan of using them as a scapegoat for the attacks. (Hashim)
What little trust the two nations shared is now rapidly falling apart. In fact, this blame game is part of Pakistan’s hatred of India, and India’s friendship with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s dislike for India comes from the partitioning of the British Raj—each country has fought each other in multiple wars and holds different religions. The military response and political conflict with Afghanistan is likely a move to save face for Pakistan, as the government promised an end to fighting with militants last year, a promise now shattered by the instability created from terrorism.
It is in the region’s interest to secure Pakistani stability, especially considering that the nation holds nuclear capabilities. Pakistan can also be a useful regional ally in defeating local terrorism, and needs to stamp out internal extremism.