There was barely time to take a breath from the attack in Lahore on February 13, when on Thursday, an explosion went off at the Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in Sindh as a Sufi ritual was being performed. At least 75 people were killed in the blast among uncountable injuries. Thousands gather at the shrine every Thursday to pray and participate in the Sufi tradition of dhamaal. Within a period of four days, there have been five attacks.
After Lahore, on Wednesday, a suicide bombing took place at a government office in the Mohmand tribal area, followed by a suicide attack on government employees in Peshawar, killing six people in total. Two police officers were also killed on Tuesday while trying to defuse a bomb in the Balochistan provincial capital of Quetta. It seems that Pakistan had been lulled into a false sense of security. The year has not been kind, with 25 being killed in Parachinar and 10 being killed in Peshawar in January. This is reminiscent of pre Zarb-e-Azb violence and the government must address the utter lack of infrastructure not only to deal with a terrorist attacks, but to deal with daily life. In Sehwan, the situation will be extremely chaotic, with people coming from different parts of the province as well a lack of supporting resources that town officials will be able to offer as compared to urban centres.
There is not one real hospital, no ambulances, no decent roads for a city that, albeit small, gets thousands of visitors every month and especially every single Thursday. A small but important, historical city.
Beyond security concerns, the absolute infrastructural negligence of the provincial government – as is the case with far too much of Sindh – means dozens who could have been saved tonight will die. It goes without saying that there are intelligence lapses here, and that planning these many attacks concentrated in a span of days is a very typical, very deliberate attempt to shake up the spirit of the state. Without allowing that to happen, without declaring a state of informal emergency and without falling into the pre Zarb-e-Azb darkness, the government and security agencies need to re-evaluate their strategy. There is just too much going in, and the narrative that there was a significant crackdown on terrorism seems to be fraying at the seams. At the same time, the media must remember in times of trauma reporting in the immediate aftermath of such attacks means sticking to informing the public in a responsible way and not in any way feed and fuel the terrorist agenda by constant imagery that demoralises the state.