Terrorists struck with suicide bombings in Swat and Quetta claiming 122 lives and leaving 280 injured on Thursday, in a day of carnage that left both the north and the south of the country affected. The three blasts in Quetta, in the morning at Bacha Khan Chowk succeeded in the night by two blasts at a snooker club on Alamdar Road. Altogether, 100 people were killed and nearly 200 others injured. The dead included nine police personnel, including a DSP and an SHO, and two mediamen, while the injured included an SP. At the snooker club, the second blast occurred when the police and media had gathered after the first. In Swat, there was an explosion in a mosque on the outskirts of Mingora, amid the weekly post-Maghrib gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat, killing 22, one of them a police ASI. Frequenters of snooker clubs and participants at Tablighi Jamaat gatherings were targeted because they were present at crowded places. The impending long march may also therefore provide an attractive target to terrorists. The attack on the mosque in Mingora shows that the militants hold nothing sacred, and thus for a gathering with an avowedly political purpose, electoral reform, to claim immunity because of the religious character of the leader, would not find much response.
The Mingora attack should provide more evidence, if any indeed was needed, that the militants actions shed a garish light on the form of religion they wish to implement. It should also be noted that while the attack on the Alamdar Road snooker club might have sectarian and ethnic dimensions, it being a Hazara area, the Mingora attack was on the Tablighi Jamaat, which is not just of the same Hanafi sect as the militants, but also of the same Deobandi school of thought. Thus while the Quetta attacks might be seen as part of a continuity, the Swat attack shows that the militants may well have acquired a new target.
The attacks represent a failure of intelligence, and the government needs to consider two separate dimensions. First, what were the signs that we missed, of an attack on an existing target, and second, what were the failures of communication, if any, of the various intelligence agencies? The blasts occurred before the Obama-Karzai talks in Washington, which will help determine the exact shape of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. This shows that the blasts are also timed to impact Pakistan’s foreign policy stance. At the same time Pakistan must realise that time for decisive action has come. Our home is going up in flames before our very eyes.