The month of Muharram, considered holy by all Muslims, witnessed gruesome scenes of carnage in Rawalpindi and Karachi on Wednesday, as zealots, with a perverted sense of religious belief, struck members of the Shia community with lethal effect. The number of casualties came to 22 dead and nearly 70 injured. At Rawalpindi that bore the major brunt losing 20, most of them mourners, a suicide bomber managed to sneak into a procession near an imambargarh and set off his explosive device; at Karachi, one of his ilk riding a motorcycle accidently hit a rickshaw near an imambargarh, blowing himself up and killing the rickshaw driver in the process. The injured included security personnel, women and children. The incidents occurred despite the government claiming that strictest possible security measures have been put in place.

It is unfortunate that the religious bigots should have chosen to strike at a time when Islamabad, the town next door, was hosting the D-8 Summit. Presenting Pakistan as a terror-stricken, investment-unfriendly country when it is soliciting investment from the summiteers for its various development projects is something that gives rise to the suspicion and conspiracies surrounding foreign powers and their involvement. Whatever the truth, it sends a strong unfavourable message to the outside world: in Pakistan, narrow-minded people do not hesitate to cut down even those who belong to another sect of their own religion. Reports of the sectarian acts must have been widely carried by the media whose leaders are participating in the conference. Scheduling the summit during such a sensitive period of time of the year is a necessity as that is the time all these heads of state can come together. That is especially so, as targeted killings of Shias have been taking place in Balochistan and once they had caused large-scale bloodshed in Karachi during a Muharram procession. Besides, the fact that the terrorists in the garb of religiously inspired persons are committing acts that stand in utter defiance of the teachings of Islam also creates doubts about their religious credentials and further confuses the issue. The causes of the trouble need to be determined before it could be effectively addressed. At least one thing is certain: the situation calls for short-term, medium-term and long-terms measures to tackle the issue and on the top of the agenda has to be the mission to change the mindset of the misguided lot.