At the time of writing on June 9, 2014, the death toll in the bombing of a hotel that was hosting Shia pilgrims in Taftan had risen to 30, and more may die of their injuries in coming days or weeks. An unknown number will be broken and maimed for the rest of their lives. Late on the evening of June 8, a suicide bomber had got into the Al Murtaza Hotel and detonated himself. There appears to be some confusion as to whether there was more than one attacker and there are reports of Levies and Frontier Corps personnel ‘engaging attackers’ with one being killed before he got to the target. A three-day mourning period has been called by Tahafuz-e-Azadari Council and the attack has quickly — and credibly — been claimed by the banned organisation Jaishul Islam.
Such are the bare bones of the story and it will quickly drop down the news agenda, as mass-murders of minority groups rarely hold the attention of the media beyond a day or so. There may be token strikes, or a protest march, but this is just another in a steady stream of atrocities that are carried out with seeming impunity by organisations that have long been proscribed.
It is said that intelligence agencies were forewarned of the attack. We cannot know if this is true or not, but it is not improbable. If true, it is a further example of the state taking a backseat when it comes to sectarian extremism, and choosing to award defacto immunity to a range of organisations that for largely cosmetic purposes, it has ‘banned’. The bans now in place are a farce. The state has neither the will nor in many cases, the resources to enforce the bans, and there are those within the security forces that are either fellow-travellers of banned organisations or silent supporters. Hotels packed with Shia pilgrims returning from Iran merit the very highest security. Failure to provide that level of security speaks volumes as to how committed the state is to the safety of all citizens. ‘Criminal neglect’ appears to be a reasonable assumption.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.