The terrorists in Pakistan have been busy this holiday season and yesterday was a particularly gruesome day.
Pakistani militants, who have escalated attacks in recent weeks, killed at least 41 people in two separate incidents, officials said on Sunday, challenging assertions that military offensives have broken the back of hardline Islamist groups.
The United States has long pressured nuclear-armed ally Pakistan to crack down harder on both homegrown militants groups such as the Taliban and others which are based on its soil and attack Western forces in Afghanistan.
In the north, 21 men working for a government-backed paramilitary force were executed overnight after they were kidnapped last week, a provincial official said.
Twenty Shiite pilgrims died and 24 were wounded, meanwhile, when a car bomb targeted their bus convoy as it headed toward the Iranian border in the southwest, a doctor said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has noted more than 320 Shias killed this year in Pakistan and said attacks were on the rise. It said the government’s failure to catch or prosecute attackers suggested it was “indifferent” to the killings.
Pakistan, seen as critical to U.S. efforts to stabilise the region before NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, denies allegations that it supports militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.
Afghan officials say Pakistan seems more genuine than ever about promoting peace in Afghanistan.
At home, it faces a variety of highly lethal militant groups that carry out suicide bombings, attack police and military facilities and launch sectarian attacks like the one on the bus in the southwest.
Witnesses said a blast targeted their three buses as they were overtaking a car about 60 km (35 miles) west of Quetta, capital of sparsely populated Baluchistan province.
“The bus next to us caught on fire immediately,” said pilgrim Hussein Ali, 60. “We tried to save our companions, but were driven back by the intensity of the heat.”
Twenty people had been killed and 24 wounded, said an official at Mastung district hospital.
The government will give lip service to condemning the attacks on Shias, not really seeing this as a security problem. But the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI has known ties to the Haqqani network that operates in both Afghanitsan and Pakistan, as well as the lethal Lashkar-e-Taiba, who carried out the deadly Mumbai massacre in 2008. And their relationship with the Afghan Taliban remains conflicted despite repeated US entreaties to assist in denying the terrorists safe haven in Pakistan.
Pakistan is sowing the wind by supporting terrorist groups who attack in the disputed Kashmir region along the Indian border, as well as targets in India proper. It is days like yesterday where they appear to reap the whirlwind when these same terrorists take out Pakistani citizens with equal fervor. As long as they see terrorism as a viable strategy to promote their interests, they will probably continue to be targeted and the innocent will die.