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Sunday, February 4, 2024

    Grief and Anguish: Mastung Blast in Pakistan

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    In a heart-wrenching account, Ayaz Ahmed, a victim’s family member, described the devastating aftermath of the Mastung blast that shook Balochistan, Pakistan. The bombing, which occurred during an Islamic religious gathering, resulted in over 50 casualties, including the loss of Ayaz’s cousin, two sons, and a nephew. Ayaz, like many others, was at home when the massive explosion reverberated through the Mastung district, leaving him in disbelief. Rushing to the site, he was met with scenes of chaos, with some individuals lifeless, and others injured and in agony. His frantic search for loved ones led him to the hospital, where he encountered the lifeless bodies of his relatives among the injured. Ayaz’s poignant narrative underscores the profound pain and suffering inflicted by acts of terrorism, a scourge that has plagued Pakistan for years.

    The tragic incident in Mastung left at least 51 people dead, including a local police officer, and nearly 139 others injured, according to the police. This relentless wave of violence has taken a toll on innocent civilians, security forces, and police personnel, claiming the lives of over 80,000 individuals, particularly in regions like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The question of when this cycle of sacrifice will end remains unanswered, as Pakistan continues to grapple with the persistent threat of terrorism.

    In the wake of the blast, a senior district police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that some critically injured individuals had succumbed to their injuries overnight, further deepening the tragedy. Deputy Superintendent of Police Nawaz Gashkori was seemingly the target of the attack, although the motive remains unclear.

    Local media reports suggest that the Counter Terrorism Department has initiated a murder and terrorism case against an unidentified attacker, signaling an ongoing effort to bring those responsible to justice. Jan Achakzai, the provincial caretaker Information Minister, indicated that the incident was likely a suicide attack.

    The Balochistan government has declared a three-day mourning period in solidarity with the families of the victims, casting a somber shadow over the province.

    Tragically, Mastung was not the only site of terror on that fateful Friday. In the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two separate blasts occurred during the weekly Friday prayers, one of which was foiled by the police. The second blast claimed the lives of five individuals and left several others injured. Deputy Commissioner Fazal Akbar revealed that police had thwarted the first suicide bomber’s attempt outside the mosque, while the second managed to enter and detonate the explosives.

    The surge in terror attacks in recent years has been attributed to various groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Khorasan offshoot of the Da’ish terror organization. Pakistan’s security situation has been further complicated by the return of the Afghan Taliban to power in Kabul in August 2021. Islamabad has accused Kabul of not taking sufficient action against the TTP, alleging that the group operates from Afghan territory to launch attacks in Pakistan. Afghanistan has refuted these claims.

    The toll of this ongoing violence is staggering, with Pakistan losing 26 soldiers in just one month, while the army has reportedly killed 40 militants during the same period, including four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the day of the Mastung and Hangu attacks. Tragically, 56 civilians, including a police officer, lost their lives in these two terrorist incidents.

    On September 6, a clash in the Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa resulted in the deaths of over a dozen militants and four Pakistani soldiers. Simultaneously, tensions at the border led to the closure of the Torkham border crossing, a vital link between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

    However, recent reports suggest that the Afghan Taliban interim administration has launched a crackdown on TTP militants in eastern provinces, resulting in the arrest of approximately 200 terrorists. This development, confirmed by Pakistan’s caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani, offers a glimmer of hope in the effort to combat terrorism in the region.

    The Mastung blast and the concurrent attack in Hangu serve as stark reminders of the persistent threat of terrorism that continues to haunt Pakistan. The heartrending accounts of individuals like Ayaz Ahmed underscore the urgent need for sustained efforts to address this menace and bring those responsible to justice.

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