ATTACKING a funeral is diabolical by any standard, yet religious militants in Pakistan have no qualms about using such bloody tactics to forward their aims. Though no group has yet claimed responsibility, the suicide bombing that targeted a funeral procession in Mardan on Tuesday bears the mark of extremist insurgents, who have used similar tactics in the past. Over 30 people were killed, including Imran Mohmand, a provincial lawmaker elected as an independent, but who voted for the PTI in the election for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s leader of the house. Police feel the legislator was the target as he had already been receiving death threats. Over the past few days we have seen the scale of violence and level of ferocity the militants are capable of, from the killing of two polio vaccinators in Swabi to the assault on a busload of women students and subsequent siege of Quetta’s Bolan Medical College. These attacks show that religious militants’ targets are widespread and not limited to symbols of the state or security forces — civilian non-combatants are equally fair game. By indulging in wanton violence the militants are destroying the fabric of society.
Still, a state of denial regarding the militants persists. Though PTI chief Imran Khan condemned the Mardan bombing, other party leaders linked the attack to drone strikes. Believing such a theory will perhaps be a difficult task even for diehard PTI supporters. The PTI, as well as the PML-N, still believe in a negotiated settlement with religious militants. They must make it clear how they will go about this. Who will they talk to and what will be the terms? Imran Khan’s party in particular faces a moment of truth. It has already lost a provincial legislator earlier this month when Fareed Khan was shot dead in Hangu, also reportedly by extremists. Now, another lawmaker linked to the party has lost his life. The PTI needs to come to terms with the militant threat and not offer far-fetched explanations that appear to justify extremist violence.