ON Friday morning, Kabul’s Dasht-i-Barchi neighbourhood was rocked by a terrorist attack targeting an educational institution — part of a bloody cycle of violence that has become painfully familiar. Hundreds of students were reportedly present in the tuition centre in the area, mostly populated by the Shia Hazara community, when a suicide bomber struck. At least 19 students died in the atrocity, most of the victims being girls. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have been responsible for plenty of attacks on the Hazaras in the past, but Friday’s bombing appears to be the handiwork of the IS-Khorasan outfit, though no group has claimed responsibility for this brutal bombing. The Dasht-i-Barchi area is no stranger to violence, much of it perpetrated by IS-K, and the concentration of Hazara community members in one geographical location makes them easy targets for terrorists. In 2021, before the Taliban took Kabul, a devastating attack targeting mostly schoolgirls in the same area resulted in the massacre of over 80 people, while an MSF maternity ward in the locality was the scene of a savage attack in 2020. IS-K is believed to be behind all of these ghastly incidents.
As the Taliban are the de facto rulers of Afghanistan, it is their job to protect the people. Their claims of being the country’s legitimate government will ring hollow if militants are allowed to carve out safe spaces on Afghan soil, and use these to spread havoc within Afghanistan and beyond its borders. Unfortunately, the chilling fact is that IS-K has managed to target even clerics within the Taliban’s inner circle. It would be a grave injustice to the Afghan people if decades of war — the Afghan jihad, then the Mujahideen’s internecine battles, followed by the Taliban’s violent campaign against the US-installed government — were to give way to a new period of violence orchestrated by terrorist groups. The task before the Taliban should be clear: act against IS, and act now. The international community must also lend a hand in neutralising the terrorist threat.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022