Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir on Saturday said that the terrorists and facilitators behind the attacks on 12th Rabiul Awwal were “proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people”.
A day ago, a grisly suicide blast targeting a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Balochistan’s Mastung claimed the lives of 55 people, including a police officer. Four Pakistan Army soldiers were also martyred during an operation in Zhob — which is located at a five-hour distance from Mastung.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. However, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan, denied its involvement.
A second bomb attack took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu, which targeted a police station’s mosque in the city. Five people were killed, and 12 were injured as the mosque’s roof collapsed in the explosion’s impact.
The army chief visited Quetta today where he was briefed on recent terrorist attacks in Mastung and Zhob in a meeting with interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti, caretaker Balochistan Chief Minister Ali Mardan Khan Domki, provincial ministers and senior civil and military officials.
The meeting’s participants offered prayers for the martyrs of the three incidents, according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Paying tribute to the martyrs, the army chief said: “Such incidents of terrorism on 12 Rabiul Awwal, depicts the ill intent of the khawarij (defectors from religious mainstream), who have the backing of state sponsors of terrorism.
“These terrorists and their facilitators, having no link with religion and ideology, are proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people. These forces of evil will continue to face full might of the state and security forces backed by a resilient nation.”
The army chief said the military’s operation against terrorists would continue unabated and the security forces, intelligence and law enforcement agencies “shall not rest till the menace of terrorism is rooted out from the country”.
He said that the people had “rejected terrorists’ pseudo ideology and propaganda of their backers” and were fully committed to peace, economic progress and human development, noting that this “indeed is causing a lot of distress to forces of evil in and outside of Pakistan”.
The ISPR said he also visited Combined Military Hospital Quetta where he met the injured and the families affected by the Mastung incident.
“He also lauded the bravery and resilience of Balochistan police and law enforcement personnel. He assured full cooperation and support to the families of martyrs and assured them that terrorists, their abettors and facilitators will not be spared,” the ISPR said.
‘RAW’ involved in recent terror attacks: Bugti
Meanwhile, Bugti alleged that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, was involved in the recent terror attacks in Balochistan.
Speaking to the media in Quetta, he claimed: “Those playing the role of a facilitator, whoever is doing this — be it anyone, whatever you may call it — they all are the same for us, all have the same origins, all are being handled from one place, RAW is behind all them.”
The minister added, “All incidents that took place before this… they all were unearthed — all major incidents that occurred in Balochistan — and the RAW’s involvement has been there behind all those, and the forces that want to destabilise Pakistan.”
He did not provide any proof or evidence to back his statements.
Bugti vowed to pursue terrorists to their “dens” and that the policy of appeasement would not “happen anymore”.
“What we know is that these appeasement policies adhered to — what we saw in the past two to three years — there is no tolerance for that.”
He added that the state knew where the terrorists were operating from and asserted, “We will go to their dens, where they are nurtured and which are their safe havens, and we will go against them.”
Noting that at times an attack would be conducted by one organisation and another would claim its responsibility, the interior minister said the recent attacks were being investigated.
“Whether it is Daesh or TTP or anyone else… anyone committing violence under any banner… violence will only be exercised by the state,” Bugti said while vowing to hunt terrorists.
Recalling an attack earlier this month that left Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah injured, the minister stated that the mastermind of that attack was killed later.
He also lamented past occurrences of the state switching to an “appeasement policy” when dealing with terrorist elements.
He stated: “I am honestly telling you that our issue is that we reach a certain level against terrorists — whether it is terrorism under the name of nationalism or religion — we reach a certain position of strength and then all of a sudden, our state switches to an appeasement policy and we reduce our [action].”
Responding to reporters’ queries, he said the provincial Information Minister Jan Achakzai could tell in detail about the matter of “suspending DCs (district commissioners) and SPs (superintendents of police)”, and asserted that a “thorough investigation” will be conducted.
The minister highlighted that yesterday’s blast was the “first ever in Balochistan regarding [the occasion of] 12th Rabiul Awwal” and noted that in the past, the Hazara community and Muharram processions were targeted.
Speaking about the matter of footballers abducted earlier this month from the Dera Bugti district, Bugti confirmed that four of them have returned.
When asked by a reporter if they had been recovered or were released by the abductors, Bugti said, “Four have come [back] and the remaining two will also be recovered, God-willingly.”
CTD registers FIR of Mastung blast
Meanwhile, the Balochistan Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said it has registered a first information report (FIR) of the Mastung attack that claimed the lives of 55 people, including a police officer, yesterday.
In a statement issued today, the CTD said an FIR with murder charges and terrorism offences has been filed against an unidentified attacker.
It added that the investigation into the incident was ongoing and no arrests have been made so far.
The CTD said the deadly attack resulted in the loss of at least 55 lives and left more than 60 people injured.
The national flag was lowered to half-mast on government buildings, including the Balochistan Assembly, Chief Minister House, Governor House, and the Balochistan High Court today.
Balochistan caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the entire region of Mastung was “engulfed in sorrow”. He added that despite the heartbreak, the “courageous administration and security institutions are making efforts to restore a sense of normalcy as they and the families lay the martyrs to rest”.
He stressed that the government “remains resolute in its determination to combat terrorism and ensure the safety and security of its citizens”.
In an official statement, the provincial government said the injured people were currently undergoing treatment at several hospitals, including the Civil Hospital, Trauma Center, Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Raisani Hospital, and Mastung District Headquarters (DHQ).
Furthermore, over 15 injured individuals were transported to CMH yesterday, following the directives of Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor.
Yesterday, Achakzai had said that the “enemy” wanted to destroy religious tolerance and peace in Balochistan with “foreign blessings”.
In a subsequent press conference, the minister had said the death toll in the blast “is immensely unfortunate”. He had revealed that a number of families had buried their loved ones without bringing them to the hospital, adding that the government had not included these people in the official death toll.
Senate chairman visits Mastung attack victims
Separately, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani visited the Civil Hospital to inquire about the condition of those who were injured in the Mastung blast.
Senators Naseebullah Bazai, Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai and Rukhsana Zuberi also accompanied him.
He urged caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and the Balochistan chief minister to announce packages worth Rs20 million for those martyred in yesterday’s attack, and worth Rs10m for those injured.
Hoping that they would do so, Sanjrani expressed his sympathy towards the blast victims and asserted that the government “would not allow the peace process to be sabotaged”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the terrorist attacks, calling for bringing the perpetrators behind them to justice.
“It is abhorrent that these attacks targeted people during peaceful, religious ceremonies,’ he said in a post on social media site X (formerly Twitter).
Speaking at the regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric also condemned the terrorist attacks, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
Separately, UN Security Council President Ferit Hoxha too strongly condemned the terror incidents in a press statement, the report said.
It added that the UNSC members expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, and wished a speedy and full recovery to those injured.
Radio Pakistan further said the UNSC reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
The UNSC members underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, it stated.
The report quoted the members urging all states to cooperate actively with Pakistan as well as all other relevant authorities in this regard, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant UNSC resolutions.
Rise in terror incidents
Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan, after the TTP ended its ceasefire with the government in November last year.
Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah, were injured in a blast in the same district.
A week prior to that, a Levies official was gunned down at a bus stand by unidentified men, while two others who were passing by were injured.
In May this year, unidentified attackers targeted a polio vaccination team in the Killi Sour Karez area on the outskirts of Mastung, resulting in a policeman being martyred.
In October last year, three people were killed, and six others were injured in a bomb attack targeting two vehicles in the mountainous area of Qabu in Mastung.
In July 2018, at least 128 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and more than 200 were injured in a deadly suicide blast in the same district.