This past Thursday, a suicide attacker targeted a Sufi shrine in the southern town of Sehwan, Pakistan. The targeted shrine is close to the tomb of Lal Shahbaz Qalander, one of Pakistan’s most venerated saints and a Sufi philosopher poet. At the time of the attack, the shrine was full, as Thursdays are especially important for local Sufis. The perpetrator of the attack has been revealed as ISIS, who claimed the attack as one of their own. ISIS and other extremist militant groups in Pakistan, like the Taliban, hate religious minorities, such as the Sufis because they see them as heretics. Many attacks perpetrated by these extremist groups target religious minorities.
At least 88 people, who had gathered to worship at the shrine, were killed in the blast, and hundreds more were wounded. The head of Sehwan’s hospital, Moeen Uddin Siddiqui, commented that the attacker seemed to have aimed for the women’s wing of the shrine. As a result, at least 20 children can be counted among the dead. A police officer also noted that the death toll was likely to rise in the coming days.
Witnesses say that blood still covered the floor of the shrine on Friday morning, as Sufi worshippers attempted to push past police and worship there. The provincial government declared three days of mourning after the attack, and have closed all shrines in the province. Pakistanis have taken to social media to protest the lack of medical facilities and supplies to treat the wounded, as the closest medical facility to the shrine was 70 km away.
Furthermore, worshippers across the province were furious at the government’s decision to close all shrines and prevent worshipping. One civilian commented that “Keeping [the shrine] closed is unfair to the people of Sehwan. We can take care of our own place. We can do everything to protect it.” Unfortunately, the police in Sehwan swung batons and sprayed tear gas on several hundred protestors who were demanding justice for the victims and better security. The police finally broke up the rally after protesters set fire to a car. Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif has condemned the attack and recognized it as an attack against the Sufi minority. He has vowed to fight extremist militants, such as ISIS and the Taliban.
Due to the high death toll, Thursday’s attack has gone down as one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent history. The entire week was one of the bloodiest in Pakistan as of late, as around 100 people were killed in numerous attacks since Monday. Most of these attacks were done by the Taliban. There were three suicide attacks on Monday and Wednesday at a rally in Lahore and at government offices in Mohmand and Peshawar. Additionally, two police officers were killed on Tuesday while defusing a bomb in Quetta.