A horrific suicide bombing struck a campaign rally in south-western Pakistan last Friday, resulting in the deaths of 149 people. A local candidate, Siraj Raisani., was among the dead in the Mastung town, after a huge explosion rocked a tent of political campaigners.
The bombing has been labeled as the deadliest attack in the South Asian nation’s history, with the Islamic State terror group claiming responsibility. Violence has spiked in the weeks leading up to the July 25 general elections, as the most recent ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), is challenged for power.
With a caretaker government attempting to keep the peace in the run-up to election day, many have speculated that the military is now firmly against the re-election of a leader from the PML-N, sparking concerns of a military takeover.
— Yusra Askari (@YusraSAskari) July 13, 2018
In another controversial twist, former Prime Minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif was arrested on his way home to Pakistan following a visit to the UK. According to the BBC, Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, were taken into custody by officials from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after landing in the northern Pakistani city of Lahore. The pair were then transferred to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad by private plane. Sharif is reportedly being held in prison until the election is over, though many have criticized the authorities for reportedly keeping the former prime minister in squalid conditions.
Last moments of Siraj Raisani and 130 others who lost their lives in a bomb attack on July 13th 2018 in Mastung pic.twitter.com/OwNGhXFOfl
— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) July 14, 2018
According to Sky News, the NAB ordered the arrest after the two failed to explain how their family acquired London properties, and both Sharif and his daughter have been held on corruption.
A highly graphic video of Friday’s attack shows Raisani beginning his speech before a huge explosion engulfs the crowd, and many of those in attendance are blown into the air from the force of the shockwave. Other footage shows the bloody aftermath of the horrific bombing, as people cry out in agony. In a distressingly sordid scene, bloodied and disfigured bodies of men, women and children can be seen piled on top of one another.
Such attacks have become more frequent as the election draws near.
Last Tuesday, a Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up at a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing some 20 people. Then, on the same day as the Mastung attack, a bombing occurred in the city of Bannu, claiming the lives of five and injuring several others.
Pakistan has seen an influx of ISIS militants after their defeat in Iraq and Syria.
In 2016, a massive suicide bomb attack struck Lahore’s Christian community as they celebrated Easter. At least 75 were killed and almost 400 injured when a member of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, detonated a suicide vest.
Amid all the chaos and political uncertainty, such events must give us pause to pray for all those caught up in the violence, and to appreciate the absolute privilege that it is to be able to freely involve ourselves in the democratic process, without fear of harm.
Let us pray that peace would come to Pakistan, and that God would grant protection to the innocent and justice for the guilty.