In the wake of the Easter massacre, Pakistanis of all religions are expressing solidarity with the victims of the attack in Punjab, with three days of national mourning and with strong statements against radical Islam from the country’s top leaders. On Monday, Army General Raheel Sharif, the strong man behind offensives in Waziristan, commenced “Operation Punjab” to root out jihadists in the province.
The terrorist attack Sunday is one more tragic consequence of the murderous logic that has bloodied the country for over 15 years. A shadowy splinter group known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took credit for the suicide bombing that consumed a public park in Lahore, killing at least 72 people and wounding hundreds. Though they claim to have targeted Christians, recreation has no faith, and the victims were of all ages, social backgrounds and religions.
The bomber who entered the park without difficulty (triggering the inevitable controversy over the absence of security forces) belonged to a terror organization that in 2014 broke away from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The TTP is an umbrella group that traces its ideology to the Deobandi school of Islam and focuses its attacks on the government in Islamabad, which it believes is apostate and subservient to the United States. But in recent years, fighters have peeled away from the TTP to form their own groups, part of an increasing atomization of terror organizations in Pakistan.