KARACHI: The chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh province this week blamed an “enemy state” for a recent spate of attacks in the port city of Karachi but independent experts said political weakness and uncertainty as well as “gaps” in the state’s capacity to govern the megacity had allowed militants to step up bombings.
Six people have been killed since last month in Karachi, including three Chinese nationals in a suicide bomb blast in April. Last week, a roadside bombing targeted a van carrying Pakistani security forces in Karachi on Thursday, killing a passerby and wounding 13 people. Both attacks were claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army, a separatist group.
This week, a woman was killed and nearly a dozen others were wounded in a bomb blast in Karachi’s densely populated Kharadar area that had appeared to target a police patrol. The attack was claimed by the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA), a proscribed outfit operating in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, which in July 2020 announced it had formed a joint front with Balochistan’s separatist organizations.
Blaming an “enemy country” for plotting attacks against Pakistan, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Tuesday only a few of the 220 terror attacks in Pakistan between January 1 to May 16 had occurred in Sindh province. He did not name the enemy state and said the law and order situation in the province had improved in recent years.
In Sindh, he said, seven people had been killed in 11 acts of terrorism as opposed to 144 in 104 attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“Karachi was the seventh-most dangerous city in the world,” Shah told reporters. “Now, it stands at 125.”
Mazhar Abbas, a Karachi-based security and political analyst, said the latest spate of attacks was due to the lax attitude of law enforcement officials.
“These blasts should be alarming for Rangers and police, who had completely failed in curbing crimes and stopping acts of terrorism,” Abbas said.
Dr. Asfandyar Mir, an analyst on South Asia’s security issues, said the security situation was deteriorating across Pakistan and the reasons, he said, were “state capacity gaps and political weakness.”
“Anti-Pakistan militants – be they Islamists or ethnic separatists – are watching political weaknesses and spotting state capacity gaps, and therefore pouncing [on the opportunity],” Mir said, adding that “distracted leaders” had not paid attention to those who were driving violence in the country.
In July 2020, weeks after a deadly attack at the stock exchange in Karachi claimed by the BLA and three attacks in different parts of Sindh, including one in Liaquatabad Karachi, by SRA, the Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and Baloch Republican Guards (BRG), and Sindh Revolutionary Army (SRA), announced a joint front.
Authorities had then said that the front could pose a threat to the city’s peace as the militant alliance could strengthen Sindhi separatists who have carried out low-intensity attacks in the past, including blowing up train tracks. Their armed resistance has been less violent than that of separatists in Balochistan, who have attacked a Chinese consulate, a major hotel chain and on many occasions killed security officials patrolling a coastal highway.
“There is also plenty of emulation across armed groups, perhaps even sharing of resources,” Mir said, “but I haven’t seen strong evidence on the Baloch-Sindhi nexus.”