On Saturday, the dead toll from a massive explosion at a mosque in Pakistan grew to 59. The government has vowed to uncover the perpetrators and has accused India’s spy agency of involvement.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a police vehicle as people were gathering for a procession on Friday to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad in the city of Mastung, Balochistan, in the country’s southernmost region.
India has constantly disputed allegations made by Pakistani officials that it supports militant organisations within Pakistan.
Balochistan’s interior minister Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters in Quetta that “civil, military, and all other institutions will jointly strike” against those responsible for the suicide attack in Mastung.
To this, he continued, “Raw is involved in the suicide attack,” alluding to India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence service. He offered no supporting evidence or explanation for his supposed participation.
A representative for India’s foreign ministry and administration had no immediate reaction.
Balochistan’s health department spokesman, Wasim Baig, said seven more deaths had occurred in hospitals since Friday, raising the death toll, and that many more patients were in critical condition.
Friday saw a second attack on a mosque in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with at least five lives lost. On Saturday, police said they had submitted a report to initiate an inquiry and had transferred DNA from the suicide bomber for analysis.
No organisation has taken responsibility for either incident. Militant assaults have increased in Pakistan’s western provinces leading up to the national election in January, but until recently they have primarily targeted security forces.
The Pakistani Taliban (TTP), who have carried out some of Pakistan’s deadliest strikes since its establishment in 2007, claimed no responsibility for the explosives on Friday.
On Saturday, the government of Pakistan released a report detailing a dramatic increase in militant strikes that have resulted in the deaths of over 700 security personnel and civilians in the first nine months of this year.
The report was released by the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in Islamabad a day after at least 69 people were killed by suicide bombings and militant attacks in the southern Baluchistan and northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. There has been no group to take responsibility for the horrific attacks on Friday.
Terrorist assaults have killed 19% more people than they did in 2022, according to the report, with 92% of those deaths occurring in the two Pakistani regions that border Afghanistan.
According to the CRSS, “Pakistan’s security forces lost at least 386 personnel, 36% of all fatalities, in the first nine months of 2023, marking an eight-year high.” This number includes 137 army and 208 police personnel.
According to the report, the casualties included 33 members of the army’s paramilitary forces.
VOA has collated data from official comments made by the army’s media branch, Inter-Services Public Relations, to confirm the deaths of 214 soldiers and officers in counter terrorism operations and insurgent attacks so far this year.
Some of the insurgent groups in Pakistan include the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the regional branch of the Islamic State (IS-Khorasan), and the separatist Baluch insurgents.
The TTP is a widely recognised terrorist organisation that has taken credit for a number of recent assaults in Pakistan. Officials in Pakistan allege that since the Taliban took back its war-torn neighbour two years ago, the organisation has ramped up its operations in Afghanistan.
TTP stands for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and is an affiliate and ally of the Afghan Taliban. The de facto government in Afghanistan, however, insists that its territory is off-limits to anyone who would pose a threat to Pakistan or elsewhere.
Islamabad has recently increased diplomatic pressure on Kabul in an effort to thwart the TTP from launching terrorist attacks across the border from within Afghanistan.
This week, Afghan Taliban officials captured 200 TTP militants planning strikes against Pakistan, according to Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani. The Afghan government hasn’t disputed the allegations yet.