Pakistan (MNN) — Last week, Pakistan was hit with the deadliest bout of terrorist attacks since 2014. Eight blasts in five days killed over 100 people, with the most recent attack in the Sindh province, an area that had previously been put on high alert. ISIS claimed responsibility for the February 16th attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi shrine.
The spree of violence broke out on Monday when a suicide bomber targeted participants and police at a rally in Lahore. Media reports say at least 13 people were killed. However, Bruce Allen of FMI says according to some of their contacts in the area, the death toll was likely higher.
The following day, two policemen were killed while trying to diffuse a bomb. On the 15th, six more people were killed in two separate suicide bombings. Along with the deaths from the shrine attack, three soldiers were killed on Thursday.
Frustration over apparent unimpeded violence means people are blaming the government for handling the situation clumsily. Allen says citizens are afraid these attacks only increase in frequency and severity. With the most recent lethal assault, the urgency behind two questions grows: What is being done about terrorism? And who is responsible?
Who is responsible?
As the BBC explains, Afghanistan is accused of harboring members of ISIS. With this in mind, the military immediately took action, shutting down the Pakistani-Afghani border and demanding that 76 suspected terrorists be handed over to Pakistan.
But, it’s not that simple. Allen says many groups within Pakistan behind these latest attacks have pledged allegiance to ISIS. “It may not be that ISIS is importing fighters from other places around the globe and bringing something into Pakistan, but they’re rallying those who are terrorists in Pakistan to act in concert with them.”
According to The Atlantic, the military has renewed its pledge to do whatever it takes to end the violence in Pakistan. On Friday the military said since the attack, they’ve taken greater security precautions and have killed over 100 terrorists.
Yet, many people believe the root cause contributing to the extremist agenda remains unaddressed.
Allen says, for example, many civilians will use black market banking because established banks have become difficult to use. This could be contributing to support for extremist activities.
And it seems that oftentimes, corruption at some level foils even the best and most noble plans to target terrorism directly. The Chicago Tribune cites one example from 2015.
History has revealed the challenges, and nothing, short of supernatural intervention, will succeed. We can pray that this renewed vigor to address the issue will be successful, and not result in elevated tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Who is the target?
What we’ve seen from the most recent attacks is that terrorism in Pakistan has targeted government officials, military, the general public, and religious groups. But underneath these strident attacks, daily examples of persecution for religious minorities happen over and over again, with what seems like increasing impunity.
Allen says, “Often it is the Christians who are in the crosshairs, even on a more personal level than the highly visible bombings and things like that. When as a culture the people are seeing that, hey, terrorism is tolerated, they begin to believe that’s an acceptable way of dealing with problems. And so, if a Muslim has an issue with a Christian, they’ll use the bullying tactics of terrorism to try and discriminate and persecute the believers.”
Despite the hardship, Christian faith is growing in Pakistan. Those who’ve witnessed it want to know more.
Allen says, “Even though a government may be closed to the Gospel, even though a culture may be resistant, that doesn’t mean individual hearts are closed. People are clamoring for hope. They want light. They want to know what is true and what really works.”
FMI is dedicated to building partnerships that strengthen church planters in areas where being a Christian isn’t easy. The faith they have seen from Pakistan specifically has been very encouraging.
“I am absolutely invigorated by what I see going on there. A church planter who has finally established a good primary congregation, he doesn’t just stop with helping that congregation mature. He goes onto a second or third ministry site.”
He continues, “They are standing ready to radiate the hope, the transforming liberation, [and] the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ to their country.”
Right now, FMI has nine trained church planters who are waiting for support to begin their full time ministry. To support, click here.