The horrific has happened amidst the thousands of deaths in the global coronavirus pandemic. Thursday’s bedlam and butchery, that killed at least 27 worshippers at a gurdwara in Kabul, is believed to have been perpetrated by the Pakistan-based Haqqani group.
It was what they call a surgical strike on the hapless Sikhs, a minority in Afghanistan. So it isn’t only the Taliban that has reneged on its commitment to the Doha deal. It is now pretty obvious that Pakistan, having failed to cleanse its backwaters and rein in the militants, now intends to make the waters murkier in the chronically volatile country across the Af-Pak frontier.
That America, barely 48 hours earlier, had threatened to cut aid worth $1 billion, scarcely addresses the fundamental malaise in a tormented land. Initial reports that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a hand in the outrage are yet to be confirmed, though the nature of the attack does fit into the ISI’s potentially lethal matrix.
The gurdwara was stormed when worshippers, including children, had gathered for morning prayers. The re-elected Ashraf Ghani’s dispensation has been jolted to its foundations. From Britain to Canada, the killings have shocked the diaspora, the eloquent refrain being that “whoever has claimed responsibility for this barbaric attack, they are not human.
By Sikh principle and code of principles, any atrocity against the civilians and any atrocity in a place of worship is not justified at all in any way.” The attack has been greeted with severe condemnation across the world. Among those killed was a lone Sikh candidate, Avtar Singh Khalsa, who had planned to contest the parliamentary elections.
It would be pertinent to recall that in July 2018, ISIS had carried out an attack on Sikhs, killing 19 of them in Jalalabad when they were travelling in a vehicle to meet President Ghani. Last Thursday, the community was targeted at a chilling juncture for the world ~ when every country is fighting against the dreaded coronovirus that has killed thousands and afflicted many more.
The enormity of the tragedy intensifies because of two factors. First, it was an attack on a religious shrine. Second, it will almost certainly deflect the focus from Covid-19 in Afghanistan, a decidedly afflicted country. Rightly has India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned the attack as one that is “reflective of a diabolical mindset”.
Reports suggest that the butchery was the handiwork of an individual’s extreme mental aberration. On either flank of the Af-Pak frontier, the minority is safe no more. Nor for that matter in India’s eastern flank of Bangladesh.