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ISIS in hospital

Editorial | New Delhi |

There can be no justification in any religion or creed ~ however fundamentalist and potentially mortal ~ for the kind of outrage that convulsed Kabul last week. The attack on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital near the US embassy in Afghanistan’s beleaguered capital was three-pronged ~ on the sick, on the country’s largest military establishment, and on the fragile security in the aftermath of the NATO pullout. In the larger canvas of geopolitics, a signal has also been emitted to the United States, which maintains a relatively truncated military presence. The hospital is situated across the road from the heavily fortified US embassy and is in the vicinity of the Afghan Supreme Court.
The site of the carnage can be contextualised with the government’s warnings that attacks in the “high-profile” areas of Kabul are likely to escalate this year. The malevolence that has killed more than 30 people in a health facility has been as calculated as competitive. Such suspicions are reinforced by the fact that the perpetrators were disguised as surgeons. As the ISIS claims responsibility, it is pretty much obvious that the Caliphate is intent on scoring points over the Taliban and Al Qaida in their bastion of Afghanistan. The targeting of a hospital has never happened even in the points of origin of ISIS ~ Iraq and Syria.

With the pressure ramped up in Mosul and Aleppo, the Caliphate has extended its tentacles further afield… to Pakistan (exemplified most recently with the attack on a Sufi shrine) via Bangladesh where machete-wielding ISIS operatives have killed bloggers and the rationally inclined.

In the season of elections, the ISIS involvement in the Lucknow siege remains a matter of contestation, however. Miltant activity affords no scope for political shadow-boxing between the BJP and Samajwadi Party. The government of President Ashraf Ghani will now have to contend with a forbidding challenge on three fronts ~ Taliban, Al Qaida and ISIS. The attack was the central point of his address on International Women’s Day ~ “There is an ongoing terrorist attack in a hospital which tramples all human values.

In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan.” Violent fanaticism is apparently the thread that binds the three outfits. Beyond that superficial similarity must lie the differences in the competitive pursuit of a hideous agenda. The tragedy is enormous ~ patients have been driven quicker to death than to cure.