Islamabad: The bombing of Pakistan's revered Sufi shrine Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh province by the dreaded Islamic State jihadis comes as a major challenge to the US administration of President Donald Trump who has repeatedly vowed to eliminate the global terror organisation in most of his speeches.
It may be recalled that all through his presidential election campaign and after taking over as US president, Trump has relentlessly threatened to destroy the Islamic State group through aggressive joint military operations in its areas of major influence.
As a result of the renewed operations by the US and allied forces, the Islamic State, which has been fast losing ground in Iraq and Syria, is desperately searching for new sanctuaries, and Pakistan, due to its continued proxy support to terror operators, appears to fit in group's scheme of things.
The timing of the attack on the Sufi shrine is also significant as it came a day after the Pakistan government vowed to “liquidate” all those elements posing a threat to peace and security in the country amid a spurt in terror attacks.
The latest incident of attack targeting Pakistan's 'Shiite' community should also be seen in the context of a reported speech by its Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who recently asked his top officers to look at Indian and learn how its army has managed to keep itself away from intervening in the electoral democracy.
Pakistan, which has been at war with the Taliban and other extremist groups for over a decade, has launched major offensives against militant strongholds in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, but insurgents have continued to carry out attacks elsewhere in the country.
The Islamic State group, too, has been expanding its presence in Pakistan in recent years, and has claimed a number of deadly attacks, including a suicide bombing at another shrine in November 2016 that killed more than 50 people.
Although, the Pakistani establishment has downplayed the rising influence of the IS on its soil, nonetheless, it is true that a large small number of militant outfits have pledged allegiance to the group.
What is now a major cause of concerns for the Pakistani regime is that the Islamic State has chosen to send out a clear message by targeting the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in what could be its first attack on the Pakistani soil, as claimed by 'Amaq News Agency'.
Taken at face-value, the attack bore all the hallmarks of a regular Islamic State strike. The Islamic State group claimed the attack in a statement circulated by its Aamaq News Agency, saying it had targeted a “Shiite gathering.” The Sunni extremist group views Shiites as apostates and Sufi shrines as a form of idolatry.
Pakistan, at the same time, is engaged in a verbal duel with Afghanistan over the latter's repeated failure to rein in militants who operate along the porous border – a reason why Pakistan immediately closed the main Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan shortly after the attack.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that security forces would track down the perpetrators of the attack and Gen Bajwa said, ''Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately.” The US State Department has, meanwhile, condemned the attack and offered its support to Pakistan in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In a quick response to the deadly attack on the Sufi shrine, the Pakistani forces have killed at least 35 terrorists as part of a security crackdown which is likely to continue in the coming days. The crackdown comes in response to the bombing of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a revered 13th century Muslim saint, in Sehwan city of Sindh province which left 75 persons dead and hundreds injured.
However, it would be interesting to see if the Donald Trump administration and the Nawaz Sharif government will manage to crush the Islamic State, which has signalled its alarming presence in Pakistan through the latest attack.