Attack on Sufi Shrine in Pakistan Leaves 88 Dead

The bombing of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, Sindh in Pakistan on February 16 left at least 88 dead, according to Dr. Hassan Murad Shah of the Director General Health Services in Sindh.

Earlier reports from the attack stated that 76 had been killed and 150 injured. In response, Pakistani officials have strengthened security for shrines across the country.

Around 500 people were present at the shrine at time of the attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing, which has been the most deadly attack in Pakistan since 2014.

The thirteenth-century Sufi shrine is extremely important to many Pakistanis. Named after a famous Sufi saint, philosopher, and poet who espoused tolerance, the shrine is revered by thousands of Sunnis, Shias, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and Parsis from across Pakistan, many of whom visit it every Thursday. The attack took place during a celebration known as dhamal, a Sufi prayer dance.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack. According to Dawn newspaper, Sharif said in a statement released by his office, "The Sufi people predate Pakistan's history and played an important part in the struggle for its formation… an attack on them is a direct threat to Jinnah's Pakistan and will be dealt as such.”

Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also denounced the bombing.

The bombing follows a series of attacks on Pakistan. Earlier that day, an explosive device aimed at an Army convoy killed three soldiers in the province of Balochistan.

On February 13, a suicide bombing attack claimed by the militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahraar killed 13 and injured 85 during a protest at Lahore’s Charing Cross neighborhood. That day, a bomb in Quetta, Balochistan killed two members of the province’s bomb disposal squad as they worked to defuse it.

A suicide bomb on February 15 claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) killed three members of a local police force and five civilians. The TTP also said it was responsible for an attack that day in which a suicide bomber on a motorcycle hit a vehicle carrying several judges, killing one and injuring four.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on February 17 that there would be an audit of shrines and other places of worship.

According to the Pakistani military's media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations, 100 militants have since been killed in response to the multiple attacks. The statement said that the military had found links connecting the attack to Afghanistan.

Sources also reported that the Army had sent a “search and strike operation” to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. More recently, political administration in the Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwest Pakistan requested that residents leave the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In spite of heightened terror activity, Pakistani leaders remain adamant in maintaining the fight against terrorist groups both inside and outside of the country.