Home >News >World >Pakistan’s worst attack in 2-years dents improved security image

Karachi/Islamabad: Pakistan’s military blamed “hostile forces" in Afghanistan for its worst attack in two-years, closing its porous border with its northern neighbour after a spate of bombings this week dented confidence over recent security gains in the South Asian nation.

At least 75 people were killed and 210 injured after a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a shrine near the southern city of Hyderabad on Thursday, Moinuddin Siddiqui, a medical superintendent at the nearby Sehwan civil hospital, said by phone. Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement sent by its Aamaq news agency, the Associated Press reported. The assault follows attacks in the cities of Lahore and Peshawar this week.

Recent terrorist acts were executed “from sanctuaries in Afghanistan," Asif Ghafoor, the main spokesman for Pakistan’s armed forces, said on Twitter. “Pakistan-Afghanistan border closed with immediate effects till further orders due to security reasons."

Thursday’s bombing was the worst single attack since the Pakistani Taliban massacred about 150 students at an army school in the northern city of Peshawar in December 2014, prompting a military campaign against some domestic insurgent groups. Since then, Pakistan has seen renewed foreign investment as fears over safety have eased.

‘Terrorist cells’

“These attacks show there are more than a few terrorists cells operating," said Taimur Rehman, a political science professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “Claims that their backbone has been broken needs to be assessed."

Despite rising foreign investment, spearheaded by China which is providing more than $55 billion in funds and loans for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, many investors are still skittish over security concerns.

However some, including Dutch dairy company Royal FrieslandCampina NV, are looking past Pakistan’s history of terror attacks. The firm bought a majority stake in Karachi-based Engro Foods Ltd. two months ago and chief executive officer Hans Laarakker said in an interview this week that safety had improved after the military push against militants in cities such as the commercial capital Karachi.

“We believe there are some good signs that Pakistan will grow out of it," said Laarakker. “Travelling here for two years, in a short period you can see the security condition changing, people are bit more outgoing, restaurants are coming up."

Since 2014, fatalities in Pakistan from violence have dropped 66 percent to 2,610 last year, according to the Islamabad-based Center For Research and Security Studies. S&P Global Ratings Ltd. raised Pakistan’s credit rating in October in part because of improved domestic security and foreign direct investment is also up 10 percent to $1.1 billion in the six months through December, according to the central bank.

Pakistan’s benchmark stock index has advanced 55% in dollar terms since 2014, Asia’s best performing measure.

Cross-border attacks

US General John W. Nicholson, who heads NATO forces in Afghanistan, told a Senate committee last week that Islamic State insurgents in Afghanistan were mostly made up of Pakistani Taliban members who had been pushed out of the country by Pakistan’s military assault in the border regions.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it conveyed concerns and provided evidence about continual cross-border attacks by Afghan-based militants to the country’s deputy head of mission in Islamabad.

“Each drop of nation’s blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately," Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on late Thursday, according to Ghafoor. “No more restraint for anyone." Bloomberg

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