ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
A suicide bomber in Pakistan’s violence-hit southwestern Baluchistan province struck the funeral of a slain policeman on Thursday, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens. Most of the victims were officers and members of the provincial police force.
The funeral prayers for the officer were being organized inside the highly-secured police headquarters in Baluchistan's capital Quetta, just hours after he was gunned down while travelling through the city. Witnesses say that scores of police officers and civilian staff were lining up for the somber ceremony when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
The powerful blast reportedly caused most of the deaths on the scene, while doctors say a number of those wounded are in “critical condition.”
The provincial head of police operations, Fayaz Sumbal, is among several senior officers killed in the attack.
Sunni Muslim militant group
Authorities in Baluchistan suspect the violence could be a reaction to a recent police operation near Quetta against suspected hideouts of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
That banned Sunni Muslim militant group is accused of launching deadly attacks against the Shi'ite community in the city and elsewhere in Pakistan.
Thursday’s violence has renewed criticism of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government for its inability to put forward a national policy to counter the militants.
In an official statement released in Islamabad, Mr. Sharif condemned the funeral bombing and directed the federal interior minister to present a draft of the government’s “counter-terrorism strategy” by the end of this month.
A senior Pakistani human rights activist, Tahira Abdullah, cites the policy-making delay for the dramatic rise in militant violence. “I feel that the Taliban and jihadi groups are now becoming so audacious that they don’t give a damn about where they go, what they target, how many they kill, who they kill.”
Authorities under fire
Pakistani authorities have been under severe criticism since last month’s massive jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan. Dozens of heavily armed local Taliban militants stormed the northwestern city’s central prison and freed nearly 250 inmates. Among them, Pakistani officials say, were at least 40 “dangerous terrorists.”
That incident led to heightened security nationwide, particularly at major prisons, where troops have also been deployed to assist the police.
Baluch separatists also are waging a low-level insurgency in the resource-rich Pakistani province. The insurgents are being blamed for this week’s deadly attack on a passenger bus that killed 14 non-Baluch labors.
The latest militant violence came a day before the annual Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Muslim-majority Pakistan marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.