The death toll from the attack on Shiite shrine in Kabul has now reached to 80 and may even increase. The incident which took place on tenth of Muharram (Ashura) is considered as one of the most unfortunate incidents in the last decade and has raised many questions, as well, among which one of the most dominant has been, "Is it the start of sectarian clashes in Afghanistan?" This question is important for Afghanistan in many ways.
The first one has been that the country is already going through different sorts of menaces and if there are signs of another menace, it can prove very much fatal for Afghanistan.
The ill intention of the attack was definitely to spark sectarian clash in the country, however that intention does not seem to be bearing fruit.
The response of the Afghan people has been very much positive and they have tried to remain as calm as possible. Nevertheless, if such attacks continue and there are not proper measures carried out by the authorities and sectarianism is able to penetrate within the politics of Afghanistan along with the ethnicism, there are possibilities that sectarian clashes may erupt or there may be some sort of sectarian violence.
The future of sectarian clashes or violence totally depends on how the people and the religious and political figures respond to this particular attack and to any future ill intentions. The role of the neighboring countries will also have an important impact – especially the role of Pakistan and Iran in this regard will be crucial - and above all the role of the Afghan law enforcing agencies is going to be very much crucial as well. It is important that culprits behind such attacks should be found and they should be countered through strict measures.
So far the response of the people, political figures and religious personalities has been very calm and it has tried to heel the wounds. In addition, prospects of the sectarian clashes at the moment seem very much non-existent.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker has mentioned clearly that the attack is unlikely to generate sectarian clashes in the country. He, during a briefing in U.S. embassy in Kabul, mentioned, "I do not see this turning into a sectarian conflict just looking at the reactions on the part of the Shia leadership, calling for calm."
He further added, "Virtually every significant attack I'm aware of – where I have gotten some information – either came out of tribal areas in Pakistan or (the southern Pakistani region of) Balochistan. There does indeed seem to be a pattern."
He also noted that various factions in Afghanistan have responded by saying, "We're all Afghans together – Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Pashtuns." It is important to note that the blame for Ashura attack can be linked to neighboring countries but that would not suffice if this menace has to be eradicated.
Afghanistan at the moment is going through a very crucial period of its history. This period is going to decide the future developments in the country to a large extent. It is important that during this period Afghan leaders, authorities and people must give their best to the country.
Definitely, the socio-political circumstances are not always favorable and on certain occasions they keep on testing people and nations. The circumstances that Afghanistan is going through at the moment are a challenge for Afghan people and they have to respond to them in a determined and wise manner.
The Ashura attack, because of its intensity and the ill intentions behind it, is a test of temperament for Afghans and the actions by Afghan people and authorities that follow are going to decide whether it will join Afghan social and political developments towards a dead end or not.