Less than 24 hours after the much-touted and eagerly-anticipated Bonn II Conference in Germany, the unthinkable disaster happened in Afghanistan; a disaster that has never before been witnessed in the history of Afghanistan: Shiite mourners taking processions to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussain - which culminates into the 'Ashura Day' after ten days of mourning - were brutally targeted with suicide bombings in a series of coordinated attacks not only in Kabul but across Afghanistan.
In Kabul, a suicide bombing targeted a mourning procession in the heart of the city killing more than 60 and injuring hundreds of people. In Mazar-e Sharif in the north and Kandahar city in the south too mourning processions were targeted with bombings and tens of people were killed and wounded.
The outrageous attacks targeted the minority Shiites on the very day the people commemorate the martyrdom of a religious figure whom people from all religious inclinations in Afghanistan deeply respect and revere.
In Afghanistan, where not even the hardline Taliban ever allowed themselves to engage in sectarian warfare in such a brazen manner, these attacks have had no precedent. It is a first of its kind and, interestingly enough, it comes at a critical juncture when the broader region including the Subcontinent and Pakistan has seen increasing sectarian warfare and systematic targeting of religious minorities.
The Taliban, far from taking responsibility, have "condemned" the attacks calling them "cruel and appalling". Although the Taliban have been quick in distancing themselves from the attacks, by any standard, they are still suspects in this heinous crime. There is certainly many smaller and splinter groups within the overall hierarchy of Taliban, who are much more hardline and would not shy away from actively pursuing extermination of religious minorities.
It is important to look into this incident from all possible angles not only by Afghanistan's security agencies as their responsibility but also by all experts and observers. This event and uncovering the truth behind it would provide valuable insights into not only the dark underbelly of Taliban - whose leader Mullah Omar has long lost the reins of actual control over the runaway monster of Taliban - but it would also lay exposed who and which groups are out to destroy Afghanistan at all costs and through any means.
However, it is yet not known for certain who or which group has been behind these series of bombings which appear to have been well-coordinated. For sure, as far as Afghans are concerned including the Taliban, no one would ever take the responsibility for these bombings.
Throughout the cultural and religious history of Afghanistan, even during the Taliban rule, the mourning processions during the month of Muharram have been viewed largely with respect and reverence by Afghans of all hues and stripes. No one ever crossed the red line of actually trying to create and incite tensions among religious communities as it seems to have been the motive and objective of the organizers and perpetrators of these attacks.
It is highly improbable that any group and entity that is of traditional Afghan mindset and character can allow itself to bomb Muharram religious processions the way the suicide bomber in Kabul did on Tuesday. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes should be looked for and found among those people who, on numerous occasions in the past, have shown their willingness and ability to target religious minorities as they did in the Pakistani town of Quetta barely a few months ago.
What goes under the name of 'sectarian warfare' and is characterized by active and systematic attacks on religious minorities with the aim of extermination of these minorities is something that is largely alien to Afghanistan and its political, social and cultural traditions.
Killing religious minorities in the name of God, on the other hand, is rife in the Subcontinent to the south of Afghanistan, where many such instances have occurred in recent years almost on a regular basis. Many groups, including the Sepah-e-Jangvi and such, have unequivocally announced their overarching objective as being the extermination of the "whole Shias" from the face of their country.
By action and word, they have clearly shown that they are serious about their cause. The attacks in Kabul, being the first of its kind, appear to be attempts on the part of some to actively introduce into Afghanistan sectarian killings of this kind - which, carried out in this manner, have no historical precedent whatsoever inside Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the recent history of sectarian warfare, whether in Pakistan, Iraq or elsewhere, has shown that the nature of the sectarian warfare and systematic attacks on religious minorities is such that they are often used to score political points and settle outstanding political disputes.
In other words, the rise and fall in sectarian killings are, to a significant extent, dependent upon and a function of the political equations of the time and in the broader region. In this case too, it seems to be plausible that certain forces are out to destabilize the country and win certain political points. It is a duty of all Afghans to unearth and discredit these nefarious forces.
The deeply sad and worrying events on Tuesday clearly show that the government of Afghanistan needs to redouble its vigilance and resolve to prevent the agenda of some nefarious forces that are out to turn Afghanistan into yet another country that burns in the flames of sectarian warfare.
The entire spectrum of government and international institutions dealing with security and order issues need to be quick in identifying and nabbing the organizers and perpetrators before they find time and opportunity to yet pull off more attacks of this kind.
Creating and inciting tensions among Afghanistan's ethnic and religious groups are the chief objective of these forces and that must be stopped in tracks at all costs. Afghanistan, which just concluded the Bonn II conference and struggles to achieve peace and stability, cannot afford opening of yet another fountainhead of war and instability in the form of systematic attacks on the country's religious and ethnic minorities. The last thing Afghanistan can wish for at this juncture is that sectarian warfare, long confined to the Subcontinent, finds its way into the midst of otherwise tolerant Afghans.