The deadly Ashura (10th Muharram) attack in Kabul that killed about 80 people and injured more than 100 was one of the most tragic attacks in Afghanistan. Kabul city is still echoing with the shrieking sound of the attack and the saddening screams of the victims. The attack was totally unexpected and authorities were totally unprepared for such an attack.
This unpreparedness has been one of the reasons of large number of deaths. In fact, the nature of terrorism in Afghanistan has never been on sectarian basis; therefore this attack was totally unexpected. However, as yet, it can not be concluded that this particular attack and of similar types in other parts of the country were because of sectarianism but it can be easily claimed that the attacks were meant to spark sectarianism in the country. Nevertheless, the response of Afghan people has discouraged this intention.
So far it has not been confirmed as who could have been behind the attacks. However, a few names have come in front. The first claim was by Lashkar-e-Jangvi Al-alami, which claimed as being a part of Lashkar-e-Jangvi. Lashkar-e-Jangvi is a group based on extremist doctrines and has been active currently in the sectarian targeted killings of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan – most recently in Quetta city of Balochistan Province.
Sectarian clashes or violence in Pakistan has had a history of few decades. It was particularly in rise during in 1990's, mostly affected by the influence of Saudi Arabia and Iran, both belonging to different sects of Islam and two different political interpretations of Islamic teachings. Lashkar-e-Jangvi is presently considered as one of the deadliest groups in Pakistan and there are reports that it has links with Al-Qaeda. However, there have not been reports of any Afghan branch of Lashkar-e-Jangvi.
Another recent report has been about a new Afghan group that calls itself as Lashkar-e-Jangvi Afghanistan. This group has told BBC, through its leader Ali Sher-e-Khuda, that it is inspired by Lashkar-e-Jangvi organization but is basically an Afghan group. The group leader has mentioned, "I was born in Nimroz and am of Afghan origin.
I set up the organization with other like-minded young men from Afghanistan. Most of them hail from the provinces around Bamiyan – especially Wardak and Ghazni provinces." Nevertheless, the existence of such a group is very much dubious.
The claims of such group is more like backing up the attack so that it should start sparking the intentions it had but Afghan authorities do not have to turn a deaf ear to such reports and they have to make sure that they have to make every possible attempt that has been made to start a sectarian clash. If there is any such group, it is better to nip the evil in the bud otherwise it would be useless to cry over spilt milk.
Although the purpose of attack has been clear, the culprits behind the attacks remain hidden. The only thing that has come out of the attack is a mammoth destruction and pain and not to forget the imperative question, "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.