Serena Hotel Bomb Blast, Quetta
On 21 April 2021, a bomb exploded at Serena hotel, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. As a result, five people were killed, and 12 were wounded. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the responsibility of the attack with a message, “It was a suicide attack in which our suicide bomber used his explosives-filled car in the hotel.” It may be mentioned here that China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Nong Rong, was staying at Serena hotel but was not there when the bomb exploded.
Analysis of Bomb Blast
TTP has claimed responsibility for this bomb blast. The attack is a blow to the government of Balochistan for many reasons and also highlights the rising trend of militant aggression in Pakistan. When seen in the context of the recent stand-off and violence that the federal government and the Punjab government have had with the Tehreek Labaik Pakistan (TLP), this attack in the heart of Quetta city at what is possibly one of the most secure venues outside of the military cantonment can only be seen as a breakdown of security at the national level. It appears that a combination of the militant religious radicals, Baloch separatists, and terrorists of the TTP have overwhelmed governmental responses already weakened by the latter’s inability to deal with a pandemic. The attack at the Serena Hotel needs to be put into context. It seems that the attack may have been aimed at the Chinese Ambassador, but even the attackers must have known that the chances of that being successful were slim, but the symbolism of the attack is significant.
It would be logical to conclude that the TTP would have supported other terror groups, most likely the Baloch separatist ones that are sponsored from abroad. The use of a remote control device and the manner of placement of the explosive in the vehicle point to a degree of training and commitment that is usually the sign of a well-funded and well-trained organization. With the support of Pakistan’s neighboring countries’ intelligence organizations, the Baloch separatists have both. Moreover, the ability to move explosively into the city’s heart would indicate close cooperation between Baloch and Pushtun networks in the city. The timing further confirms this point of view whereby knowledge of diplomatic movements is only possible to a well-oiled intelligence network. Hence the Pakistan government’s statement blaming neighboring India may well be right. With sanctuaries in Afghanistan, where extensive training and expertise is imparted, the operation has the stamp of professionalism that only comes from professional intelligence operatives. The choice of timing it at the peak of the COVID crisis indicates strategic thinking behind it, whereby a tactical action has had strategic effects.
The Government of Pakistan must look at all of this holistically. The state must engage with estranged groups and try to morph a security issue into a political one and resolve it through dialogue and consensus-building. The security apparatus of the State must do a lot more in terms of strategic thinking and intelligence-based operations to nullify the enemy’s reach into urban centers. A conventional response is seldom able to deal with unconventional threats.