Pakistan is having a terrible week. The country has faced eight separate tragedies this week, seven of which were terror attacks, resulting in over 100 deaths. And the president of the United States has had little to say about it.
A blast this morning at a famed Sufi shrine in Sehwan, a city in Sindh province, left at least 73 dead and caused numerous injuries. Worshipers gather in large numbers on a weekly basis at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, contributing to the staggering number of deaths, a problem exacerbated by the city’s distance from capable and equipped hospitals. The bombing is now one of the deadliest to hit Pakistan in a decade, and ISIS has claimed responsibility.
Though by far the most deadly, the bombing in Sehwan follows seven other tragedies elsewhere in the country this week. On Sunday, members of the media were targeted in Karachi, the country’s largest city, resulting in one death. On Monday, 13 people were killed and more than 70 were wounded when a bomb ripped through a rally in Lahore. That same day, bombings were carried out in Quetta, located in the province of Baluchistan, and in South Waziristan, which is in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region. On Tuesday, two people were killed while trying to dismantle a bomb in Quetta. On Wednesday, five people were killed in Ghalanai in Mohmand Agency; another person was killed in Peshawar after a suicide bomber struck a court van in an effort targeting the judiciary.
It’s a horrifying series of events in a country that has seen notable calm in the past year. While a devastating attack on Easter targeting Christians left more than 70 people dead and hundreds injured last year, Pakistan has experienced remarkable tranquility in the time since. Now, however, that peace has been violently disrupted.
Leaders from many nations have expressed their condolences to Pakistan following the two largest attacks in Lahore and Sehwan — but not Trump.
Over the course of the past week, Trump has tweeted about a number of topics ranging from his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his negative thoughts on the media. But not a single word has been said about Pakistan. The official White House Twitter account has also been silent. The Department of State just took the time to briefly retweet messages from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad following the attacks in Lahore and Sehwan.
Trump’s silence isn’t only unusual because of the sheer scope of the attacks in Pakistan — it’s also surprising given how receptive the president initially was to the nation. He famously praised Pakistan last November in a much-covered phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to Sharif’s PML-N party, the then president-elect was full of admiration for both Sharif and Pakistan more generally.
“You have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy,” the Pakistani version of the exchange quoted Trump as saying of Sharif. “Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.”
While the Trump administration did push back on the specifics of Pakistan’s version, U.S. officials still emphasized the positive nature of the exchange. It was an odd and unexpected beginning for relations between the two leaders, especially following Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric, much of which directly targeted Muslims. Pakistan hosts the world’s second-largest Muslim population, and its citizens were uneasy after Trump’s election.
Following other moves by the administration, most notably the Muslim ban, the U.S. president continues to be a source of controversy in Pakistan. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan blasted the ban shortly after it was announced, arguing that it would undermine international efforts against terrorism. Many high-ranking officials remained silent, however — a telling sign that optimism towards the Trump administration remains, especially following his effusive praise for a country that isn’t always well-liked by the U.S. government.
Praise for Pakistan doesn’t seem to be translating into concern for its people. The death toll in Sehwan is still rising, and if the past week is any indicator Pakistan will need help and support from its allies as it works to tackle a new wave of terror. At present, however, it is unclear if Trump will have any interest in reaching out to Pakistan, no matter how severe the problem becomes.