Kiran Omar


This piece on bomb blasts in Lahore was to appear in April issue of the Bulletin. However, with the April Bulletin dedicated to the memory of Hari Sharma, Kanu Sanyal and G.P. Koirala, it is being produced in May. It is a sad story of mindless killing not new to Pakistan but somewhat new for Lahore.


Once again the fragile calm of Lahore was brutally shattered by multiple bomb blasts ripping through busy market places and near mosques where people were congregating for Friday prayers. The targets appeared to be the army cantonment area, where casualties, both civilians and military personal amounted to 57 and injured numbered over 150. Several low intensity blasts were also experienced in densely populated residential areas, where no army personnel are located. It appears that the low intensity blasts were carried out to create panic and spread fear amongst the residents and to keep law enforcement agencies on the run.


So far the year 2010 had been relatively peaceful for Lahore, providing much needed respite from militant violence and bomb blasts that had shaken the peace and confidence of this gracious of cities. Famous for its stunning Mughal, Sikh, and colonial British architecture, its gardens and parks, its learning and intellectual flowering, and most of all its energy and vibrant culture, Lahore now reels under the tyranny of suicide bombers who subscribe to a culture of senseless violence, terror and chaos.


The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Al Qaida linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist organization have claimed responsibility, say reports appearing in independent media. Once again, home-grown terror groups mock efforts of security agencies in maintaining order and security by flexing their muscles and bringing a city to its knees. Contradictory and irresponsible statements by the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Governor Salman Taseer create an impression that of disharmony, discord and confusion within the ruling coalition partners. This disarray and confusion allows terrorist activity to continue unchecked causing millions in material damage and loss of invaluable lives. Thus far no clear anti-terrorist policy or protocol seems to be in place at either the Federal or provincial levels on measures being taken, or planned for the future, to systematically combat growing militancy. The representatives of both Federal and provincial governments are, once again, reduced to mouthing platitudes and issuing lame statements of condemnation and horror; their usual practice in times of national crisis and calamity. Statements, which neither help improve the deteriorating security situation nor provide succor to the traumatized and angry citizens of Lahore. 


Earlier in the week, a high intensity blast rocked a quiet residential neighborhood of Lahore which housed an interrogation cell of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The residents have constantly petitioned the Punjab governor, Chief Minister and relevant bureaucrats to move the FIA facility out of their neighborhood as it had been targeted by terrorist bomb attacks in 2009, to devastating effect. One cannot therefore say that the latest deadly suicide bomb attack again on the same building came as a complete surprise to the authorities. The ire of the residents is understandable, despite loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties, the facility remained stubbornly in the midst of a heavily populated residential area, where it had no business being located in the first place.


What is evident is the obvious disconnect between the various layers of government in the province on questions of security, law and order. Despite repeated threats, warnings and multiple incidents of brutality by terrorist groups the Punjab government and their Federal counterparts have failed to come to grips with the declining security situation. The public is not taken into confidence or their assistance sought to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to bring the menace of militancy under control. Most importantly, no clear political solution is being proposed that will bring all political parties together to unanimously chalk out a resolution to the problem of national security.


The government must face up to the fact that they have failed to come to acknowledge home-grown terrorist organizations which proliferate in the Punjab, spreading tentacles across the country. Furthermore there has to be clarity on the definition of “the war on terror”, a phrase which elicits extreme anger and negative emotions in the commonplace Pakistani who sees Pakistan involved in a senseless proxy war fought on behalf of the US to further its political agendas. Pakistan role as a stakeholder in this proxy war has not been clearly explained by the government and therefore it is seen as de facto waging a war against its own people by allowing unimpeded American drone attacks on its soil and deployment of thousands of operatives within the country, from the US army, CIA and controversial private security agencies like Blackwater (now called Xe) – and not to mention the euphemistically called “defense contractors”.  One cannot subtract the effects of the huge Indian presence in Afghanistan, which no contiguous border with that country, including at least 2,000 military personnel and dozens of “consulates”.


The proliferation of home-grown terrorist organizations finds its roots during the government of the military dictator, General Ziaul Haq. During his rule, a national campaign of “Islamization” was activated, whereby religious fundamentalist groups were supported and strengthened both monetarily and politically, to play an active and visible role in the moral affairs of the nation. School curricula were changed to reflect the centrality of militant and less tolerant forms of religious ideals and every sphere of public life bore strong influences of overt religiosity. And driving the chaos was the US decision to use an internationally-recruited guerrilla force to ouster the Soviet occupation from Afghanistan. Perhaps, an UN-led solution may have produced different residual results.


Subsequent governments of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto failed to bring these groups under control and reverse these trends. The reluctance to challenge the growing influence of religious leaders and clergy was fuelled by fears of losing the political backing of these powerful religious groups. The result was the mushrooming of fundamentalist groups allied with Al Qaida, the Taliban in Afghanistan and other similar groups world-wide.


Pakistan stands once again on the edge of chaos, its future progress stalled by violence. The government continues its policy of prevarication and ineffective governance. The livelihood of millions of daily-wage earners, small traders and entrepreneurs stands compromised and their future precarious and vulnerable. Economic growth is deeply affected by insecurity and instability.

There is a lack of confidence in the markets, spiraling inflation, pushing costs of daily commodities out of the reach of all except the privileged few.

It is causing flight of much needed capital from the country, with constant insecurity discouraging foreign and local investments, the consequences of which are far reaching.


If terrorism has to be contained and dealt with, the government must take the people into its confidence, it must devise along with them, a concrete and clear policy that takes into account the views from all walks of life, representing Pakistan and its vision for its future, not reflecting the political agendas of external powers engaged in a proxy war to establish hegemony in the Region. The Great Game of the early Nineteenth Century must not be played out once again.

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