Can we stop small-time terrorists?

Published: July 18, 2010
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Rescue officials, Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) teams and the police throng at the Garhi Shahu blast site. PHOTO: MEHMOOD QURESHI

The wanna-be Talibans are at it again. In Lahore their success with these crackers is the height of absurdity. Petty groups and moral police have been active since October 2008, hitting the very fabric of the way life is lived and they are succeeding.

Honestly speaking, I always say a little prayer of relief every time an explosion turns out to be low intensity because there aren’t serious casualties. But even if these low intensity bombs, crackers, home made bombs etc do not result in a bloodbath, they still provide cause for celebration to the ‘wanna-be’ Talibans, because they achieve what they set out to do in the first place i.e. sending a message to civil society that it needs to behave a certain manner and mend its ways. From performing arts events to theatres, from Heera Mandi to businesses owned by Ahmedis – anything can be an excuse for an attack for these ‘Talibans’ when they consider it to be immoral or wrong.

Their game plan has revealed that in some cases they also take their cues (or should I say courage) from real terrorists. The day of the R.A. Bazar attacks on the Lahore Cantonment Garrison vehicles took place in Lahore (a week after an attack targeting the Intelligence agency office in Model Town) seven crackers exploded outside the residences of police officers and a couple of retired army officers in Allama Iqbal Town.

A few days after the May 28 attacks on an Ahmadis’ place of worship a timed explosive was planted in a soft drinks factory owned by an Ahmadi businessman. It seems these groups are trying their best to break free of their perceived reputation as only ‘anti-culture’ terrorists and are planning on going big one day! It also disturbs me that these individuals who are inspired by ‘murderers with cause’ in Pakistan are at large.

What is up with the Lahore police? Okay, they cannot control suicide bombers. They could not stop vehicles carrying hundreds of kilograms of explosives from roaming the streets of the city and entering a posh residential area or stop armed gunmen from entering the police cadets’ training schools 3 times. They they could not provide enough security to the Sri Lankan cricket team despite VVIP security protocol. They could not protect Jamia Naeemia, the places of worship for Ahmadis or the Darbar despite extreme threats to all of these places. Fine, all not the Lahore polices fault. Terrorists are simply too smart for them. Rehman Malik’s men do not cooperate (as the Punjab Government keeps telling us!) But how about these small time groups or individuals, who regularly send text messages before these cracker explosions. What about them? Who should be accountable for yet another failure of the law enforcement agencies? So much for these recent police crackdowns in Punjab after the Data Darbar attacks. Someone is having a good laugh at the expense of these police wallahs.

To me this inability of the police force is one of the scariest parts of this whole game of panic, terror and blood which is being played on the streets and road of Lahore every other day. Can’t they see how embarrassing this entire cracker blast situation is for them? It is heartbreaking that the police loose their men in the real terrorist attacks but authorities probably need to up their game. What are they waiting for? What other excuse will the Punjab Government or the Law Ministry issue this time via fax for ‘ticker for the electronic media’? (This is the heading for the statements that the government’s PR office sends to the press.) Another untoward incident, another condemnation, another notification, another ticker, another headline and the list goes on just like the list of the victories of the terrorists…

Cracker blast ‘victories’ list

The following is a list of cracker blast ‘victories’ of smalltime terrorists in Lahore and two in its suburbs near Sheikhupura since October 2008:

Garhi Shahu Juice corners

World Performing Arts Festival

Alfalah Theater

Tamaseel Theater

Peeru’s cafe

Six in Allama Iqbal Town

One in Samanabad

Taxali Gate area (traditional abode of the dancing girls)

A sufi saint’s shrine in the suburbs of Lahore

Juice and soft drinks Factory owned by an Ahmadi business

CDs shops in Hall Road market

Internet cafes in Garhi Shahu and Begum Coat

Rabia Mehmood

Rabia Mehmood

A reporter at the Lahore Bureau of Express 24/7 and a IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow at the Center for International Studies, MIT.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.