Rameez Ansari is extremely concerned about the rising spectre of terror
The ferocity of the Peshawar bombing amidst rising terrorism has numbed a country that is already quite accustomed to acts of terror. The rising spectre of terrorism is like a nightmare revisiting the benighted country that apparently lacks the wherewithal to tackle it frontally. The Pakistani officialdom has not been able to do anything but issue hollow determination to fight the menace and routine photos of high state dignitaries visiting hospitals to console the injured. It is indeed pathetic to note that the relevant authorities are divided on who committed the outrage with many banned terrorist outfits blamed for it. The mushroom growth of terrorist outfits is a stark reminder of the utter failure of the policy makers who pursued self-defeatist policies while conveying the impression that they were furthering national interest by doing so. It was obvious that the price of such policies was bound to be paid by the country and that is what is precisely happening now. The most pitiable aspect of the entire situation is that the perpetrators of such devastating policies have never been questioned about their follies with the hapless people of the country left to bear their brunt.
The savage suicide bombing targeting a mosque in the Police Lines of Peshawar is an extremely disturbing reminder of the intention and capability of the banned terrorist outfits to carry out deadly attacks across Pakistan. This gory incident is yet another proof that in the convoluted worldview of the terrorists, they do not care about treading the rationalistic course of action as they believe that either the state accepts their unreasonable demands or gets ready to face murderous rampages like the mosque bombing. Unfortunately, the state organs of Pakistan are hopelessly inadequate to safeguard against terrorist’s activities as is borne out by the Peshawar carnage that took place at the most secured Police Lines that was reported to have three security rings around it. It is reported that the Peshawar bloodbath was claimed by the Mohmand faction of the TTP, apparently as revenge for the killing of Omar Khalid Khorasani in Afghanistan last August implying that the terrorist mindset equates the state with personal dimension believing in vendetta against it. The most problematic aspect is that the late notorious militant had at different times been associated with IS-K, Jamaatul Ahrar, as well as the TTP thereby blurring the identifying parameters of terrorism.
The murderous swing of terrorism in the country has made KP its main target and the province has been made to bear the brunt signifying that the renunciation of truce with Pakistani authorities and the TTP has increased terrorist activities. Yet amidst the rising terrorism the Peshawar Police Lines bombing must be taken as a major escalation as this targeted the policemen and army troops offering prayers that resulted in very high body count. This atrocity took place while Pakistani governance apparatus is engaged in an internecine conflict between its different segments. The obvious outcome of this conflict is a state of paralysis that has disabled the governance structure to respond to national crises particularly terrorism. The destructive battle of nerves has badly mauled the national matrix as political and administrative actions are frozen in time as the high state functionaries appear fighting an existential battle. This state of paralytic inaction provides an ideal opportunity for the terrorists to strike at the state with almost impunity destroying the public confidence in the state itself.
The horrendous suicide attack at Peshawar had resulted in a death toll that has risen to 100 and there are fears that many more would emerge from the debris spread all over the premises of the mosque. It is reported that 53 injured were also brought to the hospital for treatment with many of them getting treated in the ICU. It was estimated that 10-12 kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the explosion. However, most of the damage was not caused by the explosive material as the shockwaves from the blast caused the roof to cave in, burying people under the rubble. The explosion occurred inside the main hall of a mosque having a capacity of 300 to 350 people that is located in the Police Lines and the locality comprises headquarters of the Capital City Police, Frontier Reserve Police, Elite Police Force, Counter Terrorism Department, Tele Communication Branch, RRF and SCU. The police headquarters in Peshawar is in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and is next door to the regional secretariat. The blast caused the roof of the mosque to collapse and a severed head was recovered from inside the debris. Peshawar police reported that more than 90 per cent of the victims were policemen as between 300 and 400 of whom had gathered in the compound’s mosque for prayers.
The most pertinent question at the moment is how a suicide bomber was able to enter Police Lines and go to the mosque. In this context it was mentioned that there was no central command at the Police Lines and the checking mechanism was limited to the gate. It was also pointed out that there are canteens present and some construction work was also ongoing. In this situation somehow explosive material was brought there apparently in small quantities over a period of time. It was also pointed out that the premises housed a complaint centre that made it possible for general public to come and go. It was mentioned that the bomber entered the premises in this manner without the explosive material and then later went to the mosque where he blew himself up. In any case a security lapse could not be ruled out and it is required to be inquired into.
The terrorism issue has become extremely complicated after TTP unilaterally ended its truce with the security agencies citing irreconcilable differences with them during the process of negotiations that were held between them that were facilitated by the Afghan Taliban regime. During the truce the terrorist outfit stopped its attacks on security forces. In the interim the government sent delegations of tribal elders and ulema to Kabul in order to persuade the TTP to end its activities and surrender its weapons. The months-long negotiations, however, remained inconclusive and ultimately ended in November last year. Major sticking points included the TTP’s demands to roll back the merger of the erstwhile tribal areas with KP, release hardened terrorists, as well as the group’s refusal to lay down their arms. These were obvious red lines the state could not let the militants cross.
Since the end of the truce the militant group intensified its attacks, particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP. Just in this month on 22 January a police vehicle narrowly escaped a bomb blast in Peshawar’s Badaber area. A day earlier, a policeman was martyred and two others were injured when unidentified assailants attacked a police post in Dheri Zardad locality of Charsadda. On 14 January a deputy superintendent and two constables were martyred when militants, armed with automatic assault weapons, targeted the Sarband police station on the outskirts of the province’s capital, Peshawar late at night. TW