Lahore Targeted Again
The three suicide attackers who struck at the heart of Lahore, Pakistan on July 1 when they targeted the shrine of Data Gunj Bakhsh, once again exposed the vulnerability of the ordinary citizens to this form of terrorism. There can be nothing but condemnation for this killing of innocent people who were congregating at Data Darbar on a Thursday evening.
This is always a heavily visited shrine in a congested part of Lahore, and on Thursdays the devotees gather in an even larger number. Over 40 precious Pakistani lives were lost and the death toll will probably rise, given the scale of the injured. No true believer in Islam and its humanism could carry out such a murderous act.
Was it simply another failure of good human intelligence or is the terrorist threat widening? We now hear of a new militant group, Ghazi Force, coming into being directly to take revenge for the Lal Masjid (red mosque) incident. As the law enforcement and intelligence agencies have discovered, preempting a suicide mission is extremely difficult unless there is excellent local intelligence available in advance. Here we still have not managed any real breakthroughs.
However, there are three main strands that are aggravating the terror threat within Pakistan. One: the continuing military-centric approach to combating terrorism which is simply creating more militants, especially with the perceived linkage between the US and the Pakistani state. Two, the growing drone killings and threats of an impending military operation in southern Punjab. Could this have been a means of pushing the decision makers concerned into taking that foolish step? Since there are so many external players aiding and abetting militancy in Pakistan, one wonders who was actually responsible for the attack on Data Darbar - one of the leading sufi saint's darbars in the Subcontinent?
The TTP has targeted sufi shrines, but so could other interests seeking to create further discontent and disarray in the strategic location of Lahore. The US official reiteration that its targeted killings on other sovereign territories is justified should caution us because for the USA presently the Pakistani nation is its target. It is time for the government of Pakistan to move against this US agenda, including against the drone attacks.
The third, and now perhaps a new and potent incentive for suicide bombers' recruitment is the growing poverty and economic discontent amongst the people, especially the poor. Where previously parents sent their children to madrassas to get a decent meal and a roof over their heads, now the desperate poor are committing suicide along with their children - such is the level of despair in Pakistan today. At least one of the bombers was identified as a 19-year-old youth. How many such poor and despairing youth are there today who all offer themselves as potential suicide bombers?
At the end of the day, unless the leadership of this country actually begins caring more about its people and the wellbeing of this nation, rather than foreign agendas, there can be no end to terrorism and militancy in Pakistan.
The Nation (Pakistan)
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