Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Lahore carnage

The Frontier Post
This Lahore carnage was heart-rending. The colossal loss it exacted on innocent lives and limbs was intolerably tragic. The bestiality of the perpetrators of this mayhem was unspeakably contemptible. And the collapse of the local state security apparatus in averting this gruesome slaughter too was glaring and at once appalling and indefensible. By every account, the provincial administration had been alerted to the impending strike much in advance by various state agencies. Yet its security arm was found napping. The attackers reached their target sites fully loaded with their deadly weapons in broad daylight without being intercepted on the way. That speaks volumes of the dismal state of vigilance mounted by the security apparatus to prevent such a holocaust. Some heads must roll, although one fails to comprehend what for has the security force drawn praise from chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in the face of so damning facts. Some top cops have sought to deflect their apparatus’s failure by claiming possible Indian spy service RAW’s involvement in the thuggish strike. But that wouldn’t do, given the reported acceptance of responsibility by outlawed TTP’s Punjab chapter. It indeed is the time that the Punjab ruling leadership must come out of its persistent state of denial, come to terms with some incontrovertible realities obtaining dreadfully and worrisomely in the province, and set about robustly to deal with them. It is an open secret that parts of the province, particularly its southern regions, have become the hotbed of rabid religiosity and the lair of blood-thirsty fanatics who have been found never shy or inhibited in brandishing their extremism violently and bloodily. Even this Lahore massacre is in all probability the thuggish evil job of a confessional outfit of these murderous brigands. They need to be dealt with iron hand, sternly, unexceptionably and decisively. Yet, by every indication they are being treated with kid-gloves, instead. And not long ago the citizenry all over the land was terribly horrified watching a law minister of the Punjab government participating in a by-election public rally by riding in a truck with a leader of an outlawed fanatical outfit. Politics, surely, cannot override public security and stability of the polity and the state. And the ruling leadership of the province must understand that if the thuggish elements are not shown the stern face of the state and are shown leniency for political ends, they outgrow to become a formidable threat not just to the lives of the ordinary citizens and law-abiding folks but also to the very writ and authority of the state itself. Indeed, none could be as alive to this factuality as the Mian brothers. It was on their previous watch in the late 1990s that their bastion of Punjab got trapped into an increasingly bloodied sectarian fratricide. The bloodletting was horrific, and only ascendant, not diminishing. For years, the province stayed caught up in this terrible bloodbath, with the blood of the innocent being shed with abandon by the partisan thugs with their bomb blasts and terrorist strikes on mosques and imambargahs vindictively. It took tremendous efforts to restore a measure of sanity. Yet the bestiality didn’t go away altogether. It just slowed down, leaving in its trail the sectarian scars not easy to heal. This alone should bring home to the Punjab ruling leadership, especially chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the imperative urgent need of showing no accommodation at all to the blood-hungry extremists, mothballing the wellsprings of their religiosity and finishing off their lairs of terrorism. All and sundry must bear this in mind that these messengers of death and destruction are poles apart from what they were in the 1990s. Although various outfits have their own particular vile agendas which they pursue and work for, they have created nexuses between themselves to collaborate in the perpetuation of their thuggery. They have now become a killer syndicate. And if it was an uphill job in those blood-soaked yesteryears to cripple the sectarian thugs, the task of reining in and decimating the extremists now in the province has become all the more gigantic. They can rely on their murderous peers of the country’s northern parts for help as would depend their peers on them when they stand in need of help. For this reason, any more procrastination by the Punjab government in overcoming these extremists and decimating them lock-stock and barrel would lead up to their becoming invincible and impossible to control. Hence, Shahbaz Sharif has no other option but now to take off the gloves and take on this murder brigade resolutely, boldly and unbendingly. This he owes to his own people as also to this country’s citizens at large. He must act before these vile characters become stalking fiends.

Power breakdown triggers protests

PESHAWAR: The 20-hour-long power breakdown in various parts of the provincial metropolis forced the enraged consumers to come on roads and stage violent protests on Saturday night, sources said.
The sources said power supply to several areas of Faqirabad, Zaryab Colony, Saeedabad, Dilazak Road, Afghan Colony and other areas situated on Ring Road was disconnected at 4am on Saturday.
The power disruption caused severe hardships to the people as the provincial metropolis has already been under extreme hot spell for the last five days. The lack of electricity also created water shortage in the affected areas, triggering anger and anguish among the people.
When inquiries were made to the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) office from time to time, the spokesman claimed that there was a fault at the Shahi Bagh Feeder, which was being rectified, claiming that the power would be restored soon. But PESCO assurances proved wrong, as power was not restored even after 18 hours of disruption.
The disruption forced people to come on roads in protest. The enraged power consumers blocked busy Dilazak Road for all vehicular traffic at 10pm and raised slogans against Pesco.
The protest turned violent on Ring Road at Pattang Chowk where people disrupted the traffic by burning tyres on the road. The protesters also pelted vehicles with stones, damaging several vehicles in the protest. Protests were also staged in other areas Afghan Colony, Yusufabad and Eedgah Road. The power supply was not restored to the affected areas till our going to the press.

Malik sees terror roots in south Punjab

Federal Interior Minister Rehman A Malik said the terrorists could not enervate the government of Pakistan, as it would bear down upon the havoc-wreaking assassins in concert with the entire nation for the national integrity, Geo News reported Sunday.
Talking to media while on visit to the worshipping place of the Qadianis here, he said the anti-Pakistan forces which were defeated in Fata and Swat, have unleashed their activities in Punjab.
The interior minister added the outfits like Laskhkar-e-Jhangavi and Jaish-e-Muhammed were part to Al-Qaieda and on receiving training, they were busy with sabotage activities in Punjab.
The federal minister said at least 1764 people of banned 29 groups belonged to Punjab, adding the terrorists holed up in Southern Punjab, were making appearances now and that he spotted them to have links even in Balochistan as well.
Malik said, ‘I am here not to grapple with the Punjab government; instead, we hand in hand, will put to an end the terrorism.’
The confident minister appealed on the occasion to Punjab Chief Minister to make public the inquiry report on Gojra Tragedy.
The Interior Minister informed that the government is bringing a bill in connection with the rights accorded to the minorities enshrined in the Constitution.

PML-N, Taliban links prime reason behind Lahore mosques' terror siege: Taseer

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has said that the close links between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Taliban was the prime reason behind Friday's ghastly terror attack on the two Lahore mosques.

"Ahmedis had to face gun-and-grenade attacks inside the places of worship in Model Town and Garhi Shahu due to the close relations between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Taliban," The Daily Times quoted Taseer, as saying.

In his message on the social networking site-Twitter, Taseer said that banned extremist groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Taliban were jointly working in the province under the patronage of the provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

"Extremists are receiving VIP treatment in the Punjab jails," Sanaullah wrote in his tweet.

Political bickering over the deadly militant attack on the two mosques, in which over 70 people were killed, is in full flow.

Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that the Punjab government was already informed about militants' plans to target minorities in the province.

Malik said that the provincial government was given specific intelligence inputs that militants may target religious places and other important installations in Lahore.

Over 70 people were killed, including nine security personnel, and more than 100 injured when several heavily armed gunmen struck two mosques belonging to the Ahmadiya community in Lahore on Friday (May 28). More than a thousand people were said to be inside the worship place at the time of the attack.

The hostage drama ended after an intense three hour-long gun battle between the security forces and the attackers. Media reports said that at least two suicide attackers were nabbed alive in the commando operation.

Brutal assault on the Ahmedis

Daily Times
May 28th, 2010, will be etched in history as ‘Black Friday’ for Pakistan. On the day that the country was celebrating ‘Yaum-e-Takbeer’ to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Pakistan going nuclear, Lahore witnessed two deadly terror attacks against the Ahmediyya community. Terrorists carried out simultaneous attacks on the Ahmedis’ places of worship — Baitul Noor in Model Town and Darul Zikr in Garhi Shahu — during Friday prayers when thousands of Ahmedis had gathered there. It was surreal to see the images unfolding on our television screens when the terrorists went inside the two houses of prayer and unleashed their terror on the innocent worshippers. More than 90 people died while more than a hundred others were injured. The Punjab wing of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Wielding guns, wearing suicide vests and with hand grenades at their disposal, the terrorists launched well coordinated attacks subsequently leading to a standoff for hours at Garhi Shahu while the Model Town assault was relatively brief. The effort of the security volunteers of the Ahmediyya community during the operations must be lauded.

The dead were buried separately on Saturday after the Ahmediyya community cancelled a mass funeral because they were not “satisfied with the security arrangements”. This is the height of injustice since the Ahmedis are the most persecuted community in Pakistan but every government, past or present, has failed to provide adequate security to them. In an act of supreme opportunism under pressure from the religious extremists, the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims by Zulfikar Bhutto in 1974. This opened the door for religious zealots to wreak further havoc when it came to the Ahmedis. General Ziaul Haq, a bigot, persecuted the Ahmedi sect by promulgating discriminatory laws specific to this community. Since then we have seen a constant rise in intolerance towards the Ahmedis. Instead of giving protection to our minorities as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have castigated them.

Another worrying aspect of Friday’s brutal massacre was that apparently the Punjab government had been forewarned of possible terrorist attacks against the minorities. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that two security alerts were sent to the provincial government on May 13 and May 26 warning them of such an attack. It is shocking to know that instead of doing anything about it, the Punjab government adopted a ‘devil may care’ attitude. We are already in a life and death struggle with terrorism, thus the Punjab government’s apathetic treatment of an intelligence report of such sensitivity is nothing short of criminal negligence. On top of that we have seen the provincial government’s top minister hobnobbing with the leaders of banned terrorist groups, case in point being Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah mollycoddling a Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) leader in Jhang for electoral purposes. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif begging mercy from the Taliban to spare Punjab is another grim reminder that our leaders are playing a very dangerous game. It seems the PML-N is playing the role of a fifth column in this war against terrorism. Instead of owning up to the fact that there are terrorists in Punjab, the provincial government has shifted the blame to an obscure ‘foreign hand’. The government should not try to fool the public with red herrings. The people of this country want answers and not flimsy excuses. The Friday attacks were not just an assault on the Ahmedis but an assault on every citizen of Pakistan.

Ahmadis claim 95 killed in Lahore attack

LAHORE: The death toll from the terror attacks on two places of worship of the Ahmadiya community in Lahore rose to 79 on Saturday. The figure was 74 on Friday.

However, a spokesman for the Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya Pakistan told Dawn that 95 people of the community had lost their lives in the strikes at Model Town and Garhi Shahu.

Punjab police spokesman DIG Akram Naeem Bharoka told reporters that 79 people had died and 107 injured in the bloody carnage.

Police obtained a 20-day physical remand of 17-year-old Abdullah alias Mohammad from an anti-terrorism court. The bomber was caught by worshippers and is in the custody of the Crimes Investigation Agency.

The other bomber, 20-year-old Mooaz from southern Punjab, who was earlier identified as Ameer Moavia, is being treated at Jinnah Hospital. He has been unconscious since Friday and underwent a CT scan.

Police arrested three suspects on information provided by Abdullah, of Rahim Yar Khan. Abdullah identified the two other men who blew themselves up in Garhi Shahu as Darwaish of Swat and Mansoor of Waziristan.

He told investigators that he and three others were sent for the two missions by Badar Mansoor, the head of the Punjabi Taliban group in Waziristan.

A police official said that Abdullah had provided valuable information to the investigators about other members of the network.

The Civil Lines police picked up six Afghan nationals on Friday night. DIG Bharoka said initial investigations suggested that four militants had reached Batti Chowk in Lahore from Miramshah via Bannu on May 21 and gathered at a nearby mosque.

They were taken by two facilitators to their potential targets for scouting out the place same day. They then left for Tableeghi Markaz in Raiwind, where they stayed under the pretext of attending Ijtima.

According to the DIG, the attackers stayed at Masjid Ibrahim on Ferozpur Road on May 26 and went to Batti Chowk on May 27, where their facilitators were already present.

One of the facilitators took Abdullah and Mooaz to Model Town and the other left for Garhi Shahu with Darwaish and Mansoor for a second scout-out. On May 28, the four men and their facilitators again converged on Batti Chowk and left for their targets on motorcycles. The attackers were provided heavy weapons, suicide jackets, magazines and detonators.

DIG Bharoka said the two facilitators, one of them identified as Rana, had provided logistic and weaponry support to the assailants.

Abdullah told the investigators that his younger brother Badar worked for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and he himself got training from one Munir.

The DIG said that arrest of the two bombers had unearthed their network’s link with the TTP and police would be able to reach others. He said that militants were in the habit of forming new groups.