By Keerthana Chavaly
On July 24, Lahore, a city located in the east of Pakistan, was the victim of a deadly attack by a suicide bomber. The attack occurred near Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s residence on the oft-frequented Ferozepur road. The motorcycle riding bomber neared the area close to the residence and detonated 10 kilograms of explosives. Currently, the death toll stands at 27, with 60 injured.
In a statement to reporters, the Police Operation Chief of Lahore said: “We suspect that he (the bomber) came on a motorcycle and he rammed it into a police checkpoint”. According to some officials, police personnel present in the area were the actual targets of the attack. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated, “most of the casualties and those injured are police personnel”.
Recurring attacks and the government’s response
The attack is the latest in a number of terrorist incidents that have been plaguing Lahore. Terror attacks in February and April caused six and over twenty casualties respectively. Both incidents were carried out by suicide bombers. Lahore, a hub of culture, has been reeling with the shock of numerous attacks in a short span of time. Some speculate that it is being repeatedly targeted because it is one of the most prosperous cities of Pakistan.
This spate of attacks has sparked a strong response from the government and the military. In March, over 5,000 suspected militants were detained in the span of two days after over 70 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Lahore on Easter Day. Over 150 raids were conducted using police, army, counter-terrorism and intelligence agents, and paramilitary forces.
Roused to act once again, the government has vehemently condemned the recent bombing. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa stated that they would eradicate terrorism from Pakistan. They promised that victims will receive “the best possible medical treatment”. Thus, an emergency was declared at all government hospitals in Lahore as news of the bombing became known.
Pakistani Taliban: The group behind the attacks
The Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban(TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack. The militant group was also responsible for other attacks in the last few years, including one on a military-run school in Peshawar and the attempt to kill Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012.
The Pakistani Taliban is said to have some ties with the Afghanistan Taliban as well as Al-Qaeda. This organisation has one chief aim: to impose sharia in Pakistan and overturn the State government. “They reject the Pakistani Constitution,” said Raza Rumi, director of policy and programs at the Jinnah Institute. Further, they resent any ties with the West and support the formation of an Islamic state. As a consequence, most of the attacks by TTP are aimed at the government and its officials. Their hatred for the West is also shown by multiple attacks against American officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Vengeance: The underlying cause?
Led by Mullah Fazlullah, TTP has historically controlled tribal areas of Pakistan, particularly those bordering Afghanistan. The New York Times reported that a little-known splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, “which comprises mainly of Pashtuns, released a video earlier in July and warned of attacks in Punjab in retaliation for the Pakistani Army’s operation in the tribal regions. Punjabis dominate the army while the northwestern tribal areas are overwhelmingly Pashtun.” The Pakistani army was deployed in tribal areas near Afghanistan in 2002 to curb the actions of militants in the area. As of now, over 150,000 troops are fighting against terrorists.
The Pakistan government initially responded to the terrorist outfit by banning TTP and freezing its bank accounts to cripple their activities. In addition to this, the government, in 2014, launched operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’, a campaign against militancy in North-West Pakistan.
As the campaign against militancy presently reaches its final stage, some experts predict that success may prove to be elusive and attacks may continue. Recent terror attacks in Pakistan, including the suicide bombing in Lahore, are mounting proof of the accuracy of their prediction.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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