At least 13 people were killed and 85 injured when a suicide bomber struck Monday evening around outside the Punjab Assembly in Lahore during a protest. SSP Operations Zahid Gondal of Punjab Police and DIG Traffic Lahore Capt (retd) Ahmad Mobin were among those killed in the attack. DIG Mobin was reportedly at the site to negotiate with protesters for an end to the sit-in and to clear the area. The blast happened as a large group of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers were gathered in front of the provincial assembly to protest a government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs. A terror threat was issued by. In a notification dated February 7, 2017 addressing the Home Secretary, Punjab, the Provincial Police Officer and DG Pak Rangers Punjab, the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) had warned of a possible terrorist attack in Lahore.
In the aftermath of the blast Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah in an interview to a private news channel was quoted of saying ‘Had there been no protest demonstration, this incident would not have occurred,’ the ruling party lawmaker Talal Chaudhry echoed a similar stance and said that it was the stubbornness of the protestors that resulted in the unfortunate event. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s member Punjab assembly Dr Murad Raas came up with an equally embarrassing conspiracy theory, the lesser said of it the better.
The blast happened despite the fact that a terror threat had been issued merely days earlier. Secondly the blast happened in a highly sensitive area which hints that there was a potential security lapse. Moreover if the government already had information of a potential terror attack why were the protestors allowed to gather at the Chairing Cross? The same government officials were seen blaming the victims in the aftermath of the attack for gathering there. Providing security to the citizen’s is state’s responsibility. The government needs to clarify whether information was conveyed to protestors in writing regarding the threat of a terror attack. If it wasn’t the government should accept the blame for blatant incompetence. As per CCTV footages aired by various news channels the suicide bomber and an alleged handler can be seen walking for a long distance before reaching their target, how the bomber was able to move freely over such a large distance without being noticed is also questionable.
More than 3,700 police personnel lost their lives in the line of duty in around 450 suicide attacks since 2002 across the country, according to a recent report. The police officials, the Armed forces and paramilitary forces have been sacrificing their lives for years. When the measures taken to stop such incidents are questioned it is not the personnel who are to be blamed but the policy makers and those in power. The armed forces have more or less wiped out terror hideouts in the country in different operations but sleeper cells of terror outfits are still a real threat. To root out such elements from our cities the police needs to be better equipped, depoliticized and given more power. The situation on the ground however is completely opposite to it. News forces are being set up by the government but the police system has not been reformed. The system of community policing which has proved vital in Europe to counter terror threats needs to be introduced in Pakistan, but for community policing to be successful police reforms are a must. The complete implementation of the National Action Plan along with revisiting the anti-terror strategy is need of the hour.
Police reforms and community policy are vital in counter terror threat in cities.
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