By Tariq Rizwan
Pak Army has flushed out terrorists’ sanctuaries from most parts of the country. Operation Zarb e Azb is entering its final stages. The death of four terrorists Hazrat Ali, Molvi Abdul Salam, Taj Muhammad and Kifayatullah, involved in Army Public School (APS) attack in December last year is evident. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Dec 1, 2015 signed the death warrants of the four terrorists and were executed the very next day. All the four culprits were awarded death sentence by a military trial court. They filed mercy appeal with the President Office which was rejected on Nov 19, on special recommendation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Indeed, the memories of the brutal terrorist attacks are still remembered with lasting effects on public mind. The Parade Lane attack was the worst one which was carried out by few disgruntled religious fanatics on 04 December, 2009. The day is remembered as one of the worst in the country’s history. Few armed suicide attackers entered a mosque in Parade Lane area, Rawalpindi during Friday prayers. The area is surrounded by military houses and headquarters in Rawalpindi as well as frequented by retired and serving military officers. The opened fire on and hurled grenades on about 150 worshipers, present in the mosque. Soon the Quick Reaction Unit team arrived and shot the terrorists.
Approximately, 40 prayers were killed instantly while 61 others were injured, including some children. The victims were mostly retired and serving officers including nine army personnel including a Major General Umer Bilal, a brigadier, two lieutenant colonels, two majors and a Deputy Director of NLC, TaskeenAnjum. Several children and family members of Army personnel such as HashimMasoodAslam, the only son of Lt. Gen MasoodAslam, kids of Brigadier (retd) Sadiq, Brigadier Mumtaz, Colonel Qaiser, Colonel KaleemZubair, Lt-Col Shuaib, Major Saleem and Major Ahsanwere either killed or injured in the attack. Some civilians also embraced Shahadat in the attack.
Eyewitnesses reported that the terrorists fired upon the victims at close range and as a result the mosque was badly damaged. The roof of the mosque collapsed. The high number of casualties was caused by hurling of grenades and indiscriminate firing by the terrorists. Two of the terrorists blew themselves up while two others were gunned down by the security forces. Exhaustive combing of the densely-populated locality was also being carried out by security forces to flush out the other terrorists, who reportedly managed to escape from the spot and took refuge in the vicinity.
After the worst attack, there was bloodshed everywhere in the mosque. All the prayers irrespective of their age were brutally killed. Some of the kids survived after jumping across the wall through an open window and escaped. People are still recalling the painful memories and are frightened even today. The attack seemed to be retaliation to Pakistan army’s campaign into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.
ISPR report revealed that four terrorists approached the mosque inside officers residential colony in the Parade Lane and hurled grenades at worshipers, followed by indiscriminate firing. Meanwhile, two suicide bombers entered the mosque and blew themselves up, killing Namazis, who were offering the Friday prayers. Security forces personnel in the area responded immediately and two other terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire.According to the information gleaned from different sources, the terrorists scaled the wall of the mosque to enter the premises and carried out a double suicide attack, and when the people rushed out, their other accomplices hurled hand grenades at them and sprayed bullets with automatic weapons, leaving 40 dead on the spot and over 86 injured in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Rawalpindi.
There was a complete chaos and confusion all around as the area was cordoned off and only the law-enforcement agencies officials and those engaged in relief operations were allowed to go to the spot. Even ambulances and the rescue vehicles belonging to different relief agencies, including Rescue 1122, Edhi and from different hospitals, were being permitted to the area only after thorough check. According to some sources, 19 bodies were taken to the Military Hospital (MH), 17 to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), three to the District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) and one to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC). Out of the 86 injured, 73 were admitted to the MH, nine to the CMH and four to the AFIC. A large number of people reached the three hospitals where the dead and injured were taken. Emergency was declared at all the hospitals to provide treatment to the injured. Another eyewitness, Ishtiaq, said the terrorists resorted to desperate attempts of hurling hand grenades and firing after they were stopped by security personnel.
Though overshadowed by the brutal Peshawar school attack, Parade Lane attack is considered as one of the worst incident in Pakistan. Local people are still frightened while recalling the incident and whenever talk about the attack. Indeed, Pakistan in a better position today. The nation stands united and playing important role in rooting out terrorism and extremism from all parts of the country. Misuse of religion by the militants has been controlled and their sanctuaries from the tribal belt have been flushed out by Pakistan Army.
The writer is freelance journalist based in London.