NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 17

Terror attack in Peshawar

It is unfortunate that the government has not yet been able to defeat terrorism by crushing militants and their organisations across the country. Rather, terror attacks and extremism have increased in the last few months in the country, which is dangerous for the stability of the country.

On March 4, around 63 people, including children, were martyred and more than 190 injured in a suicide blast in a Shia mosque in Peshawar’s Koocha Risaldar area. The CCTV footage showed a lone terrorist in black shalwar kameez reaching the mosque in the city’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar on foot. After killing the police personnel deployed outside the main entrance for security and a civilian, the terrorist entered the mosque which was packed with worshippers offering Friday prayers. He resorted to indiscriminate firing and blew himself up which killed more than 60 people and injured 190 others.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said the attacker had used around five to six kilogrammes of explosives, adding that there were no prior reports about the attack. According to SSP Operations Haroon Rasheed Khan, two policemen had been martyred in the attack. He said there had been no “threat alert” about the incident. Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was personally monitoring operations and coordinating with the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) as well as law enforcement agencies. “We now have all information about the origin of the attack, where the terrorists came from and are going after them with full force. My deepest condolences go to the victims’ families and prayers for the recovery of the injured. I have asked the KP chief minister to personally visit the families and look after their needs,” he said. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the Peshawar incident was part of a “larger conspiracy”. “We have fought against such conspiracies in the past. God willing, the enemies of Pakistan will continue to fail.”

The militant Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter accepted responsibility for the terror attack. The organisation is notoriously known for its virulently anti-Shia ideology. It has already slaughtered many Shias in different attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In October, it martyred many Shias in Kandahar and Kunduz attacks in Afghanistan. On January 3, 2021, armed men, belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), abducted and killed around 11 Hazara coalminers in the Machh area of Balochistan. According to officials, “The attackers had blindfolded the miners, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them at close range. Most of the victims’ throats were also slit”. The ISIS terrorists filmed the tragic and gruesome incident and later posted it online.

In fact, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State of Khorasan and other terror organisations have been attacking the Shia community indiscriminately since the 1980s. In these attacks, terrorists have already killed hundreds of Hazara Shias. Now, it has again targeted Shias in Pakistan, which is dangerous for peace in the country. Along with Shias, ISIS has also targeted other minorities in Peshawar. In September 2021, it killed a Sikh herbalist who had run a clinic for 20 years in Peshawar. In January this year, it gunned down a Christian priest who was returning home from Sunday service.

It should be noted that 19 people, including Awami National Party leader Haroon Bilour, were killed in a suicide blast in Peshawar’s Yakatoot area in July 2018. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the blast.

In spite of these terror attacks, authorities were not alert and vigilant in the city. There is no doubt about it that it is a sheer failure of the law enforcement agencies. The government should take stern action against terrorists and their facilitators if it wants to save people’s lives, the economy and the country.

A daily newspaper writes: “The government is expected to change its approach to this situation. It must convey to Kabul in very straight terms that the Taliban’s promise of not letting TTP use Afghan soil for attacks on other countries is not working to our liking, to say the very least. It does not make much sense that Islamabad is lobbying for Kabul all over the world, yet it’s unable to get the Taliban to address our most basic security concerns. This is, after all, not just a diplomatic tangle. It is being paid for in blood and tears by the ordinary people of Pakistan, who have already paid far too much and for far too long in this currency. The state must put its foot down and replace its usual condemnations and vows of rooting out terrorism after each attack with concrete actions that will prevent them in future”.

The government should also implement the National Action Plan completely in the country, which was introduced after the APS killings in December 2014. The sole purpose of the National Action Plan was to stop terrorism and bring peace and prosperity to the country. After the attack, it can be said with sadness that the purpose of the National Action Plan has not yet been achieved.