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Analysis: Terrorism existed in Pakistan well before 9/11

January 31, 2023

LAHORE: Contrary to the common belief or perception that the history-changing September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States had actually triggered terrorism in Pakistan, research shows that this menace has been haunting the country in different forms decades before the infamous 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and rammed them into the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre and the US military headquarters in Pentagon (Virginia).

When we talk about different forms and manifestations of terrorism, sectarian, ethnic and linguistic violence, with different local and foreign players involved, and subversive activities planned from across the country’s borders, have been rampant in Pakistan for at least six decades —making the blood of innocent humans flow down the drains. For example, if one traces the history of sectarian violence, 118 mourners were killed in Khairpur city on June 6, 1963, on the day of Ashura. This particular incident is still classified as a major act of sectarian violence in the country.

And since then, hundreds of such bloody incidents have followed unabated to weaken the country’s foundations and the concept of religious tolerance and co-existence. However, various forms of home-grown and foreign-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan started flashing headlines in internal media outlets some 35 years ago. Following are the brief details of some of the major incidents:

On March 7, 1985, two American diplomats (Gary Durell and Jackie Van Landimgham) were killed in their car by unidentified gunmen in Karachi.

On July 5, 1987, according to the “Washington Post,” three explosions in Lahore killed seven persons and injured more than 50.

O July 14, 1987, more than 75 people were killed and more than 300 injured in two car bomb explosions and two other small bombs in Karachi’s Saddar market. The-then Pakistani President, General ZiaulHaq, had alluded to Afghan agents behind the bombings and sought international support to fight terror. He also told that the bombing was aimed at Pakistan to change its Afghan policy vis a vis the Soviet intervention.

Overall, 234 people were killed and 1200 wounded in 127 Afghan-inspired attacks in Pakistan in 1987. Pakistan was the target of half of the state-sponsored attacks worldwide.

On September 19, 1987, Interior Minister, Raja Nadir Pervez, had told the media that 60 Afghans were arrested in connection with the bombings and they were sent by Afghan secret police for subversive activities.

On September 16, 1987, 12 people were killed and 33 injured by a car bomb in Karachi.

On September 20 of the same year, at least five people were killed and 16 injured when a bomb exploded in a bus station in Rawalpindi. Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, who was on a visit to United Nations in New York, told the reporters that this would not dampen the spirit of the people of Pakistan but raise it. This was the fourth blast in 10 days. (References: The Chicago Tribune, AFP, Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, the New York Times, BBC and the Reuters etc)

On August 5, 1998, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-i-Jafria chief, Allama Arif Al Hussaini, was murdered, to spark a fresh wave of sectarian violence.

On May 7, 1990, 21 people were killed and 30 injured in a train bombing near Lahore. State authorities said they had no suspect but local newspapers blamed the flurry of bombings in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Indian secret agents.

On May 18, 1990, at least 10 people perished as a result of a bomb blast near a movie theatre in Lahore.

On July 16, 1990, some 43 people were killed in seven bomb explosions in Hyderabad. The bombs were placed in markets, residential areas bus stops and a southbound train. Six of the explosions occurred within 10 minutes and the seventh one exploded an hour later. No one claimed responsibility but the police suspected Sindhi nationalists were behind the bombings.

On November 19, 1995, at least 16 people were killed by the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad. A dozen people were later arrested in connection with the incident.

On December 21, 1995, more than 25 people were killed and 100 wounded by a car bomb in Peshawar’s Saddar market. The bomb was a timing device, using 55 pounds of explosives. Provincial governor Khurshid Ali Khan’s daughter and two grandchildren were among those killed in the incident.

On December 22, 1995, two people were killed after a bomb had gone off in a bus near Faisalabad.

On January 15, 1996, eminent Shia poet, Mohsin Naqvi, was assassinated at Moon Market, Lahore.

On April 15, 1996, half a dozen people lost their lives in a bombing outside the Chemotherapy Ward of the newly-built Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore. Just a day earlier, the hospital’s brainchild Imran Khan had announced to form a new political party (PTI). Imran Khan was quoted by local media as saying: “It was meant to frighten us but we will fight on. This kind of action cannot stop us.”

On April 28, 1996, 50 people were killed by a bomb in the fuel tank of a bus in Bhai Pheru (Kasur district). Most of the passengers were heading home to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha.

On July 22, 1996, a briefcase bomb killed 9 people in the old terminal of Lahore Airport. This was the 13th bomb of the year and the-then Premier Benazir Bhutto had blamed India for orchestrating the bombings.

On September 18, 1996, two bombs exploded in Karachi, killing one person and injuring several. Police initially blamed supporters of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, the estranged brother of the sacked Premier Benazir. Two days later, Murtaza denied the charges and in a few hours, he was killed in a shootout with police.

On December 3, 1996, over a dozen people were injured by a bomb explosion in Lahore outside a busy shopping centre. The explosion occurred during a visit by the then-Chinese head of State, Jiang Zemin, who was staying in a state guest house along with his counterpart, President Farooq Leghari.

The same day, at least 17 people are injured by a bomb blast in Karachi. The bomb was placed outside a branch of the National Bank. The bomb had also shattered the windows of two nearby hotels, Pearl Continental and Karachi Sheraton.

On January 19, 1997, a Sipah-e-Sahbaba leader, Zia ur Rehman Farooqi, was eliminated in a bomb explosion at Lahore’s Sessions Court.

On February 28, 1997, in two separate incidents, five people were killed in Lahore. While three people were killed by a bomb explosion outside Lahore Railway Station, another two had lost lives in a hit-and-run attack on people as they came out of a mosque at The Mall Road after prayers.

On November 12, 1997, two unidentified gunmen kill four American auditors from Union Texas Petroleum Corporation and their Pakistani driver near Karachi’s Sheraton Hotel.

On February 26 and 27, 1998, three bombs killed eight people aboard a train and a bus in Punjab, besides injuring several others in a market.

On February 28, 1998, eight people were killed by two bombs, exploding 20 minutes apart, in Karachi.

On March 9, 1998, seen people were wounded in a bomb explosion in Sukkur.

The same day, five people were killed by a bomb explosion on Chiltan Express, travelling from Lahore to Quetta.

On March 10, 1998, a bomb blast at Lahore’s Walton Railway Station killed at least 10 people.

The then Information Minister, Mushahid Hussain, said on record Pakistan had irrefutable evidence against Indian spy agency RAW’s involvement, though an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson termed the claims as baseless.

On June 6, 1998, three people were killed and 10 injured in a bomb blast at a local cinema.

On June 8 of the same year, 23 people fell victim to another bomb blast in a train heading towards Peshawar.

On January 3, 1999, four were killed as a bomb-shattered a bridge near Lahore. The then Pakistani Premier, Nawaz Sharif, was scheduled to cross it while travelling from his private residence in Raiwind to Lahore. A delay in the Prime Minister’s routine had saved his life. The MQM was blamed, and a few arrests were made in Karachi, but Altaf Hussain’s party had denied involvement.

On November 20, 1999, five people succumbed to injuries caused by a bomb blast in a Lahore market.

On January 17, 2000, at least seven people were killed when a bomb exploded in Karachi.

On February 5, 2000, five people were killed in a bomb planted in a train in Hyderabad city.