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June 24, 2021

Blast in Lahore

 
June 24, 2021

Lahore had a terrifying reminder of terrorism on Wednesday, with a bomb attack in the city’s highly crowded Johar Town area, close to residential streets. The attack, which has taken four lives and injured several others including police personnel, highlights just how vulnerable we still are to terrorists, even with Safe City CCTV cameras up at many locations and police more active than ever before. There was initial conjecture that the blast may have been intended to target the home of Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. That, however, seems a bit odd given that Hafiz Saeed is in prison, as most people know. The police say the blast was intended essentially to target policemen at the checkpoint. A vehicle filled with some 30 kgs of explosives had detonated close to a police post. Houses around the area as well as passers-by were affected. Had the checkpoint not been there, greater havoc may have been inflicted on houses in the area. Ball bearings included in explosives caused many of the injuries.

This attack raises the vital question of how we are to deal with terrorism. With residential localities scattered across Lahore and every major city and town in the country, it is obviously impossible for the police to keep a watch on each of these homes. It is also impossible to consistently patrol every chowk, every road, every crossing. There has been a statement from the police and from district officials saying that external elements were involved in the attack. Dealing with terror – within and from outside – remains then one of the top issues on our agenda.

The Lahore blast was obviously well planned in advance. Attacks on civilians are disturbing, and show the extent to which militants – whether working on their own or at the behest of any other forces – are willing to go. It is almost impossible to ask the police who have been victims themselves to maintain a higher alert. If militant attacks are to be stopped, it cannot be through purely defensive measures at the scene of the attack. Checkposts, bomb detectors and the like may slow determined terrorists, but cannot stop them. The work needs to be done before the attacks take place, with good intelligence giving us the opportunity to thwart the attacks. To prevent new militant threats from rising up, it is their hateful ideology which must be discredited. The truth also is that the best way to prevent such attacks is at the source, by disrupting any and all militant groups so that they lack the capability of striking. In this, there must be renewed focus on the parts of the National Action Plan that have been left unimplemented for far too long. Our counterterrorism strategy was meant to be comprehensive in dealing with both the sanctuaries of militants and the ideology of their sympathisers. The latter plank of the NAP has been notable only for its absence. When citizens of Pakistan feel insecure in their daily lives, we know that we have failed them as a nation.