Sunday May 22, 2022

Return to terror

By Editorial Board
January 21, 2022

Just as it seemed we had left the days when bomb blasts shook our cities at regular intervals behind, those terrible times appear to have returned – with a spate of attacks. This time terror visited Lahore and that too in the Anarkali area, which is busy most times of the day. The bomb blast, apparently caused by an improvised explosive device (IED), occurred earlier in the afternoon on Thursday, leaving the windows of surrounding buildings shattered and destroying several vending carts, as well as the motorcycles parked in the area. At least 26 people were injured in the incident and two killed, including a young child. Other reports suggest the dead number at least three, with four out of the 28 people taken to hospital reported by Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid to be in a critical condition as she and other officials arrived to visit the area, from where the Anarkali Bazaar criss-crosses its way through a maze of streets in the very heart of Lahore.

While a new Baloch insurgent outfit – the Baloch Nationalist Army – claimed responsibility for the blast via a spokesman on Twitter, till the writing of this editorial there has been little confirmation officially of that. This is an alarming development, if it is indeed a Baloch group that is behind the attack. We already have a situation with the TTP, now that the ‘ceasefire’ with it has come to an end, and with the interior minister having warned a few days back of terror attacks in Pakistan’s major cities. The scenes are much too familiar and terrifying: blood and bodies and tragedy. While law enforcement figure out the details in the latest attack, the fact is that the security that Lahore had become comfortable with stands shattered, bringing back memories of a time when the fear of terror used to hang in the air all the time.

It has only been a few years that the country has tried to lift itself back from years of fear. Lahore has also been looking forward to the PSL tournament, and the country has also initiated international cricket. Of course, at the end of it all, what is most tragic and irreplaceable is human life – of which we have lost far too many over the years. Those who died included a young man from the nearby town of Ferozewala and a child, who was apparently visiting the city. More details will no doubt surface but for now we wonder if terror is indeed back with its dark footprint taking over our streets and lives. The ability of militant groups to strike anywhere, at any time, cannot be seen as anything other than a failure of the National Action Plan. For all our undeniable successes on the battlefield, it is clear that the war is not yet over. Fighting it requires us not just to prevail on the battlefield but to improve our intelligence capabilities so that defensive measures can be taken to guard against impending attack – and to ensure we both the circumstance and ideology that create militancy.