While the CTD and Lahore Police have ruled out the possibility of the recent blast in a bank, close to Chaubuji, as being a terrorist attack, history tells us such incidents aren’t new to the area
After over a week since the incident happened, mystery shrouds the September 4 Chauburji blast, in which the building of a private bank was gutted, one person was killed and several injured.
The casualties were rushed to the Services Hospital. Two of them are said to be in a critical condition. The impact of the blast also damaged the cars and motorcycles parked outside the building.
The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and the Lahore Police have been unsuccessful in finding a clue to the actual cause of the incident. Though they are calling it a gas-cylinder explosion, they have failed to identify an installed source of gas. The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) too has failed to collect any evidence of an improvised explosive device (IED) planted at the site.
The police have yet to lodge the first information report (FIR) of the incident. TNS learns that the CTD, having ruled out the possibility of it being a terrorist attack, has sent the case back to the police for registration of an FIR in accordance with their (police’s) findings.
A spokesman for the CTD says that the “blast may have occurred due to some gaseous substance, but the final word could only be given once the lab report is in.”
He explains that no FIR was registered by the CTD because “there’s no angle of terrorism to the story. The police have made an entry in their roznamcha [daily diary].”
Earlier, shortly after the blast which shook the entire area, a CTD team visited the site. Samples were collected by forensic experts and sent to the laboratory for a detailed analysis.
It is pertinent to note that the crime scene has not been preserved, as curious onlookers have been spotted roaming freely at the site and, possibly, destroying important evidence/data. In this situation, can we expect the outcome of the investigations to be meaningful?
The police say the video footage recorded on CCTV cameras, installed by the Punjab Safe City Authority, came in handy. Yet, they remain without a clue.
It’s the third in a row of explosions the area has seen in recent years. Last year, an explosion in a rickshaw was attributed to an Afghanistan-based terrorist organisation. The CTD had registered the case and the bomber was identified as belonging to the TTP. He remains at large to this day.
The Chauburji area is not new to blasts. In fact, the latest is the third explosion the place has seen in recent years. Last year, an explosion in a rickshaw was attributed to an Afghanistan-based terrorist organisation. The CTD had registered the case and the bomber was identified as belonging to the TTP. He remains at large to this day.
As for the bank blast, the police believe some gaseous substance triggered the explosion.
The inhabitants of the area complain of having often noticed strangers around. “I’ve seen strangers carrying heavy gas cylinders on pushcarts to the graveyard in the adjoining area, which is located behind the centre of a banned religious outfit,” says Khalid Amin, a local.
“We live here under constant fear,” he adds. “The police take no action against suspicious elements, despite our complaints.”
According to Amin, many a local has been forced to leave the area for fear of an untoward incident. “Taking advantage of the situation, the qabza [land] mafia has become active and started buying properties.”
The question arises as to why a plethora of law enforcement agencies, including the CTD and the local police, have not been successful in nabbing the culprits behind these incidents. Is it because of the presence of a banned religious organisation in the vicinity?
Operations SSP Faisal Shahzad avers that circumstantial evidence and accounts of eyewitnesses strongly suggest that the blast was “not the outcome of a terrorist activity. It seems that an explosion occurred because of a gas leak.
“A huge fire was started which soon engulfed the area, causing those present multiple burns.”
In stark contrast to Shahzad’s statement is the first-hand account of a person who claimed that he was standing on the roof of a nearby building at the time the blast occurred. Talking to a reporter, the person said he “saw a motorcycle colliding with the building right before the blast. We felt tremors, as the ground shook beneath our feet.”
The Iqbal Town SP, Capt Muhammad Ajmal (retired) says the police have yet to register the case, but “the delay was only because the CTD was investigating the case.
“It has just come to my knowledge that the CTD has handed over the case to the police once again,” he adds.
The area falls in the jurisdiction of the Sanda police station. It’s a commercial zone, with a number of business centres, mosques and hospitals located nearby.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]