A blame game

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Who is behind bombings in Frontier province?

By Muhammad Shahid

PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s Frontier province is vulnerable to religious extremism, and Talibanisation is gradually creeping into settled areas from the tribal belt.

Talibanisation was initially restricted to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, but the issuance of threatening letters to owners of CDs shops and barbers asking them to pack up pointed to the fact that Taliban have also gained roots in most of the province’s settled areas. After such letters and threats, a series of bomb blasts and suicide attacks further created a sense of insecurity and terror in the Frontier province, where most people now avoid going to crowded markets due to fear of blasts.

Over the past eight months in NWFP, around 15 bomb explosions killed more than 100 people, including government officials and political leaders.

Details (From September 2006 to June 2007): A blast at a parking lot near the West Cantonment Police Station in Peshawar city damaged 25 vehicles on September 18, 2006, while another blast at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) injured three people on October 6, followed by an explosion that injured an Afghan national on October 13 near a Daewoo bus stand.

On October 20, 2006, a blast near Jinnah Park killed nine people and injured 40 others. An attack on an army training facility in Dargai in November 2006 killed 44 army recruits and injured dozens others. The federal government termed the Dargai blast a reaction to an air strike on a madrassa in Bajaur, while the provincial government called the Dargai and Bajur incidents a “conspiracy”, and claimed that certain elements wanted to sabotage peace.

A suicide attack at a police mobile injured two policemen on November 17, 2006, while a bomb planted in a motorcycle in Peshawar’s cantonment colony killed a man whom the area residents called a watchman, but police believed he was planted the bomb that exploded.

On December 3, 2006, a man hurled a grenade at a police barricade in Bannu district – the hometown of NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani – killing one of the officials and injuring another, before shooting himself.

Unidentified assailants killed deputy inspector general (DIG) of Bannu Police Abid Ali in Srakhawra on December 18, 2006. DIG Abid was coming Bannu to Peshawar to meet the NWFP inspector general of police (IGP). A ‘harmless’ blast on December 21, 2006 was followed by another explosion which killed a man and injured two others at a parking lot of the Peshawar International Airport on December 26, 2006.

On January 28, 2007, when 16 people, including Peshawar police chief Malik Muhammad Saad and deputy superintendent police (DSP) Khan Raziq, were killed and 24 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up amid a police convey in Qissa Khwani, a famous Bazaar of Peshawar. Another suicide attack on January 30, 2007 in DI Khan killed two persons including a policeman.

On April 28, 2007, 32 people were killed and over 40 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in an apparent bid to kill Pakistan’s Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao in Charsadda district. Sherpao survived the attack but sustained injuries to his legs. At least 24 people were killed and 31 others injured on May 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Marhaba Hotel owned by an Afghan national, in front of the historic Masjid Mahabat Khan in Peshawar city.

On May 29, 2007, a car-bomb in front of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) building left a court employee dead, while eight people including a tehsildar and a six-year-old child selling juice were injured.

It is interesting to note that after each and every blast, the NWFP police and government officials announce the formation of investigation teams, but so far the teams have failed to bring the terrorists to justice.

Similarly, every blast is followed by a press conference of NWFP Information Minister Asif Iqbal Daudzai who alleges that the federal government and its foreign policy are responsible for blasts in the Frontier province. On the other hand, Federal Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao blamed the provincial government for a suicide blast that he survived on April 28, 2007 in Charsadda district.

Though police have tightened security by setting up check-posts throughout the province, and has especially beefed up security in Peshawar, the metropolis of Frontier province. However, the arrest of terrorists seems a difficult job, this is why there is no decrease in terrorist activities.

Peshawar police chief Abdul Majeed Marwat told this scribe that it was nearly impossible to forestall suicide attacks, and that the investigation committees would soon trace the terrorists. However, a police official requesting anonymity told this scribe that there was no headway in investigations so far. “Investigation committees have yet to present their report on the perpetrators and causes of bombings in Frontier province,” he added.

The Frontier government points the finger at the federal intelligence agencies for bombings in Frontier province, given that law and order in other cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, etc is better than that of Frontier province.

Given the law and order situation, residents of Frontier province have an impression that both the federal and Frontier province’s government are unable to curtail blasts and terrorism, but have started a mere blame game.

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