Bloodbath in Shabqadar


The terrorists have struck again; this time it was the courts complex at Shabqadar, in Charsadda district, not far from the Bacha Khan University they attacked in January killing 21 and wounding many more. At Shabqadar, the death toll was 17 including six women and two children, and injuries to 23.

According to a senior police officer, the teenaged suicide bomber was intercepted at the gate of the complex, but he shot through his way. When intercepted again he detonated his explosive-laden vest. But for these interceptions he would have killed many more, including judicial officials, as there were around 300 people present at the time of the bombing, he added.

The saga of carnage at Shabqadar is not very different from the many before, except, perhaps, for the claim by Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), that Mumtaz Qadri’s hanging has been avenged.

Owning responsibility for the attack it said the target was the judiciary which is ‘strengthening un-Islamic laws’. Isn’t then the case that the TTP has taken further the cause of the country’s religious political parties who too object to the execution of Qadri, the assassin of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, and even went to the extent of thrashing journalists and crew of electronic media for downplaying his funeral procession.

That is not the case, say analysts who believe the terrorist outfits need any excuse as cover to justify their crimes. But, intriguingly, while the Shabqadar carnage has been thoroughly condemned by the liberal political leaders the religious parties have yet to speak on it. And that’s a dangerous breech which over time should have been brooked, but it doesn’t seem to be.

No wonder then even when the suicide bombers are recruited from tribal areas they find facilitators at their targeted venues. In this case also, the suicide bomber was seen in the town at least three days before the incident, and an alleged facilitator too has been arrested – a la the Bacha Khan University incident which showed the involvement of local facilitators.

That a suicide bomber is spotted and arrested before he sets out on his last journey it is only once in a blue moon – because, his explosive-laden jacket is provided by his facilitators. And once launched he is a flying bullet on way to the intended target.

His interception is indeed fatal, as was the case at the gate of the Shabqadar judicial premises. But he can be, and should be intercepted, before he is launched on his ultimate mission. Although there were facilitators, who supplied lethal wherewithal, which they collected from the local market, someone in local intelligence network should have found out what was going on.

So, essentially, it is a case of intelligence failure, as it had resulted in attacks on the Bacha Khan University and assassination of a Punjab’s home minister Shuja Khanzada in Attock district last year. It’s true that Charsadda being in close neighbourhood of Mohmand Agency – which reportedly breeds and hosts terrorist entities – and therefore is an easy target of terrorism.

But it can be, should have been, defended against terrorists from the said Agency had local intelligence officials taken their job seriously. How ill-equipped is Charsadda in particular and Mardan-Peshawar salient in general against terrorist strikes the latest presser by KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak is a strong case in point. He has asked the Centre to give him Rangers to secure Peshawar and also ‘address the problem of extortion which has reached crisis proportions’.

Rangers’ performance in Karachi seems to have prompted the KP chief minister to make this demand. But if the Rangers are to defend the people against terrorists and extortionists all the time then there is no point in maintaining large contingents of police in provinces. He may like to rethink his demand, and instead of replacing police with Rangers try reforming the police force, strengthen local intelligence offices and rid localities of facilitators.

In Karachi too, the Rangers cannot be allowed to set up their own police stations. If you do that then you need to rewrite the entire Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The way forward is to improve the working of intelligence agencies. Effectively operational intelligence is the best defence against terrorism; what the Rangers or the police can do that comes later.

Source: Business Recorder