WEB DESK: Terrorists struck again on Wednesday in Peshawar. At least 16 people were killed and 53 others injured as a time bomb went off aboard a passenger bus. The banned Lashkar-e-Islam of Mangal Bagh, who fled to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province during the military operations in his native Khyber Agency, along with a little known group calling itself Majlis Lashkari, has claimed credit for the terror attack saying it was his response to the Army chief’s recent approval of death sentence for 13 militants, and also to the ongoing military operations in the tribal areas.
Although the army recently announced the operations in Fata are drawing to a close many of the TTP terrorists, like Mangal Bagh are known to have escaped across the border into Afghanistan, posing a constant security threat. It is a challenge that Pakistan cannot deal with on its own. So far, the efforts aimed at joint border management have remained fruitless for one reason or another. And for a long time the Kabul government had preferred to turn a blind eye to the activities of these terrorists. Now that relations with the Kabul government and its intelligence agency, NDS, have improved so should cooperation to eliminate TTP militants’ sanctuaries.
Passenger buses being an easy target, this is the third time that terrorists have bombed a bus, the first attack came in 2012 and the second in 2013, with an accumulated death toll of more than 50 and an unspecified number of innocent people sustaining serious wounds. The provincial government, of course, has a point when it says it cannot provide security to every public vehicle.
But it can, and must, take preventive measures. A press report points out that police officers visit bus stands on a weekly basis to check security, but that private buses used by government employees have no such checks. There is no SOP in place for private vehicles which can be seen parked anywhere. And like in the present incident, people can embark or disembark at any place. Consequently, anyone can leave a timed explosive device aboard before getting off.
Given the recurring attacks, this must change. The government needs to introduce strict security steps such as installing bomb detection doors at embarkation points and prohibiting picking up of passengers at non-designated stops. That will entail inconvenience for commuters, but nothing should be more important than safety. It surely is better to be safe than sorry. Also, it would be useful to replicate the practice in some of the better bus services to film the passengers before departure. That would discourage terrorists from planting bombs before leaving a target vehicle.
The owners of private commuter buses in cities like Peshawar may not be prepared to pay for such security arrangements. The government ought to use its own resources to provide protection to people who have no choice but to use the least expensive mode of transportation private buses offer them.
Source: Business Recorder