Terror strikes home again


It was just last week that I argued with a friend about possibility of canceling Muharram processions. I proposed that the scholars must pass a fatwa, keeping in mind the law and order situation, to avoid processions this year. Of course, I said all this knowing that no such steps would be taken in order to avoid hurting religious sentiments. A majority of my Shia friends and acquaintances believed the same: the procession must go on regardless of the security threat, we must not fear and kowtow to the terrorists.

My concern, when I made the argument against processions, was the aftermath of a possible terror strike. The scars from sectarian clashes in the 1990s continue to remind Karachiites of the chaos such attacks engender. In a strange way, when Karachi is peaceful, its citizens are always waiting for the coin to drop.

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The attack on the Ashura procession yesterday didn’t come as a complete surprise. Warnings of possible attacks had increased after a suicide bombing in Muzaffarabad killed eight and wounded 80 on Sunday. An explosion at Qasba Mor in Karachi, also on Sunday, had also heightened concerns about security. But no one could have imagined the extent to which the holiest day of Muharram would be marred by violence, despite security arrangements. Up to 40 people have been killed as a result of the suicide bombing while 70 have been injured.

As I write this, a significant increase in the number of causalities is feared. The city appears deserted, billowed in smoke and engulfed with terror. This is not the first attack of its kind in Karachi. According to The Christian Science Monitor, as many as 4,000 people are estimated to have died in sectarian fighting in Pakistan in the last two decades, 300 in 2007 alone. Muharram processions have always been under grave threat, and even with high security, a minor lapse can result in grave damage.

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The aftermath of Monday’s suicide bombing – the widespread rioting and burning – are characteristic of the kind of reaction and vandalism that follow sectarian attacks. Soon after the blast, riots broke out in various parts of the city. It appears that there was absolutely no damage control by security forces at that point. As a result, hundreds of shops were set ablaze, and at some point on late Monday night, it seemed as if the entire business district was at risk.

Attacks of such nature have almost always been accompanied by widespread tensions. As riots continue, more questions are being raised on the role of the security personnel and their absence as widespread vandalism continues. It is evident that the attack doesn’t only target a specific sect. It is an attack to terrorise the people of Karachi and embroil them in conflict, thereby damaging the country’s economic hub. Unfortunately, the terrorists have succeeded – they have succeeded in plunging Karachi into fear and stirring worst nightmares about sectarian tensions. Terror has struck home again.

As I watch my city burn with grief and horror, I have nothing positive to offer. I have faith in the resilience of my people, but that was never questioned in the first place. What’s worth questioning is how many more lives will it take to realise that it’s enough? How many more times will we need to prove our resilience? It is certainly not the first time that a certain sect has had to face target killings, nor is it the first time that market owners have had to build their livelihood from scratch.

As the city is engulfed in terror, condemnations are all we get from government officials. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has given his ritual statement about prior intelligence reporting having been available. The authorities have also claimed, as per routine, that the security was foolproof. Despite such tall claims, the failure of security officials in controlling the widespread riots is evident. The damage has been done, and the brunt will be borne by the people alone. It is incidents such as these that illuminate the void between the authorities and the ordinary man. It’s time we see our atrocities in a different light. Our resilience will only be symbolic of our strength if we stand united against the tyranny and decide once and for all that there can be no more.

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14 thoughts on “Terror strikes home again

  1. S,

    Thank you for writing this thoughtful post. There was one point where I felt that I do not agree with you.

    “The aftermath of Monday’s suicide bombing – the widespread rioting and burning – are characteristic of the kind of reaction and vandalism that follow sectarian attacks.”

    Consider the systematic nature of arson and torching of shops and buildings in the Bolton Market by masked miscreants who were all dressed in black and came prepared with cutters and inflammable chemicals. All of this was captured by security cameras. It is hard to imagine that they could be the Azadars (mourners) with those accessories ready who somehow knew beforehand that a blast would happen and they would have the opportunity to steal and torch those shops.

    Consider also that the “reactionary violence” by “angry protesters” – as some news sources framed it – happened only in the Bolton Market. If the reactionary violence was indeed caused by irrational impulses of angry protesters, then the systematic arson and property destruction should have happened at multiple points in the miles long procession on the M. A. Jinnah road. The plotters surely screwed up this part in their planning.

    The blast and its aftermath were clearly well-planned, perhaps coordinated among multiple groups whose diverse interests all converged into making it happen in Karachi.

    S, you may also want to check out the following two links. The second addresses your question/concern about stopping the processions for security reason.

    http://insidesectarianism.blogspot.com/2010/02/talking-points-about-ashura-blast-in.html

    http://insidesectarianism.blogspot.com/2010/02/muharram-blasts-in-karachi-why.html

  2. The Taliban are on a run and the armed forces are doing a spectacular job of hunting them down, as citizens we must carry the support to our troops in this venture for they are combating for our future there will be incidents but they should not affect our commitment!

  3. Assalamoalaikum,
    another thing I wasn’t aware of.. This is so ad.
    I wonder what our future is.. every individual is growing more and more selfish by day.. May Allah guide us all. ameen

  4. I don’t know why people’re emphasizing to stop the Muharram processions, just because we’re suffering the suicide attacks from barbarian Taliban.
    If your argument is true, then we should also stop going to Mosques, universities, bazars and even Janaza processions because all of such places are being attacked.
    The solution is to show our strength against the Taliban, not just to stay at home and live a fearful life just our enemies want for us.

  5. Karachi BLAST — BOMBING & LOOTING

    Everyone is doing politics on the blood & money of innocent plp.

    Political parties are highly involved.

    Why a re-known minister belongs to a re-known political party (who own 150 shops at bolton market) sold all of his shop just a month before..

    Has he been alarmed, just a month back, however these shops were 40 years old.

    Politics is highly involved.

    Just watch a video after the blast..

    Those who lost lives, cannot be recovered, this lost cannot be filled, its really tragic for their family for whole life, but those whose shops has been burnt, must be recovered. and Govt should help them all.

    These businessman were getting threatened from last 2 years to shift the shop. They don’t know that in this manner it will be done.

    Allah bless us all.

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