ALSO ON THE DAWN BLOG
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“We had just assembled in our classroom when it looked as if hell had broken with a huge blast that rocked our school,” Noor Mohammad told AFP.He had just sat down with his classmates at his school in Model Town, Lahore, when a huge car bomb pulverised part of his school and turned his religious studies into a living hell.
Another victim, Dr. Rashida, sobbed at the mayhem that had turned her entire life’s earnings into rubble. ”The blast completely damaged my house and there is nothing left inside.”
The Monday morning attack on the Special Investigation Unit and FIA building left 11 dead and injured 61 others. Over 600 kilograms of explosives were used in the in blast, which caused the FIA building to collapse and reduced a police building and nearby houses into thick piles of rubble.
The only statement made by the Interior Mininster regarding the incident was the usual claims of having ‘intelliegence reporting’ prior to the attack. Ironically, even though almost all attacks are predicted by our powers that be, not much is done to prevent their occurrence.
Such carelessness dates back to the Marriott attack in Islamabad when questions were raised about the presence of a huge amount of explosives – over 1,000 kilos – within the capital. Eventually, that outcry about explosives faded, only to be replaced by questions regarding easy access to military and paramilitary fatigues. Simililarly, the presence of 600 kilograms of explosives penetrating a high-security zone in Lahore raises grave concerns amongst people, but remains obfuscated by the government’s double speak.
The attack is not the first of its kind. In the past, high security zones and sensitive areas have been targeted with heavy explosives causing civilian casualties and raising security concerns. To add to the misery, the Taliban spokesman has claimed resposibility for the attack, closing any door for investigation. Unfortunately, anything and everything that the Taliban claim becomes just another casuality in the war against terror, while other attacks are either attributed to the Taliban or sent down the long road of an ‘inquiry’ process.
Needless to say, neither the governement nor the security agencies have been able to take the public into confidence regarding the worsening security situation. In fact, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that little or no steps have been taken to address the fears about security concerns which are rampant. But I must give senior minister Raja Riaz the due credit for making a sane statement and suggesting the removal of all offices, residential buildings, and interrogation centres used by the security agencies from residential areas in major cities.
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The presence of such high-security offices in residential areas endangers the lives of the residents. Rather than making vague claims, perhaps the Interior Ministry should focus on shifting these offices to places with minimal public intereferrence. This will not only help keep civilians out of harm’s way, but also make vigilance easier for the security personnel. Removing such sensitive offices from residential areas and nearby schools will help reduce civilian casualties and damage to private property.
In the long run, properly demarcated boundaries between residential and professional areas will play an essential role in keeping ordinary citizens safe. This might as well be the first step in tackling increasing security concerns by the residents. Even though terrorists attacks have ranged from high-security to soft targets, the government can begin to earn some credibility with the public at large if it takes concrete steps to minimise civilian casualties.
We are dealing with a counter-insurgency and so it becomes even more important for the authorities to value the concerns of the people. Most of us no longer want to hear statements like, “we have managed to break the back bone of terrorists,” and “prior intellignece reporting” from the Interior Ministry. Instead, we expect the authorities to take substatiave measures to ensure that the life and property of people like Noor Muhammad and Rashida would no longer be sidelined as just another casuality in the war on terror.