Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar year, usually brings misery to Pakistan. The apprehension of sectarian violence and terrorist attacks on Shia processions keeps everyone on the edge. The intelligence agencies provide their forecasts and reports to federal and provincial governments on possible threats during sensitive events. However, the government usually play dumb till the terrorists strike and then goes into a condolence mode, announcing payments to the dead (which usually do not materialize or the cheques bounce off the poor relatives of the dead), forming inquiry commissions and threatening the terrorists that they would be dealt with the iron hand. The vicious circle goes on and on.
On the fateful evening of Sunday, November 02, 2014, which happened to be the 8th of Muharram, an alleged suicide bomber of 18-20yrs of age has blown himself as the daily retreat parade ceremony at Wagah border ended and the visitors started to exit.
Tribune quoting Major General Tahir Javed Khan, the director general of Pakistan Rangers Punjab, reports that the bomber detonated the explosives strapped to his body when people were exiting the second checkpoint, nearly 500 metres from the parade ground. The bomber struck near where tea and food stalls and canteens are located. Moreover, a National Logistic Cells (NLC) yard is also sited nearby where hundreds of labourers work. And they come to these stalls for lunch and dinner.
The casualties were shifted to Gurki Hospital, where distressed relatives, weeping and hugging each other in grief, searched for their loved ones. Later some of the dead and injured were moved to Mayo Hospital and Services Hospital both of which declared a state of emergency soon after.
IGP Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera said that the bomber’s vest was rigged with 12-15 kilos of explosives. Ball bearings and nails were also packed in the device with the intent to inflict maximum casualties, he added. IGP Sukhera said that the arms and legs of the bomber have been found and subsequently sent to a forensic lab for a DNA test.
Multiple factions of the TTP have claimed the responsibility of the Wagah border attack. It seemed more of an attention grabbing attempt. Government and its agencies are still clueless.
Intelligence Failure or Administrative Negligence?
Intelligence agencies had shared information with the police about a possible attack, but it was taken as a routine matter.
On October 28, an evening newspaper in Lahore published report of possible terrorist attack during retreat ceremony at Wagah Border.
یہ اخبار 28 اکتوبر کا ہے۔ 28 اکتوبر کے دوپہر کے لاہور سے شائع ہونیوالے اخبار میں خبر شائع ہوئی تھی حکومت سوئی تھی pic.twitter.com/xlK16FxzjF
— Sadat Younis (@sadat_younis) November 3, 2014
There was a tv report on the same day (Sunday, November 02) where it was mentioned that intelligence agencies have released a sketch of an alleged suicide bomber who can be used during Ashura processions.
Government’s response to Wagah border blast
Government of Pakistan played its dumb game as usual. The ministers and officials condoled and condemned the attack, money was announced for dead and firm resolve was shown to deal the terrorists with iron hands. All of this has been said and done umpteen times so far.