Few lessons learnt from last year’s Ashura blast

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Saturday, 04 December 2010

Ya_HussainAs Muharram draws near, police seem to have learnt little from their shortcomings in evidence last year when a bomb explosion ripped through the main Ashura procession killing 45 people and wounding more than 100 other participants.

The deadly blast, which was carried out on a third consecutive day, was followed by arson attacks on M.A. Jinnah Road where properties worth billion of rupees were reduced to ashes on Dec 28, 2009.

Police preparedness to prevent such attacks or trace the militants in case of any untoward incident can be gauged from the fact that
 officials investigating the recent CID offices blast case had to seek CCTV footage from nearby hotels and buildings to get a clear picture of the explosive-leaden vehicle that was used in the attack. Sources confirmed to Dawn that the police did not have any recording of the blast and the investigators had to rely on the footage of private concerns to pursue the case.

The level of threat is being seen as higher than last year’s, for the current law and order situation is worse than that of the pre-December blast with frequent sectarian killings taking place in a systematic manner. Besides, the militants also gave a strong message to the law-enforcement agencies of their active presence in the city by attacking the CID Civil Lines offices only last month and claiming its responsibility.

According to a senior police officer, there are clear indications that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in league with Al-Qaeda is very much active in the city. Describing ‘Jundullah’ also an affiliate of Al-Qaeda that has amply demonstrated its capabilities, he said three ‘Jundullah’ suspects, who were freed by their six armed associates from the City Courts on June 20, were still at large.

The outfit is believed to have carried out the Ashura and Chehlum blasts in the city and their subsequent escape from the City Courts strengthened doubts over its involvement in the attacks.

Asked about police preparedness to provide security to different congregations in Muharram, a law-enforcement official referred to the recent CID offices blast in the so-called ‘high-security zone’ and said: “If such an

inadequacy persists in the high-security zone, one can imagine the plight of people in rest of the city.”

The Karachi police have so far failed to ensure installation of security cameras whose cost has been cut down over the years.

“It is still in a demonstration phase, after one bidding process was cancelled,” said an officer at the central police office.

The officials associated with the security cameras project had also made some overseas trips in connection with the project.

However, another Ashura was approaching and yet the city did not have a network of security cameras, the police officer

said. “We will again witness stopgap arrangements as far as installation of cameras is concerned,” he remarked.

Whatever was captured on tape during the Ashura procession blast last year was through the cameras installed by the now defunct city government. The much-screened footage showing the blast when the procession’s head was approaching the former KMC building was caught by a camera that was in fact mounted inside the building.

The entire footage of the post-blast situation was captured by four cameras installed by the city district government. “If the security cameras would have not been there, the investigators would have found it quite difficult to ascertain the identity of the arsonists,” an investigator said.

While police had come under serious criticism for its inaction even after the blast as arsonists continued to attack buildings unchecked, the city police chief evaded the question whether the police were prepared to tackle any post-blast situation this year. “We have certainly taken the probable situation into account and will be prepared for it,” said Capital City Police Officer Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari.

However, insiders told Dawn that the issuance of contingency plans had always remained a formality, for its notification had been more or less the same with a mere change of date.

Although there were around 60 cameras installed at different traffic intersections in the city, they were essentially meant for traffic management rather than security purposes, they said. It was also learnt that there were issues related to their

maintenance and linking up with a system.

The sources said that cameras had not been installed in and around Nishtar Park, where an explosion had claimed several lives during a Rabi-ul-Awal congregation, on a permanent basis so far.

As it goes for the rest of the city, the administration directs different organisations where Majalis are held to take whatever security arrangements they can, according to the sources. Majalis organisers and area residents install security cameras in several pockets of the city on a self-help basis. The installation of security cameras takes place a few days before Muharram mostly with the efforts of the Pak Muharram Association which organises Majalis for 10 days at the Nishtar Park.

In New Rizvia Society and Jaffar-i-Tayyar Society, security cameras had already been installed by the residents, the sources said.

They said it was likely that the camera companies, which were giving demonstrations of their products, would be asked to install their cameras along the route of the Muharram procession. A similar approach was adopted by the police for the security of the Chehlum procession, they added. While the Chehlum procession remained out of harm’s way, a bus carrying mourners to the procession was destroyed in a blast on the Shahrah-i-Quaideen Bridge. Several people were killed and many others were wounded in the blast, which was followed by an explosion at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre where the wounded blast victims had been brought. The cameras on the Shahrah-i-Quaideen Bridge meant for traffic management could not capture the incident, because it was focused on the traffic passing through Sharea Faisal, an investigator told Dawn.

He said that the twin blasts on Chehlum despite the fact that four Jundullah suspects had been arrested in Ashura blast case amply demonstrated the outfit’s ability to carry out attacks in future.

The city may witness pre-Muharram arrests and seizures followed by displays of the suspects and arms in the media in the coming days as it has become an annual practice by law-enforcement agencies, according to the sources.

It is worth noting here that two police vans were stolen during the recent months in different parts of the city which came as a reminder to the fact that police uniforms were recovered from the custody of the four Jundullah suspects when they were

arrested by the police in January.

Source: Dawn

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