On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, at 6:40 p.m, terror struck at the heart of Punjab, in the provincial capital of high economic activity called Lahore. The death toll is 68 and rising at the time of writing (23:54 GMT). Hundreds are injured.
Pakistan has seen many terror attacks since 2007, with increasing frequency towards the end of Musharref’s rule (1999-2008) and throughout the rule of Asif Ali Zardari (2008-2013). During the aforesaid times, the target of attacks have been the low income and high density urban bazaars, whole sale vegetable markets, the mosques – and only three times – the centers of Pakistan’s security establishment.
Nawaz Sharif’s government was credited with the end of terrorism because during the last three years of his rule, terrorism dropped to the lowest level since it began in Pakistan ten years ago.
This feeling of commendation for the government is coming to an end in Pakistan. Terror is back – and this time with a new dimension. It is the high density guarded places that are being targeted. The Army Public School Massacre of 16th December 2014, when 132 students were murdered, took place inside a guarded compound. The Bacha Khan University in Charsada, KPK, where 21 students were killed and sixty injured on January 20th 2016, is also a guarded compound.
Today, on March 27th, barely three days after Pakistan celebrated the Pakistan Day on March 23rd amidst high security alert all over the country, the terrorists have struck a gated community living inside the four walls of a well-planned, upscale urban residency. The community recreation park called Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park is designed to cater to the life style inside a guarded compound.
Far from over, terrorism seems to have grown in capacity.
The Lahore Park attack could not have come at a worse time for the government. The Pakistani media and street are both angry at the government for not publicizing internationally the case of Indian Spy, the RAW agent, (an officer of Indian Navy) who was recently caught under cover of jewelry seller in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. The religious community is furious over the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri. The latter was hung because he murdered the very governor he was employed to protect. The governor had publicly wished to do away with the law aimed at protecting the sanctity of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
How the government handles the backlash from public remains to be seen. One thing is clear. Pakistan will have to revisit its security policy on terrorism. A red flag has been raised over high density urban service centers. Hospitals, train stations, walled residential areas, educational institutions and upscale market places will have to be protected with new rigor.
It is clear that for the first time, the property and infrastructure of the affluent middle class is under threat in Pakistan.
This may cause the Nawaz government loss of elite support. In South Asia, (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal) it is not possible for a government to remain in office if the elite class develops the notion that the government is failing to protect it. During three hundred years of colonial rule, the poor in South Asia were marginalized, even brutalized. The British colonial legacy prevails in South Asia to date, as opposed to Central Asia where the communist cultural legacy is still relevant and Iran where the 1979 revolution led to devolution of power to the common man.
Terrorism, though rampant, was active at another level during Asif Ali Zardari’s rule. The attacks were generally at places where the poor congregate. Despite their frequency, Asif Zardari was able to rule to the end of his term.
The force that has planned the current version of terrorism in Pakistan, indigenous rebels or foreign intelligence, is taking this war to a new high.
The Lahore Park attack is also calibrated to strike at Pakistan’s political fault lines with scientific accuracy. What is alarming about this is the fact that the fault line (currently active in Islamabad’s red zone) was “created” recently where none existed before.
A whole blog is needed to explain this matter and will follow soon.