Explosive situation


Salman Taseer

Lahore has been saved from an explosive situation, literally. On Monday, 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives and suicide vests were confiscated from Allama Iqbal Town. Then on Tuesday, over 3,000 kilogrammes of explosives and other lethal ammunition was recovered from Allama Iqbal Town again. The recovery of such a large amount of explosives, arms and ammunition within two days is laudable on the one hand but on the other hand it highlights a terrorising aspect. Lahore has just barely recovered from the attacks on Model Town, RA Bazaar and Allama Iqbal Town. Had this stockpiled explosive material, suicide vests and ammunition actually been used, the city would have been up in flames. One cannot even imagine the extent of damage it would have brought about. Fortunately, pre-emptive action by the police and the intelligence agencies averted this disaster, which points to the importance of good intelligence and police work.

One of the most dangerous aspects of the confiscated material is the recovery of thousands of kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate and potassium. Ammonium nitrate is seemingly a harmless object but it has dual use. One, it is used for agricultural purposes, which is why it is very easy to buy it from the market. But ammonium nitrate can be also used as a bulk explosive. It is indeed very difficult to control its sale without interrupting its normal trade in the market. Many countries that have faced or are facing terrorism have had to deal with the same problem. Even with the best intelligence network in the world, objects with dual use such as mobile phones cannot be completely controlled. Pakistani officials would have to come up with a possible strategy sooner or later to control the sale of such things without affecting the market trade.

This leads to another, even more important matter. Can we be sanguine after the recovery of the explosives, arms and ammunition? Have we covered all of Lahore or the country as a whole? This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. From Allama Iqbal Town alone, such a large quantity of explosives has been recovered; now it is time to spread the dragnet to cover each and every nook and corner of the city, the province and the country to make more such ‘recoveries’. Whereas military means have succeeded relatively in FATA and the tribal areas, the fallout of these operations has overtaken the entire country. The militants are now trying to inflict not only actual damage but more than that, psychological damage. It actually brings almost everything to a halt whenever an attack takes place. Many of the militants under pressure in the tribal areas are fleeing to Afghanistan due to the porous Pak-Afghan border. This further highlights the nexus between the local Taliban and the Afghan Taliban. Many others have fled to cities like Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. In order to pre-empt their actions, the security forces have to gear up even further. Once a suicide bomber is launched, it is almost impossible to stop him. The Punjab government also needs to wake up from its slumber and take solid action to counter militancy, especially in South Punjab.

Due to the grim security situation in the country, our Davis Cup tie against New Zealand has been shifted from Pakistan. Not only that, the National Games have been postponed too. It shows how precarious the security situation is in the country. The authorities need to tackle militancy with better planning, intelligence, police work, military means and, above all, an alert citizenry. *

The IJT militia

Once again, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their list of offences is long and exhaustive, and their thug-like hold over the Punjab University (PU) has devastated this once premier institution. Their latest foray into the eradication of ‘vice’ has prompted these goons to barge into the canteen of the university’s Institute of Communication Studies (ICT) and audaciously demand that male and female students refrain from sitting together. Taking it a step further, they are badgering for a wall to be constructed to ensure complete segregation. Students from the ICT are vehemently defying this outright attack on social norms and rightly so. However, the PU administration has yet to do anything substantial about this state-within-a-state situation.

In increasingly intolerant societies such as ours, educational institutes hold the only remaining vestiges of liberal culture and reform. With a mafia like the IJT virtually reigning over the campus, all efforts at producing an enlightened, contemporary generation of professionals bite the dust. Such has been the case since the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when then Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar decided that the strong leftist tradition of the university did not fit into his increasingly right wing policies. Khar was assigned the task of countering the left by aiding and bolstering this religious group, the IJT. Many liberals left the university and the rule of the IJT was consolidated.

However, we must now acknowledge that as a nation reaping the misery of fundamentalism, it is now unacceptable to endorse or even overlook the IJT and their mafia rule. From beating up students whose only crime is talking to the opposite gender, opposing recreational activities and maliciously countering every attempt at progress and modernisation, the IJT is a medeival throwback. It is time the PU authorities and the government cracked down on an organisation that is as radically motivated as the very Taliban who are bombing us to kingdom come.

A recent “Shining Star Competition” organised by the IJT for the university’s deserving students has been disallowed by the PU administration. A welcome move, but we urge a more direct ‘hit’ to this militia; we cannot endorse Taliban ideologies in Pakistan anymore, no matter where they flourish. *

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