Original Articles

Allama Iqbal Town blasts in Lahore were a message to Shahbaz Sharif

The following is a most interesting yet much ignored news item in Pakistani media. Here is how I interpret the series of six low-intensity ‘cracker attacks’ in Lahore.

The Taliban do not ‘waste’ their precious assets (human bombers and ammunition) on exploding crackers in empty streets and playgrounds. The Allama Iqbal Town blasts in Lahore were not carried out by the Taliban; instead they were carried out by certain ‘masters of the Taliban’ in order to convey a message to PML-N. The essence of the message was “janam janam sa saath hai hamara tumhara” (An Indian song meaning “we (i.e., PML-N and …..) are tied together by an eternal bond.” In other words, ‘you’ cannot leave ‘us’ out in the cold.

It may be noted that Pakistan’s security establishment (GHQ/ISI) seems to be keen on demonstrating its power in blatant terms: e.g., for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a meeting of federal secretaries was presided over by a military chief in a civilian set-up.

The message was well received by the PML-N leadership; an acknowledgement of its receipt was issued by Shahbaz Shairf, in the next 48 hours, through his reassurance that he distinguishes between good Taliban and bad Taliban, and that he won’t harm good Taliban in Punjab, who in return should spare Punjab from their terrorist activities.

For example, M.A. Niazi, in his piece in The Nation, notes that:

There have been two significant developments flowing from the blasts. First, there has been a reaction to the Punjab chief minister apparently seeking a truce with the militants. Second, there have been recoveries of explosives by the police.

Here is the original news item in Daily Times. Of course, we can ignore the typical xenophobic element in this piece.

Allama Iqbal Town blasts: ‘Taliban handbills’ were placed to mislead probe

* Investigators believe pamphlets, low-intensity blasts unlikely to be work of Taliban
* Suspect foreign network looking to panic citizens could be involved

By Muhammad Aayan

LAHORE: Investigators looking into low-intensity blasts in Allama Iqbal Town on the day of the RA Bazaar suicide attack found pamphlets of a banned religious outfit from the area – but the handbills could have been placed to “mislead” the security agencies, Daily Times has learnt.
Sources said the pamphlets – containing a warning and apparently compiled by the “Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab” – were found a few yards from the site of one of five minor blasts on March 12.

They said investigators were now trying to locate the printing source, and also considering if the pamphlets could have been a “diversion tactic by certain anti-state elements” – an indication that the handbills were unlikely to be a Taliban product.

The first explosion took place in Kashmir Block in a vacant plot just behind the Allama Iqbal Town Police Station. The explosion injured four passers-by. A few minutes later, another blast took place just few yards from the site of the first explosion: a car parked outside the residence of PAF Captain Inamul Haq exploded. A third explosion took place a few hundred yards away in Huma Block.

As police and rescuers got to Huma Block, a fourth explosion took place in the garage of DSP Khalid Javed’s residence a few yards away. After some time, another explosion took place at Moon Market – a few hundred yards away from the site of the first explosion.

The sources told Daily Times that while a link had been established between the recent attacks in Model Town and at RA Bazar, the Iqbal Town blasts were “the work of a different group” looking to panic citizens. “The pamphlets could have been printed by anyone … they were apparently put there to mislead investigators,” they quoted security officials as saying. “Security agencies have reliable information that a foreign spy network was active in creating unrest … the Iqbal Town blasts could be their work.” [Search in your own backyard, dude!]

SSP (Investigations) Zulfiqar Hameed confirmed that pamphlets had been found from Iqbal Town. He said an investigation was underway, and it had been determined that those behind the Iqbal Town blasts were “from another group”. He said it was “very much possible” that a group other than the Taliban carried out the Iqbal Town blasts “in a bid to associate itself with the RA Bazar attack”.

“This indicates that the attackers belong to a specialised terror network.” He said the TTP was usually involved in suicide attacks, and the low-intensity blasts of Iqbal Town were unlikely that group’s work.
However, he said the investigators were not ruling out the possibility of the TTP’s involvement.

Related article: Blast after blast after blast in Lahore, who is responsible?

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  • Lahore Terror Devours Its Creators – South Asia Intelligence Review
    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty for SATP

    At least 57 persons, including eight Security Force (SF) personnel, were killed and more than 90 were injured as twin suicide blasts, moments apart from each other, ripped through the heart and cultural city of Pakistan, Lahore’s R. A. Bazaar in the cantonment area on March 12. The bombers struck during Friday prayers at around 12:50pm. The first bomber targeted an Army patrol unit near a mosque. Gunshots were also heard following the attack. As rescuers rushed to help victims, another bomber struck some two minutes later, near the R. A. Bazaar bus stand, only a few yards from the site of the first attack. According to Police sources, initial investigations suggest both the bombers, aged between 17 and 20 years, were on foot. The duo used suicide vests, weighing 10 kilograms each, packed with ball bearings and blades. Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al Qaeda-linked Sunni terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the bombings.

    Later the same night, seven low-intensity explosions, six in Allama Iqbal Town Police Station area and one in the Samanabad area of Lahore, injured five persons. Intelligence sources have warned that four bombers were still present in the city, awaiting instructions to hit their targets.

    Notably, the attacks happened despite heightened security following intelligence warning that an explosive-laden white car, with registration number 1320-A, had entered Lahore from Rawalpindi earlier in the day.

    On March 8, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle in front of the Special Intelligence Agency’s (SIA) office in the Model Town area of Lahore, killing 15 persons, including eight Security Force (SF) personnel, a woman, and a five-year-old girl, and injuring more than 80 others. The powerful blast, which was carried out using an estimated 600 kilograms of explosives packed with ball bearings and blades, damaged houses in a 0.5-kilometre radius and destroyed more than 40 cars in the area. The SIA office in Model Town K-Block, a residential area, was being used as safe house for Intelligence officials and detained suspects.

    The March 8 incident, again, occurred despite a Punjab Home Department Circular issued on March 4 to the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Assistant IGP (operations), the Special Branch AIGP, the Lahore commissioner, the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) and the Rawalpindi Regional Police Officer, which specifically warned of terrorist attacks on intelligence offices in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar. Claiming responsibility, TTP spokesman Azam Tariq declared, “The attack was to avenge [US] drone attacks and [Pakistani] military operations in the Tribal Areas. We have 2,800 to 3,000 more suicide bombers … We will target all Government places, buildings and offices.”

    Two major attacks over a gap of three days underline the reality that Lahore is under siege by TTP network, allowing the extremists to strike at will. Growing terrorist violence in Punjab as a whole and Lahore in particular over the past years is a manifestation of the progressive loss of control of the Pakistani intelligence and security apparatus over its own monstrous creations. The Army and paramilitary forces have launched a succession of military offensives against the TTP in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) regions over the past years. Under pressure in their areas of dominance, the TTP and its affiliates have opened new fronts – in the Punjab and in Karachi, accelerating a rapid and firm inward movement, from the NWFP and FATA, to mainland Pakistan.

    The entire Punjab Province is now under TTP network operational radar. According to SATP data, 441 persons, including 293 civilians and 97 SF personnel, were killed in terrorism-related incidents in the province in 2009 alone. Apart from Lahore, the national capital Islamabad and the garrison town of Rawalpindi [both of them in Punjab], are facing the brunt of the TTP’s attacks.

    The attacks on Lahore have a particular resonance in Pakistan. The city has long been the country’s cultural capital and, as the most populous and prosperous town in the Province, is also regarded as the heart of the country’s powerful ruling establishment. Traditionally, Lahore has been home to the country’s top bureaucrats and military leadership. Punjab returns 183 of the 342-member National Assembly and, as such, the Provincial Capital is considered the country’s political nerve-centre as well, though the seat of Government is Islamabad.

    Lahore had generally remained free of militant violence in the years after 2001, when Pakistan reluctantly and selectively joined the US-led campaign against Islamist terrorists. While occasional incidents were witnessed over the preceding years, the city has seen a sharp escalation since 2008. Only eight incidents were recorded in 2007, with no reported fatalities. 2008 saw 77 fatalities in 22 incidents. In 2009, 103 people were killed in 27 incidents.
    Terrorism-related Incidents & Fatalities in Lahore 2007-2010

    Number of Incidents
    Civilian Fatalities
    SF Fatalities
    Terrorist Fatalities
    Total Fatalities

    *Data till March 14, 2010 (Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal)

    In addition to the three major attacks (involving three or more than three fatalities) in 2010, the most significant of the major incidents in 2009:

    December 7, 2009: Two bomb blasts killed at least 38 people, and injured more than 100 at the crowded Moon Market in the Allama Iqbal area of Lahore.

    June 12, 2009: At least seven persons, including a prominent anti-Taliban cleric, were killed and seven were injured, when a suicide attacker detonated himself at the Jamia Naeemia madrassa (seminary) in the Garhi Shahu area of Lahore shortly after Friday prayers.

    May 27, 2009: Suicide bombers detonated a vehicle loaded with 100 kilograms of explosives near the offices of the CCPO and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Lahore, killing at least 27 persons and injuring 326, destroying the two-storey building of the Rescue 15 Police Service. A colonel of the ISI and 15 Police officials were among those killed.

    March 30, 2009: Eight Police recruits and a civilian were killed when a group of 10 terrorists attacked the Police Training Centre in Manawan with guns and grenades. SFs regained control of the facility in an operation that lasted for more than eight hours. About 93 cadets and civilians were injured.

    March 3, 2009: Sri Lankan cricketers narrowly escaped a terrorist attack when terrorists ambushed the bus carrying them to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day’s play of the second Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. At least seven persons – six policemen escorting the Sri Lankans and the driver of another van in the convoy – were killed and 20 persons were wounded in the attack near the Liberty roundabout, 500 metres from the Stadium. Seven Sri Lankan players were among the injured.

    Within the wider trend of escalating violence is the increasing incidence of suicide attacks. Lahore saw three suicide attacks in 2009, resulting in the death of 86 persons, including 67 civilians and 15 SF personnel. The first two and a half months of 2010 have already seen three suicide attacks, in which 72 persons have been killed.
    Fatalities in Suicide Attacks in Lahore 2009-2010


    *Data till March 14, 2010 (Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal)

    A total of 680 militants were arrested from different parts of Punjab in 2009. Of these, 185 were arrested from Lahore. 26 of the terrorists arrested in Lahore were suicide bombers. On December 20, the Police arrested Khalilullah, the Punjab ‘chief’ of the TTP, and a 17-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Usman alias Shahbaz, from the Manawan locality of Lahore. Khalilullah, was said to be the right-hand man of the slain TTP chief, Baitullah Mehsud, and allegedly masterminded the twin suicide bombings at Moon Market at Iqbal Town in Lahore on December 7, 2009. During interrogation, he confessed that Usman was to attack the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah border on December 22. Khalil also disclosed that he controlled a team of 600 suicide bombers.


  • PPP-S chief for surgical strikes against terrorists in Punjab

    PESHAWAR: Surgical strikes should be conducted on the basis of credible intelligence against terrorists in the Punjab province, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao (PPP-S) Chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said on Sunday. Addressing a press conference at his residence, he said, “Denying the presence of terrorists and ignoring the local facilitators of the terrorists in the country would not help the elimination of terrorist organisations in any way.” The PPP-S chief demanded that the government should produce all people arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Act in the Malakand Division and rest of the country before the courts. “Security personnel had arrested thousands of people including the top leadership of the Taliban under the Anti-Terrorist Act 2009, but had yet to be produced before courts of law,” he said. staff report


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