62 persons were killed and over 200 injured in a suicide attack in front of a roadside restaurant in Wagah Border market on the evening of November 2.
The bomber blew him up as visitors returned from the flag-lowering ceremony, which had drawn as many as 8,000 people. The attack occurred about 500 meters from the Wagah border post. At least 15 to 20 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the blast.
The target of the suicide bomber was the venue of the flag hoisting ceremony.
Sources said that the Intelligence agencies had informed the Punjab government about a possible terror attack by the TTP and LeJ during Ashura, including a possible attack at Wagah.
Intelligence sources said that the suspected suicide bomber was named Abdul Rehman who went underground for the last few months and it was feared that he could target any procession, important personality or buildings of security agencies during Muharram.
According to a preliminary investigation report, the suicide-bomber, believed to be in his early 20s, had been staying in the Wagah border area since many days.
In the aftermath of the attack, security agencies launched an operation in the residential areas of Wagah and arrested about 20 suspects.
The bombing was the first major terrorist attack, in regard to the high civilian death toll, since Pakistan army started operation Zarb-e-Azb in June to eliminate militants in North Waziristan.
Importance of Wagah Border
The Wagah Border post is important in the sense that it is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India and dozens of people use it every day to cross over to either side. It is also a trade route between India and Pakistan with goods being transferred to both sides of the border.
It is important to understand that any attack on such a significant place like Wagah, will get headlines on both national and international media. Therefore, we can see a rush of militant groups claiming responsibility of the attack.
Viewpoints of Analysts
Analysts believe the blast at Wagah, at a time when there is tension on the border between Pakistan and India, has a lot of symbolic significance.
According to some analysts, the militants might have thought that Wagah was an easy target since the focus of security was shifted to Muharram processions.
On the contrary, some analysts also believe that the attack could have been mistimed and the real target might have been the Sikh pilgrims who were to arrive in Lahore after a few days of the attack, to participate in the prayers and celebrations to mark the 546th birthday of Guru Nanak.
Furthermore, some analysts have also questioned as to why the operations against militants are not being conducted in Punjab, whereas a Rangers-led operation against militants is being currently carried out in Karachi, in which more than 2250 criminals and terrorists have been arrested.
Whose claim is more credible?
The militant group Jundullah claimed the initial responsibility for the attack. Later a spokesman for TTP Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Ehsanullah Ehsan, also claimed the responsibility and said its bomber Hafiz Hanifullah carried out the attack. The spokesman also said, they will soon release the video of this attack, although no video has been released so far till the write-up was written.
Afterwards, a third group, a lesser known Mahar Mehsud group also claimed the responsibility for the attack.
According to a RAW official, quoted by Reuters, the attack may have been an attempt by Al Qaeda in the Subcontinent (AQIS) to demonstrate its potential at a time when the network has been overshadowed by the Islamic State.
At best, Jandullah has never been known to operate in faraway areas, including Punjab. Therefore as suggested by some media reports, it appears that the claim by JuA is more credible than the other two groups.
JuA’s affiliation with Al-Qaeda
TTPJuA is headed by Omar Khalid Khorasani. He was previously the chief of TTP Mohmand faction. Analysts believe Khorasani has strong links to Al Qaeda and Zawahiri. The TTPJuA appears to be exploiting their ties to al-Qaeda to broaden their mission beyond Pakistan. TTPJuA has sought to attack countries around the region.
TTP Mohmand faction’s connection with Jundullah
The Mohmand faction of TTP connection with Jundullah got highlighted in the wake of the attack on tourists at Nanga Parbat in June, 2013 and a coordinated assault on an ISI outpost in Sukkur in July 2013.
So, from the above details it can be said that the Mohmand faction of TTP controls the JuA and has also connections with Jundullah.
It is important for government to conduct operations throughout Punjab in order to eliminate the safe havens of terrorists and also to eliminate the handlers and sympathizers of terrorists in the province. The Zarb-e-Azb operation will not completely eradicate the menace of terrorism until operations are not conducted in urban areas of Pakistan. The Government should take the following steps on priority basis:
1) Make a counter-terrorism policy based on Islamic perspective, in order to counter the Takfiri ideology of TTP.
2) Make NACTA Board functional (which had not held a meeting even once during the current PML-N government’s tenure)
3) Establishment of Joint Intelligence Directorate for intelligence sharing and mutual coordination between intelligence agencies
4) Develop Rapid Response Forces to counter terrorist activities
5) Raising the issue on diplomatic level of ‘protection of TTP leadership’ in Afghanistan and support and sanctuaries for TTP groups by USA and India in Afghanistan.
The government should take the above steps in order to control the menace of terrorism within the country, so that the attention should be shifted to external threats faced by Pakistan on its borders with India, Iran and Afghanistan.
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