Today Lahore became a victim of another terror attack on Bedian road. Up till now there have been six deaths. The attack was on a census team, which resulted in the death of four military personnel and two census officials. Around 18 people have been injured in the attack. The suicide bomber was around 20 years old according to reports.
The last census was conducted in 1998. According to it, the population was 132.352 million. There have been various reasons for not conducting a census in all these years.
The Nation spoke to Air Vice Marshall (R) Shahid Latif and Lt General (retd) Ghulam Mustafa to take their opinion the recent attack.
Air Vice Marshall (R) Shahid Latif said, “We have to see who is a beneficiary in this attack. If we recall, MQM was on the forefront in raising voices against the census. During Musharraf’s tenure, they were given a lot of favor in terms of seats. They felt endangered that 2017 census would lessen their hold in Karachi.” Importance of census was also discussed. “Census would bring out the exact figures of our population, otherwise how would we know how many people exist in Pakistan. Census helps the government in working on education, employment, health and other issues,” he said. When provinces made polio drops compulsory for every child, polio teams were also attacked. “Census is being attack just the same way as Polio teams were attacked because the extremist elements did not approve of it.”
Considering who could be behind this attack Shahid Latif said, “We should not blame it on external forces, the problem exists within us. Our political forces especially MQM is against census in Pakistan.”
While discussing the details of Pakistan Army he said, “200,000 army officials are deployed in 2017census. Pakistan Army is already involved in fighting against terrorists and now they are working with census teams. Why can’t the civil government ever take responsibility? During every crisis why is the Army called in? This is not Army’s job. But they come only to facilitate the public and resolve their issues.”
Regarding the ongoing operations against terrorism he said, “Even Radd ul Fasaad is not the Army’s duty, but when the government is not implementing National Action Plan, it had to be taken up. The government is giving a wrong impression to the public Zarb-e-Azb would be conducted all over Pakistan, for that we would need a one crore force. Due to all this the Pakistan army is engaged at all fronts.”
Regarding terrorism he was of the view that “the census will not stop, but elimination of terrorists can take place but not terrorism till the roots are not finished.”
“Arresting a couple of people will not help as there is a big network behind them. A whole mindset exists behind them needs to be sabotaged. Their facilitators put a chit to heaven in their pockets and send them to blow up. It is they who need to be caught.”
The Nation also spoke to Lt Gen Retd Ghulam Mustafa. He said, “Even though it seems as if the attack was to stop the census but there is another side to it too. Yesterday Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Daesh (ISIS) has been eliminated from Pakistan. This could be a message from them to let us know that they very much exist here. The army was their target.”
Regarding Sartaj Aziz’s statement he said, “We don’t realize war on terror is going to be a very long war. We declared victory too soon.”
He was of the view that operation in Punjab needs to be conducted more forcefully, “The operation was held back by the Punjab Government since a long time. There are around 21 sleeper cells in Punjab and they need to be shut down immediately as terrorists have space to nurture,” Ghulam Mustafa said.
“Terrorism in Pakistan is not without support from power brokers in the country. They can’t survive without financial help and power brokers. We need to get hold of those who are helping these terrorists, which is our weakness in this whole war against terror,” he adds.
As for military courts he said, “If I was in General Bajwa’s place I would have refused to put up military courts now. Military courts have been politicized and then the right of appeal is there and then lawyers interfere in it. Either there should Military Courts that function as they are supposed to or put an end to them.”
There is an ongoing operation in Punjab named Radd-ul-Fasaad. It was initiated right after Charing Cross attack. Since then there have been two major blasts in Lahore. One is officially declared an accident caused by gas cylinders in Defence Z block, and today’s attack on census teams.