02/23/2017, 13.43
PAKISTAN
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"We are lying to ourselves,” says former Christian general after another bomb kills nine in Lahore

by Kamran Chaudhry

The latest is the eighth incident of violence in ten days. The bomb exploded in the city's commercial district, inside a building under construction. There are fears that some workers are still trapped under the rubble. A number of shops, banks and restaurants were also damaged. No one has yet claimed responsibility. There is little hope for a new military operation against the extremists.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A few hours ago, another bomb exploded in Lahore’s commercial district, killing nine people and injuring more than 30.

Investigators are still trying to determine who is behind this act of violence that has thrown Pakistan back into the vortex of Islamic terrorism.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Ret Brigadier General Samson Simon Sharaf, a Christian, criticised the inaction of the military, the justice system and the government.

"We are lying to ourselves,” he said. "The new wave of terror was to be expected. The National Action Plan approved by the government is only drawing a map of the terrorists, without taking any initiative. Explosions will continue for at least another six months because these groups now see us as targets."

According to the former general, "radical organisations had hitherto been dormant in Punjab province, but active in other provinces.”

“The city of Lahore is a sensitive target because it is famous as Pakistan’s hub. It is also the seat of power. In fact, the Punjab is the political base of the Pakistan Muslim League, the ruling party."

Today the bomb was activated by remote control, inside a four-storey building under construction in the Defence Housing Society area.

The force of the blast damaged nearby shops, banks and restaurants. It is feared that in addition to the recovered bodies, other workers may still be trapped under the rubble. The destructive power suggests that device contained at least 8-10 kilos of explosive material.

Initially, there were rumours, later denied, that a second bombed had gone off near a restaurant that caters to foreigners in the Gulberg district.

Today’s explosion is the eighth act of violence in ten days across Pakistan. The first attack occurred on 13 February when the Taliban struck a group of pharmacists gathered in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore, resulting in 14 victims. This was followed by Quetta, Mohmand Agency, Peshawar.

On 16 February, an Islamic State militant blew himself up in a Sufi temple in Sindh, killing 80 people; the same day a military convoy to Awaran in Balochistan was attacked. Two days ago, the Taliban carried out another attack against a courthouse in Charsadda with seven victims.

According to Samson Sharaf, the number of attacks is the worst since 2014, when the Pakistani army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb to eliminate militant sanctuaries in the northwest of the country.

Yesterday the military launched a second operation, Radd-ul-fasaad (elimination of discord), to end the latest threats of Islamic terrorism.

However, the former general does not have a lot of hope. "Nothing special will happened,” he said, “because the army is acting alone, and the civilian government is doing nothing to win the hearts and minds of the people".

Despite major public commitments, "no reform of the judiciary has been started to speed up justice. No reform of the administration has been undertaken to ensure that officials carry out operations in urban areas. We're just lying to ourselves."

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