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It’s political terrorism
At times it begins to feel as if terrorism has largely been brought under control in Pakistan, and then a new tragedy reminds us we had just been too optimistic.
In Friday’s atrocity, three terrorists on motorcycle killed eight Ahmadi worshippers at dawn prayers in the village of Mong near the town of Mandi Bahauddin. It was an attack on a place of worship, but it had nothing to do with religion. It was simply an act of political terrorism, the kind that was common in Karachi until not so long ago when drive-by shootings were the terror of the city.
That the crime came during the current surge of violence in North Waziristan, and exactly a day after the completion of the final phase of the local bodies elections, would support this impression.
Following the assassination attempt of July 30 last year on Mr Shaukat Aziz, then prime minister-in-waiting, President Musharraf had accused Al-Qaeda of being behind the suicide bombing. The suicide attack, near Jaffar Mor in the Punjab tehsil of Fateh Jang, occurred shortly before Mr Aziz was to stand for election to the National Assembly from Attock to qualify for election to the prime ministerial position. Among the suspects arrested later on were three brothers, who turned out to be members of the extremist outfits Jaish-e-Muhammad and Jamaatul Furqan. The bomber himself was a religious fanatic.
It will take some time before the authorities are able to fix responsibility for Friday’s terrorism. But it can be said with little fear of contradiction that whoever sent the three masked killers to Bait-uz-Zikr sought to push the country’s delicate law-and-order situation into chaos.
It would have been a political earthquake if the bomber had succeeded in eliminating Mr Aziz, whose survival that day was a virtual miracle.
It’s routine for the authorities to be criticised after incidents of this nature. But to be fair to the police and the security agencies, despite their notorious inefficiency and their pathetic resources, prevention of hit-and-run crimes is almost impossible, even in advanced countries. Still, they have been remarkably successful in tracking down terrorists and solving complicated cases of political crime.
President Musharraf and Mr Aziz have strongly condemned the atrocity, and Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Perwaiz Illahi has announced a compensation of Rs100,000 for the family of each victim. (From their names, two of those killed appear to belong to the same family.) But we hope the investigation Mr Aziz has pledged into the shooting will end in the capture of the masterminds. For terrorist masterminds to be tracked down to their lairs is the only effective way of defeating terrorism.