Mar 18, 2009

Small mercies

The mysterious blast at Pir Wadhai, even as celebrations continued in Rawalpindi and Islamabad over the restoration of the judges, is a reminder of how close we constantly stand to disaster. The suicide bomber, who detonated his device outside the office of the 1122 Rescue Service, is thought by police to have done so accidentally. There appeared to have been no logical target in the vicinity. Eleven people died including the bomber himself. Scores more were injured. But the toll could have been so much higher, the situation so much worse, had the attack taken place a day earlier as people filled the streets. The meaningless death of eleven people is no small matter. It is a tragedy that they were killed. Their families will suffer forever. But in the age we live in we must be thankful for small mercies. A blast of this nature a day earlier could have created chaos and perhaps even prevented the happy end to the long march that we have seen.This is especially relevant as in the run up to the massive rally, dire warnings had been made of a security threat. We had been told guaranteeing security along the route was impossible. In Lahore, Mian Nawaz Sharif had made elaborate security arrangements of his own to guard against possible attack. It is unclear who was behind these threats or why the militants, usually associated with suicide attacks would wish to target peaceful civilians taking part in a bid to restore judges. It was thought the purpose behind the warnings might simply be to keep people away from the long march. The blast that has taken place suggests something more sinister may have been planned.We are fortunate that the worst did not happen. But we must not forget that the need to regain control over the security situation in the country is greater than ever. The expansion of terrorism seen over the past decade also means it is possible to use it when needed to cover up other acts. Some suspect this is what happened in the case involving the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; and on at least one occasion in the recent past a petty murder has been disguised as an act of terrorism. These patterns of violence must not be allowed to expand. The terrorism we encounter from week to week, from month to month, must be stopped.

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