Pak Cops after the mosque explosion
Pakistani police officers say they have been “thrown to the beasts” in their battle against growing militancy after an explosion at a city headquarters killed dozens of their colleagues.
A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform infiltrated Peshawar’s heavily guarded compound on Monday and blew himself up during afternoon prayers at a mosque in the deadliest attack Pakistan has seen in several years.
“We are in a state of shock, every two days our colleagues die, how long will we have to suffer?” a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “If the protectors are not safe, then who is safe in this country?”
Authorities say the blast, which also killed a civilian, was carried out in revenge for police operations against relentless attacks by Islamist groups in the Afghan border region.
“We are on the front line of this war, we are protecting schools, offices and public places, but today we feel abandoned,” said a junior officer.
“The State has tied our hands and has thrown us to the beasts.”
Bickering politicians who are months away from running in a general election have traded blame for the deteriorating security situation, with the country also gripped by a severe economic crisis.
The lack of leadership has given space for terrorists to regroup and target the state, analysts say.
‘Tomorrow could be me’
A few dozen police officers protested in Peshawar on Wednesday, frustrated by the increasing risks they face.
The anger is even greater since the bombed complex, which also houses intelligence and anti-terrorism offices, was one of the best-guarded areas of the city.
“It’s incomprehensible to me,” said Inayat Ullah, a 42-year-old police officer who spent several hours under the rubble of a collapsed wall before being rescued, losing a thumb.
“When we leave our house, we never know where we might be targeted. Today it’s him, tomorrow it could be me,” he said, speaking of a close friend who was killed on Monday.
The biggest threat comes from the Pakistani Taliban, separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar ideology.
The group emerged in 2007, allied with al-Qaeda, killing tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and members of the security forces in less than a decade, with Peshawar at the center of daily attacks.
Largely crushed in a major military crackdown launched in 2014, they have resurfaced since the Taliban rose to power across the border in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.
Known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), they have attempted to rebrand themselves as a less brutal team, sparing civilians in favor of attacking security and police personnel in low-casualty attacks.
Police blamed Monday’s attack on Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a more radical group occasionally affiliated with the TTP, which has denied any involvement.
“Every time we leave our houses, we hug our loved ones and they hug us. We don’t know if we will come back alive or not,” said another police officer, who lost six friends in the blast.
‘The void can never be filled’
Father of two Atif Mujeed, 36, was the pillar of his family: a police officer who had already survived an IED blast that killed seven of his colleagues in 2013.
But on Monday there was no escape from the explosion that ripped through the lines of worshipers, collapsing a wall and burying officers.
“This incident shocked us. The void it leaves can never be filled,” his brother-in-law, Rizwan Ahmed, told AFP. “Her death of him broke the backbone of this family.”
The TTP continues to resort to its old methods: targeted killings, bombings, kidnappings, and extortion as it regroups along the border.
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for allowing militants to use Afghan soil to plan attacks, which Kabul denies.
Peace negotiations between the TTP and Pakistan, mediated by the Afghan Taliban, failed in November, breaking a shaky ceasefire.
During the talks, the militants increased their numbers by releasing around 100 low-level fighters from Pakistani jails.
That has only added to the confusion among the ranks of the police.
“One day they tell us that there is a ceasefire and peace talks, the next day they tell us that the ceasefire is not being maintained and that we have to be ready to fight… It is disconcerting,” said one of the police officers who requested anonymity.
Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet announced on Wednesday that the police and anti-terrorism section of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, will be reorganized, better trained and better equipped.
A new military operation against highly fractionalized armed Islamist groups is also being discussed.
But in Peshawar, some are resigned to the fact that a cycle of violence is here to stay.
“I have already spent half my life witnessing a bloodbath,” said the grieving brother-in-law Ahmed.
“But I still don’t have the slightest hope of seeing peace in this town.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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