KARACHI, Nov 21: The twin blasts outside an Imambargah in Orangi Town on Wednesday not only exposed the approach of the law-enforcement agencies towards the importance of preserving the crime scene, but also showed a lack of disregard among rescue workers and overzealous broadcast media personnel for safety protocols, which made them vulnerable to a second attack.
The first blast was reported a few minutes after the sunset outside the Imambargah Haider-i-Karrar in Orangi Town No. 5. The explosion attracted a large number of ambulances with dozens of rescue workers, mostly associated with the Edhi Foundation and Chhipa Welfare Association, followed by a number of reporters from different media houses.
The scene of crime became a free-for-all, as barehanded rescue workers and police officials were seen handling the stuff outside the Imambargah that included parts of a motorbike said to have been used in the attack and pieces of damaged property.
Officials recognised the fact that a huge crowd at the crime scene did not only cause loss of crucial evidence, but might have attracted a second bomb attack.
“It’s definitely our concern,” said Munir Sheikh, the chief of the forensic division of the Sindh police. “It’s primarily the responsibility of the law-enforcement agencies to secure the crime scene, which demands restricted movement of the people and no movement of objects until it’s declared clear by the forensic people or investigators.”
He feared that the careless handling of the crime scene might resulted in a loss of some evidence of the first blast, though he said his team had managed to collect crucial evidence after the second bomb attack.
The Wednesday blasts in Orangi Town came as a grim reminder of the twin May 2004 blasts outside the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) on Fatima Jinnah Road that killed a policeman and left a number of journalists as well as law-enforcement agencies’ personnel injured.
An almost identical episode was witnessed some six years later in 2010 when at least 25 people were killed and over 100 others injured in a roadside bomb blast near a bus packed with mourners going to a Chehlum procession on Shahrah-i-Quaideen.
Within an hour to that explosion, another blast took place outside the emergency ward of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where relatives of those injured in the first attack, paramedics and media persons were present.
“The law-enforcement agencies must cordon off the crime scene, which unfortunately we have not witnessed in the recent incident,” conceded Sharfuddin Memon, the adviser to the Sindh home department. “Only investigators should be allowed there. There is a certain standard operating procedure to manage a crime scene but it’s hardly followed.”
Apart from police lethargic approach, he said, other reasons including mob reaction, media interest and hyper activism of rescue volunteers prevented the police from completely implementing the SOP.
“We are fighting a war on terror, but it’s so unfortunate that we have been unable to follow some basics to handle the situation we confront after every few days,” said Jameel Yusuf, a former chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee. “The Wednesday incident should serve as a wake-up call for all the people and institutions involved in the process. The police must take volunteers and the community on board in such a situation to handle the situation, which would also share their burden and make the community realise about their role.”