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Peshawar: does anyone care?

Published May 28, 2013 09:20am


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THE apparently ceaseless debate sparked by the Boston marathon bomb blasts in the American media has only just been partially eclipsed by the Oklahoma tornado. While President Obama vowed to go to the ends of the earth to nab the culprits, he found the media and the American people surpassing him in their resolve to get to the root of the crime.

Very quickly, they not only got to the root of the crime in the impoverished Russian-controlled Dagestan they also found out a lot more about the two accused brothers and their family’s history.

In stark contrast, ‘unidentified’ militants have ravaged Peshawar and have killed both civilians and security personnel indiscriminately on a large scale, while destroying our infrastructure with impunity.

The news of a deadly terrorist incident in Peshawar stays in the headlines for no more than a few hours; thereafter it is consigned to the back-burner. Hardly anyone is heard talking about the identity of the attackers; their parentage or their domiciles or their past and present places of residence. The attackers move and act like predators, pillaging and disappearing with ease, instilling fear in the areas under their control and even beyond.

Peshawar has a rough and inexorably hostile neighbourhood. To its north lie the tribal agencies of Mohmand and Bajaur where a semblance of calm has been restored after years of seemingly uncontrollable turmoil. To its west lies the fabled Khyber Pass where the strong presence of the Pakistan Army’s Frontier Force units secure Peshawar from any major infiltration although terrorists from this side keep trickling into the city on all occasions.

It is the southwestern border of Peshawar with the restive Bara region of Khyber Agency that has meant devastation for Peshawar and the villages lying in close proximity to the border. The last week of 2012 saw militants attacking security checkposts in the said area killing nearly two dozen personnel at point-blank range and taking with them scores of others as hostages.

It was as if “they were on a shopping spree in a limitless departmental store, picking up hapless personnel from several posts, putting them in their double cabin vehicles and shooting them mercilessly,” recalls former Awami National Party MPA Saquibullah Khan Chamkani whose constituency includes a considerable part of the said area.

On May 11, 2013 when the rest of the candidates were attending to election-related duties, Mr Chamkani’s time was occupied in carrying the injured to hospitals and the dead to mortuaries. In one incident an eight-year-old boy standing near a polling station and engrossed in the proceedings taking place in Sheikh Mohammadi village fell to the dastardly machinations of the militants when a box he was handed over to carry to the ANP workers went off before he could take it to the targeted area.

Earlier, in late March the militants operating in the same area had destroyed a 500 KV grid station at Sheikh Mohammadi that supplies power to more than half of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and which is located on the main Kohat Road at a distance of six kilometres from Peshawar Cantonment. “They passed through our villages of Sheikh Mohammadi, Suleiman Khel and Shahab Khel after midnight and did not leave until they had completely ransacked the grid station,” a villager from the same area said while recalling the events of that deadly night.

The Sheikh Mohammadi grid station is the proverbial punching bag of the militants. Nothing seems to fascinate them more than targeting it, especially during peak summer. It has been targeted at least three times in as many years. The latest attack was the worst: eight people were killed and scores of others kidnapped while the grid station was rendered completely dysfunctional causing losses of at least Rs2 billion to the state.

The southwest of Peshawar is undoubtedly on fire, and nothing substantiates this more than the fact sheet of May 2013. Just as these lines were being penned another attack on the police convoy coming from Kohat claimed the lives of six policemen accompanying the DPO (district police officer) Kohat to Peshawar who sustained serious injuries in the incident. Initial accounts suggested the culprits did not suffer substantial losses.

Peshawar was not unaccustomed to violence especially from intruders from the tribal hinterland. The British during their long stay in the town were frequently attacked by hordes of tribesmen, but in no case did they let the marauders go unpunished. They also built a wall around the old city with 16 gates as a solid pre-emptive measure against continuous attacks. Peshawar has since expanded to its last extremities and borders the tribal areas.

The British knew their enemies down to their last ancestor; we don’t seem to know even their immediate parentage, and don’t appear to mind this fact at all. Peshawar must now be secured by erecting a wall along its entire length bordering the tribal lands. Unfortunately, no half measures like establishing dozens of checkposts in urban limits can stop Peshawar from being caught in the throes of the conflagration being witnessed to the south and southwest of the city.

The writer is a freelance contributor.


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Comments (17) Closed

Murad Iqbal May 28, 2013 06:19am
Excellent article. But it seems human life and blood in our part of the world is the cheapest thing. Nobody cares, nobody pays heed, while fire in LDA, dozens of target killings in Karachi, Taliban terrorists' atrocities in Peshawar and scores of incidents more kept happening, our leadership was 'celebrating' elections in the victory. It seems we are already doomed, what worse can come. Allah help us out of this.
Pashtunyar May 28, 2013 06:21am
Erecting a wall? Seriously?!
haris May 28, 2013 08:50am
An interesting and insight read. I am much awaited to read such insightful articles. Thanks Naseer
Ahmed j May 28, 2013 12:08pm
Yes but not a bricked one. An electronic impassable invisible wall. Does that make sense?
Zakria A. shah May 28, 2013 12:25pm
Very well written Nasser sb.
citizen May 28, 2013 12:57pm
I think the wall that you mentioned is pre colonial just like many other walled cities of the past. It was not built by the british as far as my understanding is. I am from peshawar and more than anything I would like peace to return but I don't know how practical it is to erect a wall around the peshawar of today...
Bob May 28, 2013 02:54pm
Every nation in the world value life of its people, our politicians/leaders on record have said 'moat to Allah ke haat mai hai' so why bother, people to have die any way.....
Pak Sar Zameen May 28, 2013 05:28pm
great insight brother Naseer; sounds a bit haywire when you compare Peshawar n the happenings there to the US of A... Good one... I hope someone in 'POWER' reads this!
pathanoo May 28, 2013 06:12pm
"Stark Contrast" is what stands between America and Pakistan. One where rule of law prevails and the other where there is no law and no rules. One is where most Pakistanis would go in a heartbeat and the other is a hole they want to leave.
wasim May 28, 2013 09:03pm
You always have a way out that is called "Immigration". This happened since centuries and would continue for centuries. If you don't like it and don't have the means to correct it due to its huge size, just leave it behind and let it feed on itself. Remember, you only have one life to live.
HNY2013 May 28, 2013 11:40pm
If only people honestly started doing what they are entrusted to do. If politicians were sincere, Police and other law enforcing agents are deligent. Common man would be more happy and at peace. Only IF ....
Sue Sturgess May 29, 2013 01:50am
The people of Pakistan need to help themselves out of this, instead of sitting back and waiting for Allah to fix all of their problems. There is an old saying that god helps those who help themselves.
Ravindra Sharma May 29, 2013 07:48am
Peshawar , once called Pushp pur I e city of flowers and was the capital city of emperor Kanishk is at present appears to be in shamble . O Paikastani friends residents of Peshawar , pl remember your past , shun violence and make once again city of flowers .
uchak May 29, 2013 10:06am
"Peshawar must now be secured by erecting a wall along its entire length bordering the tribal lands". Israel did something similar (For a similar reason) and is hated by the entire muslim community. How do you propose ur wall in light of the earlier wall in Jerusalem?
khalid rahim May 29, 2013 10:10am
Profiling of the miscreants is the key to minimize the threats and reach its root cause, but the question remains who will do the profiling, analysis and planning.
Abdul Malik May 29, 2013 04:42pm
You are bang on ! nobody cares. You are subservient to the West, especially USA and as long as we sit in America's lap, there will be no end to militancy. Period.
Riaz Ahmad May 29, 2013 05:04pm
As the saying goes, those who dare win. Nations addicted to begging, with not the slightest regard for the sanctity of life, no respect for laws or rules, corruption adopted as the most sacred virtue, can such nations win?