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Dhoke Syedan blast case closed

Updated August 09, 2013

RAWALPINDI, Aug 8: On a warm July day, eight months after the blast on a Muharram procession in Dhoke Syedan, Rawalpindi, in November last year, the police finally closed the case files and titled it “Adum Pata” (when an unsolved case offers no leads it is called Adum Pata).

A security official, on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the Race Course police had closed the investigation after failing to make any arrest despite the lapse of several months, adding that, “there was no lead left for the police to follow.”

“In case, the police succeeded in making any arrest in connection with the Dhoke Syedan incident, the case file will be re-opened again and investigations restarted,” he said.

When the spokesman for the Regional Police Officer Naseemuz Zaman, was asked for his comments about the closure of the file of the Dhoke Syedan suicide attack, he replied that he was not aware of the latest developments.

The concerned superintendent of police Potohar Division, Haroon Yoyia, and the police investigating officer, Sajid Mehmood Gondal, were also not available for comment.

The police’s decision was driven by the fact that they had no evidence against those suspected though investigations have revealed the alleged perpetrators.

The police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Punjab, has concluded that the attack was orchestrated by the Asmatullah Moavia group, which is linked to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

This link was established because the police found out that two men - Adeel and Amir Sagheer – were seen at the scene of the blast on the day it happened.

The investigators also found out that Adeel had been staying near Qasr-i-Shabbir from where the procession was to be brought out.

Both these men are reported to have links with TTP’s Moavia group.

Asmatullah Moavia was the security officer of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the deputy administrator of Lal Masjid in 2007.

He escaped from the mosque before the military operation began in July 2007 and later formed (TTP Moavia group) which primarily comprises the Punjabi Taliban.

After the group’s formation, nine terrorist attacks happened from July 2007 to December 2007.

A security official who works for CTD reveals that the group has been involved in other organised terrorist attacks such as the suicide bombing at Aabpara Market in July 2007 which left 33 people as well as the attack on a lawyers’ convention at F-8 Markaz on July 17, 2007.

The convention had been held for the then suspended chief justice who was to address the lawyers. Officials also say that they have some evidence that the group was also involved in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

Adeel who is known to be Asmatullah’s media adviser was present in the Dhoke Syedan area before and after the suicide attack. He was accompanied by Amir Sagheer.

Both men are from the Rawalpindi district Amir Sagheer belongs to Daultala village of Gujjar Khan, while Adeel is from Rawalpindi city.

Their presence on the day itself has led investigators to conclude that the two men were there to facilitate the bomber, a teenage boy.

At least 20 people were killed and several others injured when a suicide bomber struck a Muharram procession in Dhoke Syedan on November 21, 2012.

Though the dead end the investigations have reached is unfortunate, what is even more unfortunate are the lapses and poor decisions that allowed the militants to carry out this attack.

A joint investigation team was formed to investigate the incident and it paints a sorry picture of the law enforcement agencies that were supposed to ensure security.

The JIT concluded that the suicide attack on Muharram procession was a security lapse as an important procession was categorised as a category ‘C’ threat (not very likely to witness any security problems) by the City Police Office (CPO) Rawalpindi, despite the fact that intelligence had suggested that terrorist outfits were actively seeking an opportunity to strike.

The police’s categorisation was based on past experiences – in the previous Muharrams, the processions in Dhoke Syedan had been poorly attended and there had been very few sectarian-related violent incidents during its passage.

The countrywide terrorist threat alert was not taken into account for the categorisation.

However, this is not the only bad decision that was made in the run up to the attack.

The JIT also reveals that the contingency security plan was issued by the Punjab home department to maintain peace during Muharram but this plan was simply not followed by the district police.

More serious still is the fact that 20 extra policemen from Punjab Constabulary (PC), who had earlier been provided to the Race Course police to strengthen security, were withdrawn on November 21, 2013 shortly before the procession began.

This decision was taken by the police’s security branch on behalf of then CPO – half the personnel were sent to Chakwal for the security of another procession while a few policemen were sent for the protection of elected officials.