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‘Military takes over Imambargah case investigation’

Updated July 13, 2015

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Shah said so far he had not been summoned to court, asked to testify or been approached by the investigating authorities. ─ Reuters/File
Shah said so far he had not been summoned to court, asked to testify or been approached by the investigating authorities. ─ Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Zain Shah is very worried. The caretaker of an imambargah that has been the target of two suicide attacks, he continues to fear a third.

“We have not received any direct threats from anyone,” he tells Dawn but adds that “the local police have told me that the threat levels are very high and that we should be on our guard.”

With a furrowed brow, the old man in a white shalwar kameez gets ready to say his prayers, as he talked to Dawn.

The attack happened on February 18, 2015, when a suicide attacker blew himself up outside the Imambargah Qasr-i-Sakina, killing two people and injuring several others.

The damage could have been a lot worse had the bomber managed to make his way inside, but he was stopped by the two guards who lost their lives but averted a greater tragedy.

The imambargah is located at the junction of the Islamabad Expressway and Kuri road in Shakrial.

The first attack on the imambargah happened in December 2009. The caretaker’s fears become more palpable when he revealed that he had no information about any progress in the investigation of the attack.

Shah said so far he had not been summoned to court, asked to testify or been approached by the investigating authorities.

All he knows is that the investigation has reportedly been taken over by the military authorities and the police are no longer working on the case.

As the complainant in the FIR of the attack – registered in Shahzad Town Police Station – he had approached the police a number of times to ask them for an update, “but each time I get told that the military is investigating the case.”

“The police give us the same answer each time; that they will update us when they hear something from the military. But there has been no progress in all these weeks. How can I feel safe when I know those people are still out there,” he asked, rhetorically.

Shah said so far he had not been summoned to court, asked to testify or been approached by the investigating authorities.

It is pertinent to mention that the day after the incident a protest was held, blocking the Expressway. This increased the pressure on the law enforcement agencies and resultantly the investigation was transferred to the intelligence agencies.

This is not surprising. In a number of high-profile cases which either caused excessive fatalities or where the target was an important personality, the traditional response is to establish a joint investigation team because it becomes an act of terrorism. Such teams depend on the information and capabilities of the intelligence agencies rather than the police. Such as joint investigation teams were established after the district court attack, blast in fruit and vegetable market etc.

As a result, the police have not much to offer. A police official requesting anonymity said in the past different sections of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) accepted responsibility for various attacks. For instance, a TTP splinter group, Ahrarul Hind, claimed responsibility for an attack on the Islamabad High Court in March 2014. But, he added that the TTP or any of its splinter groups did not claim the imambargah attack.

“The attack on imambargah Qasr-i-Sakina looks like a continuation of the sectarian killings in Pakistan. And, like other sectarian cases, the arrest of the culprit seems difficult,” he said.

Khurram Shahzad Qureshi’s father Ghulam Hussain was one of those who lost his life while stopping the suicide attacker. Khurram told Dawn that his 63-year-old father would come to pray at the imambargah and was volunteering as a guard on that fateful day. Like Shah, Qureshi also said he would not feel safe until the mastermind behind the two attacks on Qasr-i-Sakina was brought to justice. “As long as the perpetrators and masterminds are at large, there will always be the chance of another attack,” he said.

To address their fears the caretakers and worshippers at the imambargah have increased security around the imambargah.

“Police officers and commandos have also been deputed for the protection of worshippers,” said Shah.

A police official at the Khanna police station, Shan Mohammad, told Dawn that after the February suicide attack, one ASI, six constables and one vehicle had been deployed at the imambargah, round the clock. However, he said he was not aware of how many police officials were deputed prior to the attack.

Even though the imambargah is technically located in the Khanna police precincts, which is a recently-established police station, the FIR was registered in the Shahzad Town police station.

Shahzad Town’s Station House Officer Qaiser Niaz Gilani confirmed to Dawn that the case was being investigated by military authorities and the police had no new information regarding the case.

The security sources said as the police did not have a good record in investigating such cases, a joint investigation team had been established. However, these sources also said there had been no progress in this case.

Published in Dawn ,July 13th, 2015

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