KARACHI In the wake of a devastating car bomb attack that struck Peshawar`s Qissa Khwani district on Friday leaving at least 28 dead and over 100 injured, the city`s resident`s remain resilient.
Although the attack targeted a busy shopping district just days before the religious festival of Eidul Azha, many residents of the city were unfazed by the attack. Mr Arbab Sajjad, a Peshawar-based sales executive, referred to the incident as `life as usual` and concluded that it had little impact on daily life and pre-Eid shopping.
Mr Imtiaz Gilani, former provincial minister and Vice Chancellor of the University of Engineering and Technology, agreed with this assessment, saying that terrorist attacks have become `a constant routine` for the people of northwest Pakistan. `Any other people in any other place would have buckled. The fact that we remain defiant is due to the bravery of the people, the army, the paramilitary and the police,` he says.
While the blast did not demoralize all Peshawar residents, the nearby presence of a Shia imambargah led many to speculate on the possibility of a sectarian aspect to the attack. Some government officials, such as provincial chief minister Haider Khan Hoti, even raised the possibility of the involvement of `foreign hands`.
Mr. Gilani dismisses the idea of foreign involvement as speculation. Similarly, Mr Rahimullah Yousufzai, a senior journalist and security analyst, points out that shifting the blame to foreign perpetrators may be in the government`s interest to defuse any sectarian tension arising from the attack.
Mr Yousufzai also questions whether the Peshawar blast was truly motivated by sectarianism. `It is not possible to say with certainty that this was a sectarian attack,` he says.
Although acknowledging that `many of those who perished were Shia,` he notes that the blast occurred at some distance from the imambargah. `If this were sectarian, the car would perhaps have been parked much closer,` he says. However, he stressed that `the sectarian aspect needs to be probed further.`
Mr Yousufzai is dismissive of the possibility that this attack could spark sectarian unrest in Peshawar `Judging from the past, that does not seem likely,` he says. `Sectarian violence has almost become the norm in Dera Ismail Khan and Kurram Agency but that generally remains confined and does not spread beyond that.`
Indeed, locals remain more concerned about the security implications of the attack. `This is a complete failure on the part of our front-line intelligence services,` says Ms. Bushra Gohar, an Awami National Party (ANP) MNA.
When asked about how such attacks on Peshawar can be controlled in the future, Ms. Gohar was of the opinion that `the ongoing operation in the tribal areas needs to be critically analysed.` `One of the problems in Pakistan is that there is never any high-level accountability for such incidents,` she continued.
But Ms. Gohar cautions against premature finger-pointing. `We are in a warlike situation,` she says. `There are many elements who wish to take advantage of the current unrest in the province and it would be a mistake to jump to conclusions.`