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Agents of death descend on Peshawar

January 25, 2013

PESHAWAR, Jan 24: The forces of doom and destruction have stepped up their deadly campaign in Peshawar, unleashing a series of target killings. They struck the city again and again during the past three weeks with ferocity, leaving the protectors of public life and property with shamelessly coward faces.

If businessman Abrar Hussain’s violent killing in the most unfortunate circumstances on Jan 2 near Lady Reading Hospital did not move the saviours of law and order out of their perennial official slackness, Dr Shah Nawaz’s murder committed 20 days later, with swiftness and deadly ease of the highest criminal order, should not be a surprise for anyone except for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police that have not made any investigation breakthroughs in any of the killings so far.

The two incidents and similar attacks that took place in between reflect a trend: Shias in Peshawar are under attack and the administration insensitive to the victim families’ plight.

After Abrar Hussain’s murder, the agents of death shot and killed Peshawar’s noted gastroenterologist Dr Syed Riaz Hussain on Jan 10 and nine days later an additional session judge of Peshawar Ihtesham Ali sustained bullet wounds in a daylight attack.

Now, we have another noted Shia doctor from Peshawar, eye specialist Dr Shah Nawaz, who fall victim to the cruelness of the motorcycle riding death squad on Jan 22 that shot him dead right in his own clinic.

All the incidents share quite a few similarities: the attackers came on motorcycles, they carried out their deadly deeds with pistols in public places, and left the crime scenes unhindered. Furthermore, their targets were all Shias of noble lineage with significant repute in their extended social, commercial, and professional settings.Peshawar is fast becoming inhospitable Shias, particularly, from Parachinar, the headquarters of restive Kurram agency. Both Abrar and Dr Riaz, belonging to Parachinar, were leading an affluent life before being hit by the harbinger of death and destruction. Their corpses were sent back to their ancestral villages for burial.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police are clueless about the motives behind the killings.

“I cannot say Abrar Hussain was a victim of sectarian violence unless investigation proves it. Currently investigation is underway, Dawn quoted police investigator Fazlur Rehman on Jan 23. He also said the complainant in the case had not contacted police again.

Is it the complainants’ responsibility to contact police again after having lodged the FIR or should it be the police’s duty to investigate the case and arrest the killers? If investigation is underway, then why the victims’ family has not been involved or contacted?

Abrar Hussain’s elder brother is nonchalant about the assassins’ arrest. He finds solace that his victim brother was lucky to the extent that some fine men shifted his dead body from the roadside crime scene late in the evening to a hospital out of sheer nobleness and not for his valuables, including an expensive wristwatch, cell phone, and some cash in his briefcase.

Some hold the opinion that the latest killings should not be looked into isolation. They rightly opine that target killings are a yet another tactic the terrorists have applied to continue hitting the state at various levels. Others believe that Peshawar has been exposed to a situation identical to Quetta where Shias of the Hazara origin are being killed in a systematic criminal way.

Whatever the case may be, the terrorists are destroying people’s psychology by unleashing a campaign of target killings and creating an environment of fear and dread that has facilitated the government and military establishment to curb civil liberties in the name of improving security.

They have destroyed expensive and hard-to-build infrastructure with unchecked impunity. They are trying to keep our girls uneducated and children infected by polio.

The reign of terror in which people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Peshawarites in particular are carrying out their daily chores, has influenced the government policy making and its priorities.

The provincial government is spending around Rs22 billion annually on counter terrorism measures, but the policy has not been much successful except for having made the provincial police department one of the first three of the biggest provincial public sector employers after education and health departments.

An apt answer to the current deadly wave of terrorism does not seem to rest in raising an insufficiently trained, inefficient, and financially infeasible police force. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needs a well-trained, a well-equipped, and an economically feasible police force that is quick in policing and sharp in investigating crimes.