One of the 10 terrorists involved in Saturday night’s brazen attack on Peshawar airport had Western-style “tattoos” on his body, raising questions about the identities of those behind the assault.
Security officials said at least five of the 10 attackers involved appeared to be Uzbek nationals. But counter-terrorism officials are perplexed by the discovery of a demonic “tattoo” on the back of one of the terrorists.
“It’s the first time I have seen tattoos on the bodies of terrorists,” added the official, who has been part of several counter-terrorism operations in the tribal regions.
What does the tattoo show?
The image, though incomplete, appears to be a rendition of a Boris Vallejo sorcery-fantasy character.
In the militant’s case, the tattoo on his back is unfinished. One entire limb, strands of flowing hair and a smaller-headed sorcery-monster appear to be missing.
Vallejo, a Peruvian-born American painter, works almost exclusively in the fantasy and erotica genres. Swords and sorcery gods and monsters are some of his recurrent themes.
Tattoo experts say the image on the militant’s body symbolises evil. “Skulls, in my opinion, are demonic representations, but only in visualisation. They represent strength, rebelliousness and serious drawbacks,” said a Lahore-based tattoo artist.
“Mostly people who get such tattoos want to give out a message that they defy death, those who have seen death very closely, including criminals, gangsters and even rock stars,” he said on condition of anonymity.
About the tattoo on the militant’s body, he said, “It looks 10 to 12 years old. The outlines, curves and shading clearly tell that it has not been made by an expert.”
A Karachi-based tattoo artist concurred. “Mostly, criminals and gangsters get such tattoos made on their bodies,” said the artist who works at a tattoo parlour. He also spoke on condition of anonymity.
He pointed out that he had not seen a single religious person in his 10-year career with tattoos on his body. “It’s unlikely for a religious person to get such tattoos made on his body,” he said.
Religious scholars reaction
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claims that it is fighting for the enforcement of Islamic shariah, has already claimed responsibility for the attack.
That is why this aspect has now added significance because according to religious scholars having tattoos on the human body is against the spirit and teachings of Islam.
“You cannot perform religious duties if you have tattoos on your body,” said Prof Khursheed Ahmed, who has written several books on Islam.
Associated with Jamaat-e-Islami, Khursheed maintained that the Peshawar airport attack confirmed “our fears that some foreign hands are carrying out these terrorist attacks in the name of Islam.”
“A practicing Muslim cannot have such images on his body,” he argued.
Mufti Naeem of Karachi’s Jamia Binoria seminary told The Express Tribune that there was no exception to drawing tattoos in Islam as shariah has clearly imposed restrictions on it.
“Yes, you can offer prayers but Islam does not permit drawing tattoos on bodies and has banned it,” he said.
The head of Pakistan Ulema Council Allama Tahir Ashrafi also endorsed the view. “It was astonishing to see the body with a horrible face tattooed on his body. Islam does not allow drawing tattoos,” he added. “This cannot be the body of a Muslim.”
‘True face of TTP’
But a security official pointed out that tattoos on the bodies of terrorists exposed the TTP claims that they were fighting for Islam.
“We know their (TTP) true face. We have raided their dens and even found pornographic films and male potency drugs from there,” he said.
When approached, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, said the authorities investigating the airport attack would certainly look into all possibilities.
“But it is premature to draw any conclusion at this point,” Maj- Gen Bajwa told The Express Tribune. (With additional reporting by Umer Farooq in Peshawar, Ayesha Hasan in Lahore and Farhan Sharif in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2012.