Hours after an explosion at an under-construction building in Lahore’s Defence ‘Y’ block there is still little that is certain. The number of dead is reported as 8 or 9, the number of injured as 21 — or 35. There have from the outset been conflicting reports as to the nature of the blast with the Punjab government Tweeting that it was caused by a generator explosion — contradicted both by the posting on social media of pictures of an unexploded generator at the site as well as a spokesman for the Punjab Police who said the explosion was caused by a bomb. By early evening there had been no claim of the blast by any group. In previous recent incidents there have been rapid claims by those saying they were responsible. Rumour was quickly rife, the most irresponsible of which was that there had been a second explosion in Gulberg. There had not and the rumour died away in late afternoon — but not until it had been widely reported across a range of media.
There was uncertainty even in the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) which said that the blast…‘seems to have been made by some sort of explosive.’ The CTD went on to detail its uncertainty saying that it could have been caused by an IED activated by a timer, or a remotely activated device or a device that went off ‘in transit’. Thus far there have been no suggestions that it was a suicide bombing.
Presumably all this will be clarified in due course as the forensic teams comb the rubble, but as an exercise in how not to manage information in an event such as this we have before us a textbook example. Sections of the media did nobody any favours by airing and posting unverified and incorrect information and reports (the print media managed to avoid that pitfall in their online editions) and as darkness fell we were little the wiser. It is to be hoped that wisdom will blossom on Friday.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2017.
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