A powerful explosive device was found and defused in time at the Jinnah hospital early Friday morning, averting a massacre. The bomb was planted near a tent where Friday prayers are offered by people of the Shia sect.
Acting Karachi police chief Iqbal Mehmood said the shape and size of the bomb resembles the explosive device that was found intact from Baldia on April 26, where a navy bus was bombed causing several casualties.
Meanwhile, Special Investigation Unit SSP Raja Umer Khattab said the remote-controlled explosive weighed between 16 and 18 kilogrammes. The Ashura remote-controlled bomb that killed more than 60 people weighed between 10 and 15 kg. He said the device was packed in a steel container that contained ball bearings and nut bolts. The container was sealed with cement.
The ‘directional bomb’ was planted sometime between 2 am and 6 am near rocks placed on the boundary wall that separates the Dhobi Ghaat Quarters — that houses around 20 families of the hospital’s lower staff — and the doctors hostel area, where around 96 mid-level doctors and one assistant professor live. The bomb was planted on the side of the lower staff quarters.
The explosive device was called a directional bomb as it was planted in a way directed towards the people praying in the Dhobi Ghaat area.
One of the residents noticed the structure with fresh cement and deemed it odd. He reported the hospital guards at around 7am and the Bomb Disposal Squad was called.
Despite the incident and the prevailing threat, prayers were offered.
Police officials said they are keeping all options open and are not treating the case from a purely sectarian angle. “The only difference between the bomb found from Baldia and this one is that the former did not have ball bearings, while this one did,” said SSP Khattab. Iqbal Mehmood also said the bombs found from the two incidents were ‘exactly the same.’ It was possible that the same people were involved, he added.
The open ground where the tent is erected every Thursday night in preparation for the Friday prayers the next day is right in front of a small mosque and madrassas run by a Sunni cleric.
The Rehman Mosque peshimam, Ramzan, told The Express Tribune that for the last three years, Shias have been offering their Friday prayers in front of their mosque without any untoward incident.
He said that they had suggested once or twice to the Shia followers to have their prayers on the other side of the ground to avoid any “misunderstandings”. However, he denied that there was any history of a clash. “They even use our wuzu (ablution) area, which we never [had a problem with],” Ramzan said, who has been living at the quarters since ‘Ayub’s time’ and officiating the small mosque since the 1970s.
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s emergency director Dr Seemin Jamali said the entire incident had shaken up the hospital staff, who could not help but recall the horrors of the Chehlum blast in 2010, when the emergency unit was bombed. She said that although the incident was a ‘grave concern,’ she was grateful that no one was harmed.
Dr Jamali said the followers of the Shia sect were asked earlier to offer their prayers away from residential areas for security reasons and alternative places were also suggested, but they were refused.
Now the administration will offer them a location to build a new imambargah in consultation with all stakeholders, she said.
However, prominent Shia cleric Allama Abbas Kumaili said that despite many requests, the hospital administration refused to provide a separate space to the Ahle Tasheeh to build their own place of worship.
He blamed them for forcing the people to offer prayers in open grounds where they are most vulnerable. “There are people with strong biases and prejudices in the hospital administration,” he alleged.
Kumaili said even though it was extremely fortunate that the bomb was defused, the problem still remains unresolved. “Even at the University of Karachi, we’ve been demanding for so many years for a separate and secure place of worship, but they too did nothing and a bomb went off there.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2011.
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