Is police’s Data Darbar reaction counterproductive?

Published: May 14, 2019
More feet on the ground may not be the answer to threats. PHOTO: EXPRESS

More feet on the ground may not be the answer to threats. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: Lahore is yet to recover from the terrorist attack on a police van parked outside Data Darbar, a shrine which stands as a symbol of peace and harmony for people in the city. At the same time, the police’s immediate reaction of increasing their presence in the city may not be the answer, especially since the force seems to be the target.

After the attack, Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz ordered officials to narrow their focus on beefing up security. He held an emergency meeting with the top brass of the force immediately after the blast.

Follow up meetings were also held during the week. Nawaz personally visited mosques and other religious congregations in the provincial capital to review security arrangements. He also issued orders to all field officers to step up their efforts. However, an increased police presence can possibly open the doors to further incidents. This is the fifth terrorist attack in Lahore since February 2017 and all the blasts have targeted police or government officials. Perhaps a different strategy, one that involves increased coordination between law enforcement and intelligence, is needed to preempt such attacks.

More worryingly, investigators are yet to make substantial progress in the case. For the moment, some evidence had been collected and token arrests have been made. On Sunday, another victim of the blast succumbed to his injuries at Lahore’s Mayo Hospital, increasing the death toll from the incident to 13. The victim, identified as Tahir Aslam, 18, was a resident of Pakpattan. He worked at a shop nearby Data Darbar. At least 20 persons suffered injuries in the incident.

Fake marriages

Last week, the horrifying details of Chinese gangs forcing Pakistani girls into prostitution and illegal organ transplantation after marrying them off to their compatriots had surfaced.

Around 79 Chinese nationals and locals were arrested during raids in Islamabad and different districts of Punjab. Initial investigations have revealed that this organised crime has continued over the last year.

The modus operandi of the accused was to lure local girls into marrying Chinese nationals amid promises of a bright future in the neighbouring country. After the girls got married, the gang would arrange for their stay before moving them to China after a few days. However, the newlyweds would be forced into illegal activities upon their arrival.

Suspect in Data Darbar attack footage claims innocence

It was also reported that people from the lowest income groups, such as beggars, were sold into prostitution in Pakistan. In these cases, a Chinese national would marry the girl and she was used to please others from China who were staying in Pakistan.

Fake conversions also surfaced as a tool to lure the victims. The Chinese would pretend to convert to Islam to convince the unsuspecting girls. An official told The Express Tribune that when the gangs started operating in Pakistan, they initially targeted Christian women as they were more vulnerable. After a year, when the matter continued to sail under the radar, they targeted Muslim girls as well.

Major incidents

On May 12, three children – five-year-old Ali Hassan, three-year-old Nabiha and six-year-old Habiba – burnt to death and their uncle suffered injuries when a fire erupted at their house on Walton Road in the Factory Area. Reportedly, the incident was caused when the children were playing with a matchbox.

On the same day in Manawan, an eighth-grade female student was injured by a sharp weapon when she tried to stop a man named Imtiaz from following her. On May 9, a Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) lineman named Arshad died of electrocution in Kot Lakhpat. On May 5, two young men, identified as Mohsin and Allah Wasaya, died in a road accident when a tractor trolley overturned in Nishter Colony. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2019.

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