Attack on the Police Academy in Lahore

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent


A policeman stands guard during a funeral for policemen who were killed in an attack at a police training centre in Lahore March 31, 2009. Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud said on Tuesday his group had carried out an attack on a police academy in the city of Lahore in retaliation for U.S. drone attacks on militants in Pakistan. 

REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

“We accept responsibility for the assault on the training centre in Manawan”, this was a phone call from Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of The Taliban. Mehsud contacted correspondents by phone from an undisclosed location and said that his group had carried out attack on Monday morning.  He also vowed in the phone conversation that his organization will keep carrying such attacks until President Zardari does not stop listening to the US and does not stop the Drone attacks. Usually, Mehsud’s spokesman Maulvi Omar speaks to the media and issues statements on his behalf, but this time Mehsud spoke to the media and claimed responsibility for these horrifying attacks himself.

Mehsud also owned up to carrying out a suicide attack at a Police Special Branch in Islamabad on March 23 and a roadside bomb explosion in Bannu on Monday. Seven people including five soldiers were killed in the explosion. He did deny any involvement in the bombing at a mosque in Khyber tribal region in which 57 people were killed.

Mehsud said that these attacks have been carried out in reaction to the increase in number of drone attacks inside Pakistani territory, the US State Department announced a $5mn bounty for capturing him on March 25th 2009. He is also on the most wanted list. Baitullah Mehsud is the second Pakistani to be put on the most wanted list.

Mehsud did not seem bothered by the news of the reward on his head, in fact he responded by saying “martyrdom is my mission and it will be a great honor if I achieve it. The enemies should not ignore might of the Taliban and they will suffer in Washington when we target the White House.” He also claimed that the Taliban have the capability of carrying out attacks in the US Capital.

Mehsud vowed to continue attacks against NATO in Afghanistan, for which, Taliban groups in North and South Waziristan had formed joint Shoora committees to continue fighting in Afghanistan.

He was not clear on whether the Taliban had something to do with the attacks on the Sri Lankan team, all he said was, “I have yet to establish contact with the people and they (the people) not reached their destination.” 

Monday Morning March 30th 2009 Militants firing rifles and throwing grenades stormed a police training academy in Manawan Lahore, killing eight recruits, wounding scores and holding off police and troops for eight hours. Four militants were killed and three were arrested during the gun battle

“It’s piercing an arrow into the heart of the country,” former Interior Ministry secretary Tasneem Noorani said on Tuesday.

Police said the attacks in Lahore in March were an unmistakable message.

“These two attacks (the attack on the Sri Lankan team and the Police Training Academy) in a month were meant to shake the government because they know launching attacks in Punjab means attacking the state,” said senior police official Babur Ahmed.

“Attacking Lahore means attacking Punjab and that means you’re attacking Pakistan. Punjab is Pakistan’s controlling authority,” he added.

Many people wondered why a place such as this was not secure enough or equipped enough to handle such a situation. Some say it is because the Pakistani police is just not able or trained to handle incidents of this nature even though they are becoming very common in the country; others say there is no way to be prepared for something like this because it is very random.  Officials who refuse to be identified said, “It’s not a question of low security … We can’t put police everywhere, on every street.”

“They want to send a message: a determined terrorist can strike anywhere. The only good thing is we’ve captured some of these terrorists alive. Let us investigate.”

Lahore has been the cultural capital of Pakistan. This was the one of the few places one could go to relax and know that one’s family would be safe. Most of the cultural events and happenings took places here and people could leave their homes at all hours of day and night without any fear. That is not the case any more. Un-likely events and tragic attacks have taken place before but being the lively and positive people that Lahoris are they keep trekking on saying we do the best we can and then move on. They kept telling themselves and one another that life goes on. However, it is getting harder and harder to do say that now. It is getting harder and harder to watch the city going to hell and then getting up in the morning to go to work with a smile.

Is there a solution? I am sure there is. Who has it and how successful it will be once its implemented is all dependent on the politicians which the public already doesn’t trust. Ah! Yes that’s is why its all so difficult, we are not just fearful of the militants who might attack us while coming home from work or while having a leisurely dinner at a restaurant with friends and family. We are more afraid because the people who have vowed to protect us are too busy protecting their own selves and we are left to roam around wearing big target sings on our chests.


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