After 16 months of peace, terrorists struck Lahore Railway Station, the largest in the country, on Tuesday evening. With the death of one more victim on Wednesday morning, the toll has reached three; the injured number well over 50, several of them severely. One of the dead was a porter who, according to one official version, was carrying the explosive-filled bag; the other casualty was the policeman who, according to another official, was frisking the bag. The last such tragedy in Lahore’s Urdu Bazar had occurred in January 2011 when 16 persons were killed.
Certain important factors appear to have facilitated the planting of a bomb at such a sensitive spot so easily. It is pathetic that neither the metal gates, nor the CCTV cameras installed at the railway station have been functioning for quite some time. The metal gates could have detected any explosive material that was passing through, averting the tragedy, and the CCTV cameras could have recorded the image of the persons depositing the bag on the platform, providing clue to the culprit. The inexcusable lapse is being blamed on lack of funds to clear the dues to the suppliers of cameras. There is no explanation for the walkthrough gates to be inoperative. As Rs 11 billion were injected into the Railways not long ago to revive its functioning, the non-payment of a paltry Rs 2.8 million for the cameras reflects the authorities’ indifference to the security of the general public. Another factor is the casualness born out of the unfortunate fatalistic attitude commonly seen in society. The security staff being part of the same social milieu is not immune from it. This attitude has been reinforced by the rather longish terrorism-free period. In this situation, one expected Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour to express his resolve to not let such disasters recur. Instead, he has reacted in a fatalistic manner. Mr Bilour citing the failure of the country’s security apparatus to prevent terrorist attack at the GHQ, says that even if the railway station had been under the full ‘control’ of the security staff, the blast would have occurred anyway.
There is no doubt that beating the menace of militancy, as it operates, is no easy task. Crowded places are favourite targets of the terrorists and it is hardly possible to render foolproof security to such unlimited number of spots. Yet resigning to the fate is no answer. There are several ways to check the evil. Strict vigilance could provide protection to railway stations. The concerned authorities are well aware both of the tactics of militants and the means to frustrate them. They only have to give up their sense of complacency and develop an attitude of security mindedness. Unless there is a sea-change in the prevalence of terrorist threat in the country, there is no alternative to constant vigilance to give the citizens the feeling of security.