July 5th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

P.M. Security Brief: A night in Lahore

Four years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful and historic Data Darbar shrine, close to the ancient walled city in Lahore, Pakistan. It was a sweltering night in August, but there were thousands of people, men and women and children, within its walls. It was so crowded that you could only shuffle slowly in the prevailing direction of the foot traffic. At the same time, it was remarkably serene, bathed in the light of thousands of candles. The Quran was recited constantly. It was a mystical experience.

That night, security precautions around the mosque were, at best, modest. It is not an easy place to protect, with several entrances and a constant throng of visitors. But in 2006,  Lahore  had seen little of the scourge of terrorism that was beginning to plague other parts of the country.

Not so today. Last week, this renowned Sufi shrine, which contains the tomb of the 11th century saint, Dhata Ganj Baksh, was attacked by suicide bombers. More than 40 people were killed.

It was the latest in a series of sectarian attacks in and around Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural and educational capital. At the end of May, two mosques of the minority Ahmadi sect were attacked during Friday prayers; more than 90 people were killed. Sunni extremists regard the Ahmadi as infidels because they don’t regard Mohammed as the last prophet. In 1974, they were declared to be “non-Muslims” by the state.

These attacks add a troubling dimension to Pakistan’s political violence. The Pakistani Taliban and other associated groups may have been expelled from some areas by army action (principally by the offensive in South Waziristan last year); and they are on the defensive in other “tribal agencies” along the Afghan border.

But they appear to be resurfacing in areas more important to Pakistan’s economic welfare. The biggest city, Karachi, has seen a rising tide of targeted assassinations this year, many blamed by police on the Taliban, some carried out in daylight by gunmen on motorcycles.

No group has claim responsibility for the attack in Lahore last week, and the air is already thick with intrigue. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denied the group’s involvement. Some Pakistanis accuse India of being behind the attack. For their part, Pakistani officials have accused “Punjabi Taliban” of carrying out the attack in an effort to destabilize the country.

The Sufi tradition is a mystical and more tolerant “school” within Islam, but the patience of Pakistan’s Sufi community has been sorely tried by the attack on the Data Darbar, not the first Sufi shrine in Pakistan to be targeted. Some have taken to the streets in protest. Others  are demanding the resignation of Punjab’s Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, whom they accuse of associating with extreme Sunni groups.

The provincial government has promised a crackdown on militant groups. But it is run by an opposition party at odds with the federal government in Islamabad, whose full involvement would be required in any concerted action against the “Punjabi Taliban.”

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Filed under: Security Brief
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. John Ramirez

    It is sad that these criminal terrorists have no love for their own religion or anyone elses..

    July 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Patriot in West(by God) Virginia

    As long as they keep it over there, I see no problem with it.

    July 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pmo5010

    this isn't exactly news that faith-based terrorists have attacked shrines and significant monuments dedicated to religions or sects within religions. the attack and destruction of the Golden Dome at Samarra, a shrine important to Shiites, was deliberately attacked by al-qaeda to arouse the civil strife that would grip iraq mid-decade into the post-Saddam era. on top of that, the spectacular buddha statues of bamyan in afghanistan were deliberately destroyed by the taliban in 2001 because it was viewed as a threat to islamic culture (declaring that they were idols).

    July 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ken

    It comes full circle

    July 6, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. HF

    It is great to see the definition of a terrorist is still true: A terrorist will murder and kill everyone including his own people. Most outstanding part of a terrorist, is .... here is comes, ... WHEN he can not kill his real enemy, he will kill his own people, than friends and mostly likely family in some honour killing, ... Is it not great being a terrorist to murder your own family, YOUR A HERO, martyr fantastic for you murder ....

    July 6, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Monsterous

    Muslims. really great people. Yep. Killing other people like this. Really great. Yep, that islamic religion is the best.

    July 6, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. evan Mark

    Please people learn about how horrible it was under the Taliban:
    You absolutely MUST see this.

    August 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |