On April 3rd 2011 suicide bombers hit the Shrine of Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar. The blasts occurred on Sunday during the 942nd Urs (death anniversary) of the Saint and left more than 100 people injured. There were three suicide bombers but out of the three, one of the bombers was unsuccessful in his bid to bring carnage to the peaceful worshipers, and was arrested by the police after his explosives failed to detonate.
Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strand of Islam, have increasingly been the target of bloody attacks by militants in Pakistan. The shrine was targeted because Islamist extremists regard the veneration of Sufi saints – a much loved and widespread practice in Pakistan – as un-Islamic. In July last year, two suicide bombers blew themselves up among crowds of worshippers at Pakistan’s most popular Sufi site, the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore, where the death toll reached to about 42 people. On October 7, 2010, the Sufi shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi was hit by suicide bombers, killing nine worshippers. Also in October 2010, a bomb blast outside the country’s second most popular Sufi shrine, dedicated to the 12th century saint Baba Farid, also known as Ganjshakar, in the Punjab town of Pakpattan killed four people.
The third suicide bomber was a 14 year old boy, identified as Omar Fidai alias Fida Hussain. Along with him, the police also detained another person from the shrine but have not disclosed any details up till now.
Intelligence agencies have expressed their fears that terrorists could attack the police and their facilities for the rescue or killing of their comrade, who was captured alive from the site of Sakhi Sarwar shrine blast in DG Khan. Security sources have said that the associates of captured attacker Fida alias Omar Fadai could strike to get him released in the same manner that terrorists in Lahore did to get release their associate from Jinnah Hospital. The security agencies have said that in view of this threat, it is imperative the captured attacker is move out of DG Khan to a more secure place. In this regard, the security authorities and intelligence agencies are in contact with each other to chalk out a strategy for moving the captured terrorist and keeping him alive as there are also fears that he could be killed by his fellow accomplices to wipe out any proof and information to get to their master mind.
Both the detained suspects were apparently from North Waziristan, one of seven tribally administered areas close to Afghanistan. All those areas are militant hotspots, but North Waziristan is considered especially so, being under virtual militant control and also being home to extremists from around Pakistan and the world, much to the consternation of the West.
Young boys, often with little or no education, are used by the Taliban as suicide bombers. As well as being less suspicious, terrorism analysts say their handlers find it easier to persuade them to carry out suicide missions. The captured boy’s comments to the policemen offer a glimpse into the level of his indoctrination.
“You all are accomplices of the enemies of Islam who are bent upon eliminating Islam and Muslims,” Hussain allegedly said, according to an interrogation officer. “If I get a chance, I will again strike as a suicide bomber.”
Such ‘brainwashing’ shows the extent to which terrorists and militants are able to train unprotected and hapless youngsters to carry out devastating suicide attacks, and such training is based on the ability of militants to move about freely, as well as their aura of supremacy and legitimacy that they continuously remind the conservative, uneducated local populace about – that they are warriors of Islam, that they are fighting the true Jihad, and that all those who join their struggle will be blessed with the bounties of Paradise should they die fighting. This is why hundreds of young Muslims have been recruited by Muslim tribals, terrorists and militants, on being given money and direction by the Muslim operatives of Al Qaeda, to kill yet more Muslims in Pakistan, whether they belong to the Army, the police forces, or even the general populace.
It is not easy to exactly pinpoint the root cause of exploitation and ‘brainwashing’ of the young and impressionable suicide bombers, especially because their use in attacks becomes subject to context, circumstance, and ‘inspiration’ i.e. which specific entity wanted a certain place or person to be attacked (and hence, ordered and financed a suicide bombing). The factors responsible for transforming the youth of Pakistan into walking bombs ranges from appalling education standards and the absence of social security nets to the predominance of the ‘madrassa culture’ that replaces these critical foundations of society. But one thing is certain, and is evident from all past and present incidents: the ingrained belief of the suicide bombers – of being convinced that such mission are virtuous in nature and warrant a fee pass to heaven – is something that strikes at the very heart of Pakistan’s existence as an Islamic state, its use of religious zealots as proxies to fulfill a personal, political, economic and ideological agenda, and the existential situation of the Islamic Republic being itself attacked by jihadi’s.
The madrassa culture has lost its true essence and has now become a place where all kinds of hatred is spewed towards non-Muslims, and today, even against Muslim brothers who do not follow a particular sect of Islam. Anyone who deviates from this ‘self proclaimed’ path is a sinner and has no right to live, according to madrassa teachings as well as the beliefs of madrassa students. The government and people of Pakistan must decide what is the solution to terrorism and extremism in Pakistan; more troops, or more teachers?