Security of our elected representatives needs to increase because terrorists are aware of their vulnerabilities
In another attack on the offices of a democratically elected public servant, eight people died and 13 were injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body on October 14 in Taunsa tehsil. The Member of the National Assembly, Sardar Amjad Farooq Khan, who was the presumed target, was not present at the time, but his office was busy with ordinary daily business and became a slaughterhouse. It is two months since former Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada was murdered in his office in Attock, also by a suicide bomber who seemingly gained easy access to the premises. The government has recently announced that it will be cracking down on extremism in south Punjab within the context of the National Action Plan. Clearly that crackdown has yet to impact on the operational capacities of those bent on carnage as at Taunsa.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and it is difficult to gauge precisely what the attackers — this was not a lone wolf, the bomber will have been a part of a group — hoped to gain. It was unlikely to have been the result of a personal grudge, sectarian perhaps or even ideological — but if it was designed to dissuade people from public life, then it will be a signal failure as evidenced by the election of the son of Shuja Khanzada in the by-election that followed his assassination.
What the bombing does yet again bring into sharp focus is the need for an urgent review of the culture of ‘access’ that is the bedrock of much of political life. Constituents expect to be able to turn up at the offices of their elected representatives and bring their pleas and grievances to them — it is the South Asian way. Security is often absent or perfunctory, with the offices of the national and provincial assembly members often wide open and the softest of targets. This needs to change, and quickly, if there is not to be a rolling cull of assembly members. Security — their own — needs to move up the agenda of our elected representatives because the terrorists are more aware of their vulnerabilities than they are.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.