Pakistan's 'city of lights' wakes up to a brutal reality after a March filled with terror
Tuesday 31 March 2009
Sundas Hurain shuddered when she woke to see gunmen rampaging around her city once again. At the beginning of the month, it was an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the heart of Lahore; yesterday it was an attack on a police training facility on the outskirts of town."It was absolutely horrifying," Ms Hurain, a law student, said. "I had tears in my eyes. When something happens so close to home, it hits you harder. It's difficult to feel safe right now.
Security is something that the residents of Lahore – Pakistan's cultural hub and second largest city, famed for its restaurants, colonial-era architecture, Mughal past and relatively relaxed social mores – used to take for granted. Until recently, terrorist attacks were considered a problem for different people, living near a different border.
But now as the militant threat advances across the country and into Punjab province, there are fears that the "city of lights" has become a principal target. "It's a feeling of bewilderment," said artist Salima Hashmi. "As a Lahori, you somehow associate events with being somewhere out there. Now it is becoming our own problem. It is a home-grown phenomenon, its patrons are right here."
Many Lahoris have been reluctant to face up to that reality. In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the apportioning of blame to Lashkar-e-Toiba – a militant group headquartered not far from Lahore – was given short shrift. But with March's twin attacks there is a slow realisation that Pakistan's own militant groups have turned inward.
"They want to convert this democratic country into a terrorist state," Abdullah Malik, a lawyer, noted with indignation. He wants the west to help Pakistan fight terrorism, but like many people, feels that there isn't enough recognition of the price that his country has paid. "We are the people who are suffering the most," he says.
Lahore's first suicide bombing was relatively late in coming: January 2008 when two dozen policeman were killed outside the High Court. However, in the 14 months since then, there have been large suicide bombings striking the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency and the Navy College. Smaller groups have targeted juice shops and a theatre, trying to scare off young couples and the city's liberals.
Many ruefully concede that Lahore is no longer Pakistan's safest city. "Today, no place is safe," said Yusuf Salahuddin, a leading socialite and the grandson of Pakistan's national poet, Muhammad Iqbal. "New York isn't safe. London isn't safe. Mumbai isn't safe. How can Lahore be safe?"
But after each terrorist attack, Lahoris bounce back with characteristic resilience. When the Marriott Hotelwas bombed in Islamabad, the sleepy capital seemed to slip into a coma. By contrast, the noisy, fume-choked streets of Lahore refuse to fall silent, even yesterday when terror struck right at its front door. "No matter what happens," said Sundad Hurain, "the city never dies."
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Lana Del Rey: 'I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry'
Peaches Geldof cause of death: 'Heroin addict' socialite had taken fatal dose of drug, inquest concludes
Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Was a Russian-made missile really parked in this quiet square?
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...
£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...