14 bus passengers killed in Balochistan terror attack

Pakistani security forces have been targeting terrorists in Balochistan since 2004. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019

14 bus passengers killed in Balochistan terror attack

  • Assault is second major attack in southwestern province in less than a week
  • Minorities have been the victims of a string of attacks in Balochistan

KARACHI: Gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials killed at least 14 people on Thursday after forcing them off buses traveling between Karachi and the coastal town of Gwadar, the government said.

The attack in southwestern Balochistan comes less than a week after a suicide bomb ripped through an outdoor market in the province, killing at least 20 people, half of them from the ethnic Hazaras Shiite minority.

Minorities have been the victims of a string of attacks in Balochistan, many carried out by Taliban and sectarian militants. Baloch separatists have also targeted what are termed “settlers” from other areas of Pakistan, particularly Punjab, the country’s most populous and richest province.

Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella outfit formed by three separatist groups — the Balochistan Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation Army and Baloch Republican Guards — claimed responsibility for the attack, according to local TV channels and social media posts.

“Those who were targeted carried (identification) cards of the Pakistan navy and coast guard, and were killed after they were identified,” a BRAS statement said.

Haider Ali, provincial home secretary, told the AFP news agency that a naval official and a member of the coast guard were among the dead. The Pakistan army’s military wing could not be reached for comment.

Separatist groups have been waging an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned Thursday’s attack and said he had “directed the authorities to make every possible effort to identify and to bring the perpetrators of the barbaric act to justice.”

Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, Balochistan’s information minister, said about 50 gunmen wearing uniforms of the paramilitary Frontier Corps stopped at least three buses in the Buzi Top area on the Makran coastal highway.

“They (terrorists) forced passengers to disembark and took aside 16 passengers with addresses of Punjab province on their national identity cards,” Buledi said. “They gunned down 14 and two managed to escape.”

The bodies of the 14 dead have been taken to a navy hospital in Ormara, the minister said, but were yet to be identified.

“Heartless terrorists have crossed all limits of barbarity by killing innocent passengers,” said Jam Kamal Khan, Balochistan chief minister.

In May 2015, gunmen wearing security forces uniforms killed at least 22 passengers on buses traveling from the western city of Quetta to Karachi.

Militants and Baloch separatists frequently target civilians and security forces in Balochistan, which is at the center of the $62 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor that Pakistan is building with Chinese loans.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”