At least 55 namazis, including the Imam-e-Jumah (leader of Friday prayers) Irshad Khalili, were killed and over 180 injured (as claimed by hospital staff based on admissions) in a suicide bomb attack during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque commonly called as Imam Bargah in Qissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar’s Kucha Risaldar area. Several people injured are reportedly critical.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan’s Special Assistant Barrister Saif confirmed that the explosion was a suicide attack. There were two offenders who entered the mosque and then engaged in an exchange of fire with the security forces, following which one attacker was killed by the police. An eyewitness identified a person dressed in black as the suicide bomber, saying he entered the mosque, shot and killed the security guard first and then fired five to six bullets at the police. Subsequently, he rushed towards the main hall and blew himself in front of the pulpit.
Separately, a local person claimed that despite residents urging for tighter security due to a recent hand grenade attack in the area, this suicide bombing was neither anticipated nor prevented. The mosque has apparently always been a key target of the terrorists, although no group has claimed this attack so far.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and ordered to provide immediate medical aid for the wounded. Interestingly, the suicide attack took place a day after DG ISPR Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar denied all reports about former DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed (recently posted in Peshawar as Corps Commander) networking with opposition members to foil the proposed no-trust movement against the Prime Minister.
In a press interaction, he firmly clarified that the military establishment was not involved in politics and does not indulge into speculations. The suicide explosion, however, has put a question mark on the capability as well credibility of Faiz Hameed to engage TTP for peace. It is commonly believed that he will now be targeted for indulging in local politics and not paying the required attention towards the TTP issue.
In reaction to the suicide attack, vlogger Aniq Nazi reminded his audience that this is a similar pattern in which TTP has launched its series of attacks in the past. He pointed out the change in the TTP strategy, which has shifted towards security forces. He strongly questioned the PTI government on its security measures for the people and criticized Chief Minister Mehmood Khan for wasting resources to save the Imran Khan-led government.
Prominent Journalist Talat Hussain termed the suicide attack as “disaster”. He took this opportunity to criticize the government which according to him only pretends to be in-charge of its affairs. He further claimed that terrorism could take place anywhere, but it is most likely to happen when decision makers are clueless on governance.
Meanwhile, Kamran Khan from Dunya News termed the suicide attack as the “biggest terrorist attack during Imran Khan’s tenure”.
In a ‘Naya Daur’ programme organised particularly for this attack, Najam Sethi reacted strongly claiming the return of a new wave of terrorism by TTP, which was temporarily suppressed with the military operations. The Pakistan government has failed to utilise the Afghan Taliban to bring peace at home and now after a brief ceasefire the TTP has returned in full force. There has been over 50 terror incidents in the last one month. In this context, Sethi states that there is a concerted effort in destabilising Pakistan and CPEC projects, along with increasing insurgent activities in Balochistan with vulnerable border issues.