The death toll from the attack on a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines area a day earlier rose to 92 on Tuesday after more bodies were recovered from the attack site, a spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) confirmed.
On Friday, 59 people, mostly police officials, were martyred and over 150 were injured after an explosion ripped through a mosque in Peshawar’s Red Zone area.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. It later distanced itself from it.
In a statement issued today, LRH spokesperson Muhammad Asim said that all the deceased persons have been identified, while 57 of those injured are receiving treatment at the facility.
He added that a total of 158 injured people were brought to the hospital on Monday and most of them had been sent back home after medical aid.
Meanwhile, Rescue 1122 spokesperson Bilal Faizi said that a rescue operation at the blast site was underway for the past 18 hours.
“This morning we are going to remove the last part of the collapsed roof so we can recover more bodies, but we are not hopeful of reaching any survivors,” he said.
On the other hand, Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan said that more than 90 percent of the victims were policemen, between 300 and 400 of whom had gathered in the compound’s mosque for prayers.
Wajahat Ali, a 23-year-old police constable who survived, said that he had lost all hopes for survival. “I remained trapped under the rubble with a dead body over me for seven hours,” he told AFP from the LRH on Tuesday.
The nature of the blast yet to be determined
A police report issued after the attack, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said the explosion occurred inside the main hall of a mosque — which has a capacity of 300 to 350 men — located in the Police Lines area.
The locality comprises headquarters of the Capital City Police, Frontier Reserve Police, Elite Police Force, Counter Terrorism Department, Tele Communication Branch, RRF and SCU, etc, it stated.
The statement said that the blast caused the roof of the mosque to collapse and a rescue operation was underway by the Pakistan Army and Rescue 1122, for retrieval of casualties.
“A severed head has been recovered from inside the debris. The use of explosives in the incident has been confirmed, while other factors are being evaluated to confirm the nature of the blast,” it said.
The report added that suicide bombing could not be “ruled out” and investigation by various teams was underway.
Funeral prayers for police martyrs offered
Separately, funeral prayers for six policemen, including deputy superintendent of police Arab Nawaz and Ismatullah, were offered earlier today at the Police Lines area.
On Monday night, collective funeral prayers for 27 police martyrs were offered in Peshawar’s Police Lines area with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Chief Mauzzam Jah Ansari, army officers, and officials of civil administration in attendance.
After the prayers, the coffins of the martyrs — lined in a row and draped with the national flag — were sent to their hometowns for burial with official protocol.
Speaking on the occasion, KP IGP Mauzzam Jah Ansari said that the KP police were always ready to sacrifice their lives for the protection of people’s lives and property.
“As the head of this force, I salute the police officials who lost their lives in the deadly blast. These martyrs are our real heroes and their sacrifices will not be in vain,” he said, adding that the bereaved families would not be abandoned and their welfare would be the “prime responsibility” of the KP police.
Day of mourning in KP
On Monday evening, Mohammad Azam Khan, Caretaker Chief Minister of KP, declared a day of grieving throughout the province to honour the victims of the most severe attack of the year.
Remarking on the mourning, Khan stated the nation’s flag will be at half-mast in unison everywhere in the province. Moreover, he assured the bereaved families that the government will not abandon them during these trying times resulting from the awful incident.
Rabbani demands a parliamentary inquiry into TTP’s ‘rehabilitation’ policy
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani on Tuesday demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the previous government’s “rehabilitation policy” of the proscribed TTP.
Condemning the Peshawar bombing in a Senate session, he stressed that Pakistan needed to review the causes of the rise in terrorism. “The TTP’s rehabilitation policy, which was initiated by the [previous] government, is the foundation of this.”
After the fall of the US-supported Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan in 2021, the Afghan Taliban facilitated peace talks between the government and the TTP.
While negotiations with the banned group reportedly began in October 2021 under the PTI government’s watch, the process continued in fits and starts when the Shehbaz Sharif government took over.
In response, the banned outfit declared a ceasefire and stopped its attacks on security forces, extending the truce in May. The government had also sent delegations of tribal elders and ulema to Kabul in order to persuade the TTP to end its activities and surrender its weapons.
The months-long negotiations, however, remained inconclusive and ultimately ended in November last year. Major sticking points included the TTP’s demands to roll back the merger of the erstwhile tribal areas with KP, release hardened terrorists, as well as the group’s refusal to lay down their arms. These were obvious red lines the state could not let the militants cross.
Addressing the upper house of Parliament today, Rabbani recalled that when the Taliban returned to Afghanistan, some thousands of people with weapons were allowed to enter Pakistan.
“It was said that they are good Taliban and they will work according to the law and Constitution […] it was said they will be rehabilitated,” he said.
The senator pointed out that neither the public nor Parliament was taken into confidence over the matter. “Even at that time, Parliament had said that a joint session should be called and all these things should be presented before it so that the public’s opinion could be brought forward.”
Rabbani went on to say that permission was also not taken from the National Security Committee, instead, it was just told that negotiations with the TTP were underway.
“The negotiations were outsourced to a jirga. PPP and ANP had strong reservations about them,” he said, demanding that a parliamentary inquiry should be conducted into the matter.
The senator also said that the terrorism policy should be discussed in the joint sitting of the Parliament on Feb 8.
“All the stakeholders and political parties should be called to the Parliament for a dialogue. This is the question of life and death but parties are busy in doing politics,” he added.
Sherry calls for the implementation of NAP
In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, Climate Change Minister and PPP leader Sherry Rehman called for the swift implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) and national unity.
“The nation, all political parties, and every partner should stand united in the fight against terrorism. The country cannot afford further division and terrorism,” she said.
Rehman said that terrorists got a chance to reorganize due to the “unclear policy of the previous government”.
“Now Imran Khan is saying that his government wanted to resettle the Taliban in KP. Such irresponsible statements are an attempt to create a soft corner in terrorist organizations,” she said, adding that the PPP had serious concerns over the new wave of terrorism before the elections.
Earlier this month, the PTI chief had said that his government had planned to resettle banned TTP fighters in Pakistan’s tribal districts with the help of the Afghan Taliban, but the plan hit a snag owing to the non-cooperation of provinces.
“The government had planned to relocate at least 5,000 TTP fighters and their family members which amount to about 35,000,” he had revealed in a virtual seminar, adding that the plan did not materialize as provinces refused to foot the bill.
Surge in terrorism
Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country has worsened, with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.
Since the talks with the TTP broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP.
On January 22, a police vehicle narrowly escaped a bomb blast in Peshawar’s Badaber area. A day earlier, a policeman was martyred and two others were injured when unidentified assailants attacked a police post in Dheri Zardad locality of Charsadda.
On January 14, a deputy superintendent and two constables were martyred when militants, armed with automatic assault weapons, targeted the Sarband police station on the outskirts of the province’s capital, Peshawar late at night.
With additional input from APP, AFP