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The Peace Train Blast: Was Lashkar-E-Jhangvi Involved? - International Terrorism Monitor

The Peace Train Blast: Was Lashkar-E-Jhangvi Involved? - International Terrorism Monitor

Author: B. Raman
Publication: South Asia Analysis Group
Date: February 21, 2007
URL: http://www.saag.org/papers22/paper2145.html

It would seem that while the majority of the 68 passengers killed in the explosions-cum-fire in two coaches of the Samjotha Express (Peace Express) at Deewana, near Panipat, on the night of February 18, 2007, were Pakistani nationals, more Hindus than Muslims were killed. This fact emerges from a scrutiny of the proceedings in the Pakistan National Assembly relating to the carnage.

2. According to a statement made by Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar in the National Assembly on February 20, 2007, the identities of 49 of the 68 persons, who perished in the fire, have been established so far, Twenty-seven of them were Hindus and only 22 were Muslims. The Pakistani authorities have released to their media the identifying particulars of 13 of the Muslims, who perished. All of them were Mohajirs----eight from Karachi and five from Hyderabad, Sindh. They have not so far released the identifying particulars of the Hindus, who perished. It would seem that in the affected coaches, many Pakistani Hindus were returning home in Sindh after visiting their relatives in India.

3. The Pakistani authorities have also released the identifying particulars of 10 passengers, who have survived, but are undergoing treatment for burn injuries in a Delhi hospital. Of these, five are from Pakistani Punjab, three are Mohajirs from Karachi and two from Rajasthan. Of the five from Punjab, two are Hindu residents of Sialkot.

4. However, Marianna Baabar, the well-known Pakistani journalist, has stated as follows in an article in the "News" of February 20, 2007: "Pakistan has announced that Indian officials have informed the Pakistan authorities that out of the 68 victims 49 have been identified among which 22 belonged to Pakistan and 27 were from India." She has not identified the victims by religion.

5. In addition to other aspects, the investigating officers should also look into the following: Were the Hindus, who perished, from Sindh? Were they and the Mohajirs (Muslims), who died, travelling in a group? Were they the specific targets of the explosions-cum-fire? Apart from targeting the peace process, was this also an attempt to prevent the Hindu residents of Sindh from returning to their homes and to prevent their relatives in India from visiting them in Sindh? Was the Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia Sunni extremist organisation, involved? The Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain, which is part of the ruling coalition in Sindh, has been strongly opposed to the LEJ. The LEJ retaliated in Karachi in April last year by killing in an explosion all the Barelvi leaders of the Sunni Tehreek, many of whom were Mohajirs from India. Recently, the LEJ has stepped up its activities in Pakistan and its involvement has been suspected by the Pakistani authorities in many recent attacks of terrorism or suspected terrorism. It specialises in suicide terrorism with the help of human bombers. It does not have much expertise in timed or remote-controlled explosions---at least not to the same extent as the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The majority of the Shias killed by the LEJ in Sindh since 2001, were doctors, who or whose parents had migrated from India. The LEJ, which is a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), has not so far operated in India.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi and presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com)


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