2009 — the year terrorism changed the face of Lahore

* Madrassas, schools, public places all attacked by terrorists
* Provincial govt adds to fear with over-the-top ‘security measures’
* All entry points into city monitored, vehicles checked
* Defence analyst says govt’s measures adding to insecurity among masses
* Psychologist says child trauma cases doubled in 2009

By Rana Tanveer

LAHORE: The year 2009 will not soon be forgotten, as frighteningly frequent terrorist attacks and a general sense of insecurity among citizens changed the face of the city in a manner never seen before.

Every segment of society was affected after terrorism claimed an unprecedented number of lives and damaged a great deal of public property.

Attacked: Madrassas, shopping centres, educational institutions, public places and offices of law-enforcement agencies, none were spared the wrath of terrorists bent upon disrupting life in the cultural and historical heart of Pakistan.

This year saw a total of 12 terrorist targeting nine locations. There were 17 suicide bombings this year in addition to seven planted and timed device explosions. The terrorists not only spread fear and panic by conducting such attacks, but also fought a psychological war by making threatening calls to various commercial plazas and multi-storey buildings, which had to be evacuated every time such a threat was received.

Adding to misery: Unfortunately, the provincial government contributed to the panic that spread among an already frightened populace by taking visible, and in some cases, extreme steps to prevent a possible terrorist attack. One such move was the Punjab government’s decision to shut down all schools throughout the city for about two weeks.

These security measures have also changed the look of the city. Sandbag trenches have been set up in front of all educational institutions and government offices. Some trenches can also be seen along major roads, including The Mall.

Monitored: All six entry-points into the city are being monitored, with additional security personnel deployed in almost all major residential and commercial areas.

Security measures in and around police stations and security agencies’ offices were also enhanced. Police presence on roads was increased, with permanent pickets being set up at numerous spots in the city, and roads being permanently closed in some cases.

A force – the Quick Response Force – was formed to specifically cope and counter any terrorist activity in the city.

“All these steps taken by the government contributed to the prevailing sense of insecurity and fear among the masses,” said Ikram Sehgal, a defence analyst and former chairman of the All-Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA).

He said the cheap security technology used in various locations and institutes in the city had endangered the public.

Security purposes were again the reason cited for changing and moulding the structure of much of the buildings in the city. The boundary walls of all educational institutions, and some other buildings, were raised, with barbed wire being installed on all of them. Additional security guards, armed with metal detectors, could be seen in front of many buildings located in densely populated areas.

Double jeopardy: Dr Ayesha Sitwat, head of the Clinical Psychology department of the University of the Punjab, told Daily Times that she had been treating double the amount of child trauma cases as compared to the previous year, citing the wave of terrorism in the city as the reason for the increase.

Safia Latif, a citizen, told Daily Times that she did not feel at ease unless she personally dropped her son to his school due to the terrorist threats against educational institutions.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\01\story_1-1-2010_pg13_1

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