I have just completed the daily routine of calling my extended family in Peshawar to check up on their welfare. The deadly blasts in Peshawar has unsettled every one. My extended family mostly resides in the older parts (the walled city) of Peshawar, which has been a target of suicide bombers in the past few years.
The frequency of suicide bombings in the recent past has increased manifold, partly in retaliation to the military’s offensive against the Taliban in the Waziristan agency in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas.
A deadly blast today in Meena Bazaar in Peshawar, a market famous for fashion merchandise for women, has killed approximately 95 civilians, mostly women and children. [BBC updated the death toll to 118 on October 30.] More deaths may follow as the number of gravely injured is large. The Lady Reading Hospital located in the inner city of Peshawar and steps from my ancestral home, has been overwhelmed with the bombing victims that have been pouring in since the start of October.
The rise in indiscriminate violence against the civilians in Pakistan has risen significantly. Most targets in Peshawar have been soft targets, i.e., women, children, and other ordinary citizens. In Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad however, the targets have been military and other law enforcement personnel.
It is indeed ironic that public schools in most of Pakistan have been closed because of the threat posed by the militants. However, the religious schools, known as madrassahs, which have been preaching violence, are open for business.
The following footage is borrowed from BBC World News.
Today’s blast took place in the old (and largely low-income) part of the city which is mostly inhabited by Peshawaris, who unlike Pushtuns are liberal in their outlook and speak Hindko. The blast on October 09 in Khyber Bazar, which killed almost 50 civilians, also took place in the older part of the town and within walking distance of the October 28 blast.
What concerns me is that the bombers are targeting parts of Peshawar that are inhabitaed largely by the locals (Peshawaris) and not by the Afghan refugees. There are as many Afghan refugees in Peshawar as there are locals. A large number of Afghan refugees have taken up residences in well-to-do-parts of the city, such as Hyatabad. Surprisingly, Afghan dominated parts of Peshawar have to date avoided bombings.