–4 security personnel martyred, 7 persons injured as Sindh police put up a fierce fight
–Foreign minister, PM’s NSA, Sindh Rangers DG suspect Indian involvement; president, PM, COAS laud security personnel
KARACHI: Four security officials were martyred while four terrorists were killed when the heavily armed assailants attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) building here on Monday morning.
According to a police statement, one sub-inspector and three security guards were martyred while seven persons, including three police officials, received injuries in the fierce gun-and-grenade attack in the high-security zone that also houses the head offices of several banks.
The attack was claimed by the proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), an Afghanistan-based terrorist organisation, through an email sent to multiple journalists. The outfit had also attacked the Chinese consulate in Karachi in 2018.
The BLA has been critical of Chinese projects in Balochistan, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In 2016, A Chinese consortium comprising three exchanges — China Financial Futures Exchange (the lead bidder), Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange — bought 40 percent strategic shares in the PSX in a deal valued at Rs8.96 billion ($85 million). The attack can be an act of retaliation against increasing Chinese presence in the port city of Gwadar and elsewhere in the province.
According to details, the attackers, who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, reached the PSX entrance a little after 10am in a Toyota Corolla car and opened fire. A grenade attack was also carried out at the main gate of the building.
Police said that advanced weaponry, hand grenades and explosive material was recovered from the dead terrorists’ custody. Officials of the Bomb Disposal Unit also arrived at the scene of the attack and scoured the site, including the vehicle used by the terrorists, for any explosive material.
Sindh Rangers Director General Omer Ahmed Bukhari, during a press conference, said that the terrorists were eliminated within eight minutes. He told reporters that the attackers arrived at the scene in a car at 10:02am and they were killed by security forces by 10:10am.
Once the attackers were killed, security personnel carried out a clearance operation and normalcy was restored to the area within 30-35 minutes.
He said that the terrorists had planned a long assault, that included bloodshed and holding people inside the building hostage. All the attackers were equipped with AK47s, hand grenades and food.
Bukhari added that the possibility of the involvement of foreign agencies, especially India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), cannot be ruled out, saying that such attacks are not “stand-alone incidents” and cannot take place without the aid of “outside intelligence agencies”.
“Straightaway, I can assure you that this terrorist incident cannot have taken place without [the help of an] outside agency. And among them, RAW’s frustration is apparent to all of you,” he said.
Responding to a question, Bukhari denied the suggestion that the attack represented an intelligence failure, adding that security forces’ response was “in place” and the militants “could not achieve any of their motives”.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon also backed Bukhari’s statement, saying that since the attack on Chinese consulate, there have been other attempts that were foiled by security agencies. He said that it was a triumph for the country’s security forces as they had responded promptly and thwarted the motives of the attackers.
“We were prepared when they came, we had a good response, we had good coordination with intelligence,” he said.
Bukhari said that the militants may have wanted to show that they have the ability to target high-profile places but they had been humiliated because they were eliminated within minutes. The Sindh Rangers DG said that investor confidence in the country had increased.
‘TRADING DID NOT STOP EVEN FOR A MINUTE’:
PSX Board Chairman Sulaiman S. Mehdi said “trading didn’t close even for a minute”.
“There is no doubt that this was a terrorist attack. I want to thank the security guards who embraced martyrdom for their service. The response of police and security forces was unbelievable. Our personal guards deterred the terrorists until police came in; they were not allowed to enter the building at all,” said Mehdi.
Around 1:20pm, the benchmark index at the PSX was up 0.31pc or 104 points at 34,044.
PSX Managing Director Farrukh Khan termed the attack “unfortunate” and praised the security forces for their timely response.
He said the number of people in the compound was lower than normal — usually close to 6,000 — since many employees were working from home due to Covid-19. He added that the terrorists were intercepted outside the entrance and only one of them had entered the compound, and that too “only a few steps”.
PSX RECEIVED THREAT SIX MONTHS AGO:
A source, on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today that the PSX administration received threats approximately six months ago.
“They increased the security, asked for additional support from Sindh Rangers. However, as time went on, I am assuming the security got lighter and the security may have stepped down a notch. This attack may have something to do with that,” the source added.
RAW HAND SUSPECTED:
While strongly condemning the attack, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a statement paid tribute to the security personnel who lost their lives.
He suggested that India was involved in the deadly attack, recalling that he had stated after an attack in Waziristan that New Delhi had activated its “sleeper cells” in the country. The circumstances of today’s attack, if examined, “will lead to the same sleeper cells”, Qureshi added.
“India cannot tolerate peace in Pakistan,” the minister said, adding that India was involved in the attack on Pakistani troops as well.
He said India was being “exposed” before the world, including through its confrontation with China in Ladakh and its oppression of people in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Qureshi said Pakistani agencies are “fully alert” to all threats. “We will foil all Indian strategies [and] further expose it in front of the world,” he added.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf tweeted: “Make no mistake, today’s attack in Karachi is state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan.”
He said the world “must wake up to suicidal tendencies of this destabilising actor that is finding distractions to overcome its own failures and embarrassment”.
“Our warnings have come true repeatedly. Whether on demographic re-engineering in #Kashmir or sponsored terrorism against Pakistan,” he added, without naming India.
In a later tweet, Yusuf called upon the international community to “publicly call out and condemn countries” that perpetrate terrorism against Pakistan.
“There is an established link between BLA, an international listed terror organisation, and India, a state led by [a] fascist government that has again perpetrated terrorism in Pakistan through its proxies,” he wrote.
President Dr Arif Alvi condemned the terrorist attack.
In a statement, he said Pakistan is determined to root out terrorism from its soil and terrorists will never succeed in their nefarious designs.
The president paid a rich tribute to security personnel, who foiled the terrorists’ bid by putting their own lives in danger. He said the role of security forces in overcoming terrorism and eradicating it is worth appreciation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and said the “whole nation was proud of its soldiers who bravely fought off the enemy”, his assistant on political communication, Shahbaz Gill, said through a tweet.
وزیراعظم پاکستان عمران خان کی کراچی سٹاک ایکسچینج پر دہشت گردی کہ حملہ کی مذمت- سیکورٹی اداروں کے جوانوں نے بہادری سے دشمن کا مقابلہ کیا اور اس حملہ کو ناکام بنایا۔ پوری قوم کو اپنے بہادر جوانوں پر فخر ہے۔ شہداء کے لواحقین سے دلی ہمدردی اور زخمیوں کی صحتیابی کے لئیے دعا گو ہوں-
— Dr. Shahbaz GiLL (@SHABAZGIL) June 29, 2020
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa paid tribute to the PSX security guards “who sacrificed their lives as first responders vigilantly checking terrorists’ entry to PSX [and] foiling a major terrorist incident”, according to a tweet by the military’s media wing.
He also lauded the “prompt, effective and integrated response” of Rangers and Sindh Police, which he noted resulted in the terrorists being eliminated in “shortest possible time”.
“With [the] support of our resilient nation, we will foil all efforts of enemies aimed at destabilising hard-earned peace achieved through sacrifices of our martyrs,” the ISPR quoted Gen Bajwa as saying.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Asim Saleem Bajwa said that it was encouraging to see first responder, the police, take on terrorists so bravely and professionally in the attack.
“It gives us confidence we have built capacity to beat back the menace effectively. Bravo Pakistanis-love our resilience, prayers for martyred/injured,” he added.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the attack was “akin to an attack on national security and economy”. “Anti-state elements want to take advantage of the virus situation,” he said in a statement.
Shah also lauded the “prompt action” by police and Rangers and directed all law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said: “We shall protect Sindh at all costs.”
Strongly condemn the attack on PSX aimed at tarnishing our relentless war on terror. Have instructed the IG & security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators are caught alive & their handlers are accorded exemplary punishments. We shall protect Sindh at all costs.
— Imran Ismail (@ImranIsmailPTI) June 29, 2020
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tweeted that the “cowardly” attack was thwarted by the “brave and timely action by Sindh Police”.
“All Pakistanis are grateful to Sindh police for not only saving so many live[s] but successfully defending the nerve centre of Pakistan’s economy.”