LAHORE: Terrorists targeted Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital on Monday midnight to “free or kill” their fellow, who was injured in Friday’s attack on Ahmadis’ worship place in Model Town, leaving at least five persons dead and six injured.
Some 10 Ahmadis and terrorist Moaz alias Amir Moavia were under treatment in the hospital when the terror attack took place at around 11.45pm.
Acting Lahore police chief SSP Chaudhry Shafiq Ahmed told Dawn that four terrorists wearing police uniform stormed the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) on the first floor and opened indiscriminate fire on the policemen deployed outside the entrance to guard the injured terrorist.
“The terrorists then entered the ICU block where they had an exchange of fire with policemen present there. Failing to clear the passage to reach Moaz, they managed to flee,” the SSP said.
He said an ASI, two constables and a man and a woman were among the dead while four others injured. He said that one of the terrorists was injured in the gunbattle. “The terrorists came to either kill or free Moaz but they failed,” he said.
Soon after the incident, Jinnah Hospital’s chief executive Prof Javed Akram had claimed that “12 people were killed in the attack”. However, his claim could not be verified from the city morgue as only five dead bodies were brought there.
Punjab IGP Tariq Saleem said: “It was the security arrangements that prevented the terrorists from succeeding in their plan. They have fled towards Hingerwal and we are after them,” he said and sounded optimistic that police would soon hunt down the terrorists.
It was business as usual in the major health facility of the city when doctors, paramedics, patients and their attendants ran for their lives after the terrorists forced their entry into it from the rooftop.
“I was in the emergency when I heard gunshots. We locked ourselves in the ward. The firing continued for about 10 minutes,” Jinnah Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Hasan said.
Dr Moazam who was present in the cardiology ward told Dawn that everyone was running for his or her life. “My patients suffered a shock and I have been trying to make them stable,” he said.
Police and other law-enforcement personnel rushed to the spot after having been alerted by the hospital doctors. They cordoned off the area and took positions. “By the time the police entered the hospital building equipped with automatic weapons the terrorists had fled,” a police official told this reporter.
“However, the police thoroughly searched the building and the adjacent Allama Iqbal Medical College area for over an hour,” he said. The hospital lights were switched off during the search operation.
The injured terrorist Moaz is being shifted to unknown place.
The attack on Jinnah Hospital put more pressure on the government of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to crack down on militants in Punjab.
Only a day earlier federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik had spoken in Lahore about the presence of militants in the province, indicating that a large number of them may be concentrated in ‘southern Punjab’. Mr Malik had held that these militants were born out of an alliance of convenience between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the sectarian groups that have been active not only in southern parts of Punjab but in fact all over the province.
This promptly brought the federal minister and his PPP government at the centre into confrontation with the PML-N set-up in Punjab.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was quick to reject Rehman Malik’s assertions. He went further by declaring that the mention of Punjab or its southern districts as a possible area for a clean-up operation was part of an “international conspiracy”.
The statements made in the wake of the Jinnah Hospital incident provided more proof of just how far apart the governments in Islamabad and Lahore stand on an issue that may have the gravest of consequences for the whole country.
Responding to remarks that the attack on the hospital may have been aimed at either eliminating or freeing an assailant of the Friday’s strikes against Ahmadis, Rehman Malik said it was not in his “notice” that the suspect was being treated at Jinnah.
This obviously suggested that he would have asked the authorities to keep the whereabouts of the suspect secret.
Ignorant as the federal minister did sound, his latest remarks were tantamount to an expression of distrust in the ability and the will of the Punjab government to tackle the fast growing monster of militancy. It was a sign that if no one else, the centre and Punjab were moving towards a showdown on what have come to be known as Punjabi Taliban.