Islamabad: One of the 10 terrorists involved in Saturday night's brazen attack on Peshawar airport had Western-style "tattoos" on his body, raising questions about the identities of those behind the assault.
Security officials said at least five of the 10 attackers involved appeared to be Uzbek nationals. But counter-terrorism officials are perplexed by the discovery of a demonic "tattoo" on the back of one of the terrorists.
"It's the first time I have seen tattoos on the bodies of terrorists," added the official, who has been part of several counter-terrorism operations in the tribal regions.
The image, though incomplete, appears to be a rendition of a Boris Vallejo character.
In the militant's case, the tattoo on his back is unfinished. One entire limb, strands of flowing hair and a smaller-headed monster appear to be missing.
Vallejo, a Peruvian-born American painter, works almost exclusively in the fantasy and erotica genres. Swords and monsters are some of his recurrent themes.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has already claimed responsibility for the attack. That is why this aspect has now added significance because according to religious scholars having tattoos on the human body is against the spirit and teachings of Islam.
"You cannot perform religious duties if you have tattoos on your body," said Prof Khursheed Ahmed, who has written several books on Islam.
Associated with Jamaat-e-Islami, Khursheed maintained that the Peshawar airport attack confirmed "our fears that some foreign hands are carrying out these terrorist attacks in the name of Islam." "A practicing Muslim cannot have such images on his body," he argued. Mufti Naeem of Karachi's Jamia Binoria seminary told The Express Tribune that there was no exception to drawing tattoos in Islam as shariah has clearly imposed restrictions on it.
"Yes, you can offer prayers but Islam does not permit drawing tattoos on bodies and has banned it," he said.
Does not allow
The head of Pakistan Ulema Council Allama Tahir Ashrafi also endorsed the view. "It was astonishing to see the body with a horrible face tattooed on his body. Islam does not allow drawing tattoos," he added. "This cannot be the body of a Muslim."
But a security official pointed out that tattoos on the bodies of terrorists exposed the TTP claims that they were fighting for Islam.
"We know their (TTP) true face. We have raided their dens and even found pornographic films and male potency drugs from there," he said.
When approached, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, said the authorities investigating the airport attack would certainly look into all possibilities.
"But it is premature to draw any conclusion at this point," Maj- Gen Bajwa said Tattoo experts say the image on the militant's body symbolises evil. "Skulls, in my opinion, are demonic representations, but only in visualisation. They represent strength, rebelliousness and serious drawbacks," said a Lahore-based tattoo artist.
"Mostly people who get such tattoos want to give out a message that they defy death, those who have seen death very closely, including criminals, gangsters and even rock stars," he said on condition of anonymity.
About the tattoo on the militant's body, he said, "It looks ten to 12 years old. The outlines, curves and shading clearly tell that it has not been made by an expert."