Distraught families Muslim and Christian affected by bombing close to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore (Image, EPA)
Pakistan Tehreek -e-Taliban Jamaat -ul-Ahrar (TTP JA) appears to have hardened its stance with the group’s latest suicide attack hitting families at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Punjab region during the Easter holiday week-end. At least 72 people were killed and over 300 injured on Sunday when an alleged suicide blast hit families at leisure in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Punjab region during the Easter holiday week-end. The explosion occurred in a car park close to a play area. The deceased included 29 children and 7 women. Although TTP JA stated their intent to target Christian families, according to some Pakistan media and reports coming from local hospitals, the majority of those killed appeared to be Muslim. Reuters reported,
“Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.
‘When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air,’ said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had come to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for a walk.”
Aftermath of suicide bombing, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore (Image http://www.news.cn)
According to Samaa TV, one young girl Afafa age 17 lost 13 members of her family in the attack, “Afafa was in the park along with her extended family when the blast occurred. She saw her parents and younger sister dying in front of her eyes and there was little she could do to save their lives.”
Calls went out on social media for blood donations which were quickly answered, blood of Christians going to Muslims and blood of Muslims going to Christians to save lives. When it mattered most many Pakistanis gave the most special gift of life to whoever needed it.
TTP claim of responsibility
Photo of suicide bomber who took the lives of Christian and Muslim families (Image via Ehsanullah Ehsan)
TTP JA statement admitting responsibility for the Lahore bombing was posted on a social media account in the name of TTP JA spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, it read,
“Martyrdom Mujahid, Salah ud din Khorasani
On 27th March 2016 on the occasion of Christian festival of Easter executed a martyrdom attack in Gulshan-e- Iqbal Park as per his wishes and to gain love of Allah sacrificed his life.
The responsibility of this is taken by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat- ul Ahrar.
Video will also be released soon Inshah Allah (God willing).
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat -ul Ahrar) “
Dawn media stated, “DCO Captain (Retd) Muhammad Usman said the head of the suicide bomber was recovered. Ball bearings were also found at the site.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave the following message reported in Express Tribune,
“It is imperative for us to win the war on terror. Our resolve as a nation and as a government is getting stronger and coward enemy is trying to hit soft targets.
Provinces should speed up intelligence based operation against terrorists. We must take this war to the doors of terror outfits before they are able to hit our innocent countrymen.”
Spokesman of “Jammat Ul Ahrar”, group claiming responsibility for Lahore bombing … account now suspended (Image via Harald Doornbos)
TTP JA threatened that war had come to the Prime Minister’s doorstep adding, “after the Lahore attack Nawaz Sharif has once again in a state of confusion narrated old sentimental words to give himself false consolation.”
Christians and Hindus are the largest minority groups in Pakistan, each representing about 1.6% of the population as highlighted by the BBC. Imran Khan, Chairman of political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said, “it is strictly against the teachings of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and basic principles of Islam.” Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury – serving the Church of England and worldwide Anglican Communion stated, “we pray for the victims of Lahore to the crucified God who brings hope in despair, whose love is with the victims, who promises justice.”
Khajeel Mag tweeted an image of the park showing how it looked before the blast,
This beautiful Gulshan-e-IQBAL Park crushed Today in Lahore. Request to pray for those who Martyrs
Facebook activated its safety check facility for those in the area to determine that they were harmed in the incident, however it was also received by those thousands of miles away. FB later apologized stating,
“Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay. This kind of bug is counter to our intent. We worked quickly to resolve the issue and we apologize to anyone who mistakenly received the notification.”
There was also advice to the media from Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). Khalid Khan tweeted the following post,
Many people tweeted their messages of shock, anger and condolence,
Raza Ahmad Rumi,
Bernie Sanders, US politician,
We are grieving today for the families affected by the deplorable attack in Lahore. No one should ever fear taking their children to a park.
10-year old boy survived in bomb blast but Lost his father, Mother, Sister & Brother. Do You Still think Boy has Survived?
“In pics Islamabad, chaos due to protest by Sunni Tehreek, pics via Nadeem” (posted by Khalid Khan)
There was also unrest in Islamabad when demonstrators breached the Red Zone on Sunday evening.
Teargas was fired by police and a bus set alight as crowds took to the streets to protest the recent hanging of Mumtaz Qadri for the murder of Salman Taseer. The Punjab governor became a target after he defended a Christian woman in prison for blasphemy. The charge of blasphemy is sometimes seen as controversial as it is a law which has been used at times to frame people where someone has harboured a personal grudge. Dawn media reported,
“The protesters led by Sunni Tehreek (ST) and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool (SAW) leadership had arrived in the capital on Sunday to attend Qadri’s chehlum presented a charter of demand before the government and announced to stay in the Red Zone unless the government accepts these demands, which include implementation of Shariah in the country and declaring Mumtaz Qadri a martyr.”
Attacks were carried out against the press in Karachi with protesters complaining with regard to limited media coverage of Qadri. A media van was allegedly set alight according to Khalid Khan Cyber Journalist.
TTP JA earlier attack
TTP JA also consider Qadri a martyr and recently claimed responsibility for a “retaliation” suicide bomb attack on a sessions court in the Shabqadar area of Charsadda (7th March) in which at least 15 people were killed and over 2 dozen others including women and children injured. See following link,
“Pakistan: TTP JA claim responsibility for blast at Shabqadar sessions court, retaliation for hanging of Qadri”
TTP JA Polio fatwa
TTP have also hardened their stance on polio recently issuing a fatwa against the vaccination, see article below.
“Pakistan Taliban TTP JA posts fatwa stating mistrust of vaccine and behaviour of CIA!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.