The suicide attack caused 75 deaths, including 20 children, and over 200 injured. Islamabad imposed a crackdown on terrorism and closes the border with Afghanistan. Catholics fear violence even against the churches. Tomorrow will a youth march in Karachi.
Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church of Pakistan strongly condemns yesterday's attack against a Sufi temple in Sindh, which has killed at least 75 people and wounded more than 200 faithful. Among the victims there are also 20 children, targeted by a Islamic state militant while attending the performance of a ritual dance.
Meanwhile, the government has declared a state of alert in all major cities of the country and implemented a crackdown against terrorists, killing 37. Authorities also closed the border with Afghanistan and asked the Kabul government to deliver 76 refugee terrorists to its territory.
Yesterday a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town (about 200 kilometers from Karachi). This is the fifth attack in about a week: the first, on 13 February in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore, caused 14 victims; in the following days other bombs exploded in Quetta, Peshawar and Mohmand Agency.
Father Paulus Gill conducted prayers for the victims this morning at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Hyderabad 130 kilometers from Sehwan city.
"We are losing human values. What we are witnessing is the result when religion combines with politics. Just when government was announced that the final of their Twenty20 league Pakistan Super League will be held in Lahore as things are getting better, the terrorist showed their muscle", he told AsiaNews.
"Shrines have relatively low security due to round the clock visitors. Only dialogue can bring peace with religious fundamentalists, the extremism has crept in our society especially after Islamization by General Zia ul Haq who introduced religious and gender biases in Pakistan's laws. Now we are drowning and it will be long before peace prevails in Pakistan".
Meanwhile security forces have closed the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan for all sorts of communication indefinitely. Pakistan Army has asked Afghan Embassy officials to hand over 76 terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. AT least 37 terrorists have been killed in a nationwide security crackdown.
Father Abid Habib of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors fears churches will be next.
"We are getting messages and churches will be attacked now. The terrorists may be based in Afghanistan but they are being funded by Saudis. They follow Wahabi ideology which lauds the concept of jihad and urges hatred of infidels. Visiting shrines to them is idol worship. Where as people of Sindh province greatly honor their saints, many Hindus visited the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar", he saids
Sunil Kumar Founder chairman Voice of Peace VOP, an interfaith youth forum, plans to hold a protest against the attack this weekend at Karachi Press Club.
"We are in shock seeing bloodshed every day, the extremism has reached its peak. People now await the death toll after every incident. No religion or place is safe, people are being targeted everywhere", said the Hindu activist.
"Terrorist agencies are trying to divert public attention. Our nation must wake up and use all resources to save lives. The only solution lies in understanding and respecting diverse faiths and giving equal rights to non Muslim citizens. Our rulers have to learn from their mistakes".
The attack took place in the temple of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in the city of Sehwan. 20 children among the dead The militant chose time when the place was crowded to attend a ritual dance.
The explosion took place before sunset at the shrine of Shah Noorani, about 750 km south of Quetta. It is a place of pilgrimage from all over Pakistan and abroad. The faithful of Sufism are accused of heresy for rituals involving singing and dancing. Taliban extremists operative in the region and the Islamic State.
The latest is the eighth incident of violence in ten days. The bomb exploded in the city's commercial district, inside a building under construction. There are fears that some workers are still trapped under the rubble. A number of shops, banks and restaurants were also damaged. No one has yet claimed responsibility. There is little hope for a new military operation against the extremists.
The suicide attack in Sindh killed more than 80 people gathered in prayer. The National Action Plan against Terrorism was approved, but lacks the political will to put it into practice. "We must eliminate the Islamic religious element in the Constitution".
Local parishes are preparing for the period before Easter. In Hyderabad funds have been raised to help widows and their children. In Lahore, buses will take volunteers to visit the sick. In Karachi, catechism students, seniors, and children will take part in activities.