Saturday December 09, 2023

76 massacred at Qalandar’s shrine

By our correspondents
February 17, 2017

250 injured as suicide bomber hits devotees performing Dhamal inside shrine premises; a large number of women, children among the casualties; Daesh claims responsibility; political leadership condemns attack

SEHWAN/KARACHI: At least 76 people were killed on Thursday when a suicide bomber attacked the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif, injuring up to 250 others, hospital and senior police officials said.

The powerful blast took place inside the premises of the shrine as a dhamaal was taking place, with a large number of women and children said to be among the casualties.

“At least 76 were martyred,” said senior police officer Shabbir Sethar, adding that the death toll was likely to rise. Faisal Edhi, the head of Edhi Foundation, confirmed the death toll. “Forty-three men, nine women and 20 children are among the dead,” he said. Medical superintendent of Sehwan Hospital also confirmed the death toll.

Emergency was declared in the hospitals of Hyderabad, Dadu and Jamshoro. Police and security forces have cordoned off the area after the incident.Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Sindh Police AD Khowaja earlier said 70 people were martyred. Deputy Inspector-General (DIG), Hyderabad, Khadim Hussain Rind, said as many as 250 people were injured in the explosion, the latest in a series of terrorist attacks in the country.

Officials confirmed the suicide bombing took place inside the complex of the shrine, with eyewitnesses saying the explosion caused people to panic and triggered a stampede inside the crowded shrine.A large number of people from different parts of the province had gathered at the shrine when the blast took place.

Devotees throng the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate in a dhamaal and prayers. According to reports, the explosion occurred after devotees had gathered inside the premises of the shrine. A high number of casualties were feared because of the crowd gathered at the shrine.

This is not the first time a Sufi shrine has been hit by terrorists. In November last year, a suicide blast at the Shah Noorani shrine killed 52 people and injured more than 100Daesh, the Middle East-based militant group which has a small but increasingly prominent presence in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.

The high death toll at the shrine makes it one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent years. In August last year, at least 74 people, mostly lawyers, were killed in a suicide bombing of a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrine, dedicated to a 13th-century saint whose spirit is invoked by devotees in ecstatic daily dancing and singing rituals in Sehwan Sharif.

Thursdays are an especially important day for the local Sufis, meaning that the shrine was packed at the time of the blast.The political leadership condemned the suicide blast in Sehwan Sharif and loss of innocent lives in the attack.

PPP President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and said the patrons, facilitators and planners of the attack will be apprehended at all costs. He directed the Sindh government to hold an inquiry into the incident and why the security situation was not addressed. He instructed the elected representatives, party office-bearers and workers of PPP to reach hospitals and donate blood for the injured.

Zardari said the Bhutto family and the PPP are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. He prayed for the martyrs and early recovery of the injured.The Ameer of JI expressed sympathies with the bereaved families who lost their relatives in the tragic occurrence. Punjab Governor Rafique Rajwana condemned the attack and said the terrorists’ prime agenda was to weaken Pakistan but they wouldn’t succeed in their nefarious designs. He said the entire nation was united against terrorism.

Ameer International Khatam-e-Nabuwat Movement Dr Saeed Inayat Ullah, MPA Maulana Ilyas Chinioti and others condemned the incident while describing it a conspiracy to trigger sectarian violence in Pakistan. In a joint statement, they called for unity to foil evil designs of anti-Pakistan forces.

Secretary Information PTI Syed Sumsam Bokhari, President Central Punjab Region Abdul Aleem Khan and other leaders of PTI voiced concern over the terror wave in Pakistan. The PTI leadership expressed profound grief over the deaths of army Jawans as a result of a mine blast in Balochistan.

Former governor Ch Sarwar said the National Action Plan should be implemented today instead of tomorrow for the eradication of terrorism. He said it is the responsibility of the rulers to arrest the facilitators of terrorism along with the terrorists. Sarwar said terrorist strikes have aggrieved the whole nation, but they can’t dismantle the will of the whole nation and the entire nation is fighting against the terrorism and the time is not distant when terrorism will be eradicated from the country.

The PPP Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Governor Zubair Umar, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Quaid-e-Millet-Jafariya Agha Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi also condemned the terrorist attack at the premises of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine.

In their separate statements, they expressed deep sorrow and grief at the loss of lives and injuries in the blast. They prayed that Almighty Allah rest the departed souls in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved families to bear the loss with equanimity.