By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian leaders in Pakistan have expressed shock and outrage that Islamic militants carried out a suicide bomb attack at a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta killing at least 70 and injuring 120 people.
Victims of Monday’s blast, Pakistan’s deadliest terrorist attack in years, included lawyers who had rushed there to protest and mourn the murder of a local bar-association leader.
The Khorasan branch of the Islamic State, a regional affiliate of the Mideast-based Sunni Islamist militant group, claimed responsibility for the August 8 carnage in phone calls to journalists. However a separate Pakistani militant splinter group,
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, also said it had carried out the bombing.
Christians told BosNewsLife that the explosion rocked the entrance to the hospitals emergency department where the body was held of
prominent lawyer Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was killed earlier in the day. Mourners, including colleagues and friends, had gathered
to pay their respects and to demonstrate against the murder amid wider concerns about Islamic extremism in the country.
Armed men, who were still unidentified, reportedly shot Kasi while he was on his way to work. The lawyer, who later died from his injuries, was the former president of the Balochistan Bar Association.
LAWYERS, JOURNALISTS, KILLED
Monday’s blast, in which officials said a bomber detonated a suicide vest, appeared to be timed to target the crowd of lawyers,
journalists and other civilians who had gathered outside the casualty ward of the city’s Civil Hospital.
Wilson Chowdhry, a prominent human rights activist and chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told BosNewsLife that the attack “shows little progress has been made since the bomb attack in Gulshan Park on Easter Day this year” in which many Christians died.
He said “many supporters” of the Jamaat Ul Ahrar group, which claimed responsibility for the Easter violence, were detained, but cautioned that the latest violence shows police is often arrives too late. “Reactive policing inspires no-one [but] simply serves to increase the death toll and violence meted out on innocent civilians in Pakistan – creating pain, anguish and polarization,” Chowdhry said.
He urged the government to tackle extremism. “What the people want is an incorruptible intelligence service that focuses on internal
espionage that successfully thwarts such attacks.”
Christian politicians said the bloodshed came only a five months after the attack in March by the same group of Islamic militants targeting Christians.
WISHING GOD’S COMFORT
Politician Asiya Nasir, a Christian from Quetta said in published remarks that he condemned “the blast at Quetta Civil Hospital’s Emergency Department in the strongest possible terms.” He noted that the “causalities include a large number of lawyers and two journalists.”
Nasir added: “May God comfort the families of those who have lost their lives in this heinous attack, and give wisdom and love for peace to those targeting innocent citizens.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s army commander, flew to Quetta to visit hospitalized victims. Sharif condemned the blast, expressing his “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives,” and said he planned to convene a special security meeting to address it.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael added that the killing of lawyer Kasi and subsequent bomb blast was “simply an act of evil, an atrocious act led by anti-Pakistan elements who must be stopped.”
He said Pakistan “is united against the scourge of terrorism, and all communities have already paid a heavy price owing to this malaise.” Michael pledged that the government would “pursue justice and strike against the terrorists.”
GOVERNMENT TO BLAME?
However Chowdhry argued that Pakistan’s instability “can only be blamed on the government” as it is “failing to tackle ongoing extremism.”
The rights activist said “Inculcation of hatred through
the curriculum of Pakistan has created a nation of bigots, and extremists, who justify their actions based on a false ideology.”
Chowdhry warned that a “lack of a strong inspectorate for schools means that [Islamic] madrasser education and twisted ideologies have made recruitment of impressionable minds into extremist groups a simple operation.“
Television footage of the bomb scene showed horrific scenes, with burned and bloody bodies of black-suited lawyers flung
across the hospital plaza.
Police and emergency crews tried to help survivors. Several journalists were also among the dead, reports said.
PREPLANNED ATTACK REPORTED
The attack was the deadliest in the capital of violence-plagued Baluchistan province since 2013, when bombings targeted the area’s Shiite Muslim and ethnic Hazara community. One bomb that detonated in a market that February killed at least 110 people.
“It seems it was a preplanned attack,” said Anwar ul Haq Kakr, a spokesman for the local government.
The U.S. State Department condemned both of Monday’s attacks.
“Today, terrorists targeted a hospital, as well as the judiciary and the media, two of the most important pillars of every democracy,” its statement said.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also denounced the bombing saying the targeting of mourners at a civilian hospital
was “particularly appalling.”