News / Asia

    Pakistan's PM Vows to Boost Counterterror Efforts After Lahore Blast

    An handout picture released by the Pakistan Press Information Department (PID), March 28, 2016, shows Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the nation at his office in Islamabad.
    An handout picture released by the Pakistan Press Information Department (PID), March 28, 2016, shows Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the nation at his office in Islamabad.
    Ayaz Gul

    Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to intensify counterterrorism operations in the wake of Sunday’s deadly suicide bombing in the eastern city of Lahore targeting Christians. At least 72 people, including about 30 children, were killed and 300 others were wounded in the blast at a crowded park.

    “I know terrorists are attacking soft targets like public places and parks, killing innocent citizens in desperation because security forces have deprived them of their hideouts, training facilities and terrorist infrastructure,” Nawaz Sharif said in a televised address Monday, vowing the mission to wipe out "these terrorists" will not be deterred by such attacks.

    A military spokesman said Monday that security agencies have conducted several operations based on initial leads and arrested “a number of suspect terrorists and facilitators” from areas in the provincial capital and two other cities (Multan and Faisalabad) of Punjab, the country’s most populous province. He shared no other details.

    A spokesman for a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban (Jamaatul Ahrar) claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing, saying it was aimed at Christians.

    Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park on Sunday, during funeral in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park on Sunday, during funeral in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.

    Sharif visits Lahore

    Prime Minister Sharif visited Lahore on Monday morning, where he chaired a meeting of top civilian and security officials. The prime minister also visited hospitals where victims are being treated.

    Later, the foreign ministry said Sharif was canceling his planned trip to Washington this week to attend a nuclear security summit due to the Lahore attack.

    "He [Sharif] underscored that such incidents further strengthen the government’s resolve to eradicate the menace of terrorism from its roots," a foreign ministry statement said.

    It said the Pakistani delegation to the Washington summit will now be led by the Minister of State and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Syed Tariq Fatemi.

    Eyewitness accounts

    Witnesses speaking to reporters Monday recounted how the blast rocked the park. 

    Ikram Arif said he was parking his motorcycle and was about to enter the park with a friend when they suddenly heard the sound of an explosion from inside. 

    "We rushed inside and saw bodies with blown-up heads and legs. Many injured people, men, women and children were lying there," he said, adding the first injured person he picked up was an infant around 6 months old.

    Eyewitness Mohammad Arshad criticized authorities for not ensuring proper security in and outside the park.

    "It was a very loud explosion, and moments later we saw a pool of blood with bodies and injured lying here and there. There was no proper security arrangement here," he added.

    International condemnation

    The United States condemned "in the strongest terms" the attack in Lahore. White House spokesman John Earnest said the attack was "grotesque, and the fact that you have an extremist organization targeting religious minorities and children is an outrage."

    He said even though the attack targeted Christians, "the fact of the matter is that based on the names that we're seeing now, the majority of the victims were actually Muslims."

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also released a statement strongly condemning the bombing and calling for "the perpetrators of this appalling terrorist act to be brought swiftly to justice, consistent with human rights obligations."

    He urged the Pakistani government to do its utmost to put in place protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals, including religious minority communities living in the country.

    Authorities have increased security in parks and other public locations across Pakistan following the Lahore carnage.

    Islamabad protest

    Meanwhile, several hundred Islamist activists were still staging a protest  Monday morning near the parliament in Islamabad, and refusing to disperse until their demands were met. 

    PHOTOS: Pakistan mourns Easter suicide bombing victims

    • Pakistani Christian women mourn the death of Sharmoon who was killed in a bombing attack, in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Eric John, bottom, who survived Sunday's attack, cries during the funeral of his cousin killed, in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Family members comfort a woman mourns the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park on Sunday, during funeral in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Pakistani Christian women mourn the deaths of their family members during a funeral service at a local church in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Pakistani Christian women mourn the death of a man killed form a bombing attack, in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Members of a civil society group light candles during a vigil for the victims of Sunday's suicide bombing, March 28, 2016 in Karachi, Pakistan.
    • People carry the coffin of Sahil Pervez who was killed in a bomb attack in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast that happened outside a public park on Sunday, in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park on Sunday, during funeral in Lahore, Pakistan, March 28, 2016.
    • Christian women pray during an Easter service at St Anthony's Church in Lahore, Pakistan, March 27, 2016.
    • Members of a civil society group light candles during a vigil for the victims of Sunday's suicide bombing, March 28, 2016 in Karachi, Pakistan.
    • A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of the Sunday's deadly suicide bombing in a park, March 28, 2016 in Lahore, Pakistan.
    • A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of Sunday's deadly suicide bombing in a park,March 28, 2016 in Lahore, Pakistan.


    Thousands of demonstrators had marched on the capital city late Sunday evening to protest the hanging of a man charged with murdering a provincial governor because he had called for reforming the country's Islamic laws against blasphemy. 

    The protesters, mostly activists of Islamic parties, rallied against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who gunned down Punjab's governor, Salman Taseer, in 2011 because the slain politician had called for blasphemy law reforms. 

    The demonstrators clashed with police and paramilitary forces while setting fire to private and government buildings. 

    The clashes wounded more than two dozen security personnel, prompting the government to deploy troops to protect the so-called Red Zone in Islamabad where mostly key official buildings, including parliament and foreign diplomatic missions, are located.

    The protesters were demanding, among other things, assurances that the government will not change the blasphemy laws. However, the deployment of troops acted as a deterrent and most of the crowd dispersed in the middle of the night. 

    WATCH: Video footage from scene of attack in Lahore

    Pakistan Mourns Deadly Easter Bombing Victimsi
    X
    March 28, 2016 1:49 PM
    Pakistan is mourning the deaths of at least 70 people in Sunday’s Taliban suicide bombing in the eastern city of Lahore targeting Christians. Hospital officials say up to 30 children were among the dead.

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    Comments page of 2
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    by: Anonymous
    March 29, 2016 2:31 PM
    "Sharif has vowed to intensify counterterrorism operations" What counterterrorism operations is he referring to exactly? Had there been counterterrorism operations in place, this would not have happened.

    “I know terrorists are attacking soft targets like public places and parks, killing innocent citizens in desperation because security forces have deprived them of their hideouts, training facilities and terrorist infrastructure,” Nawaz Sharif said in a televised address Monday, vowing the mission to wipe out "these terrorists" will not be deterred by such attacks.

    Who wrote this speech for Sharif - Kerry? This attack did not occur because they were deprived - they were afforded this opportunity by lack of leadership.

    by: medab1 from: usa
    March 29, 2016 12:46 AM
    How many billions will this cost the US taxpayer ?

    by: Michael from: San Diego
    March 28, 2016 11:21 PM
    There are les than 3% of the Christians left in Pakistan compared to the number in the state at the time it was created. They have relentlessly been murdered and jailed for "Apostasy." Anyone who thinks the Muslim religion is one of peace better think again. They are a cruel, vicious people. It is even more outrageous that the president has not even commented on this and continues to treat Pakistan as an ally when every indicator and fact shows that it is Pakistan that is a main factor in keeping he Afghanistan war alive.

    Part of being a president is the courage to confront the enemy when needed. This is entirely lacking in the one we've got.

    by: Dave from: NoneGiven
    March 28, 2016 11:10 PM
    Ok yes we will eradicate the terrorism and starting on Tuesday... Bwaaaa Har Har Har Haaaaa.... Ok, Ok, who am I kidding? We're friggin' PAKISTAN!!!! Ya, Ya, Ya, on Tuesday we will get back to blowing things up already! You should've seen your face! Doh, we totally had you at eradicate! Ha Ha Ha! Dat is one for us, you gotta admit you were totally fooled for at least a minute or two!

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    March 28, 2016 10:55 PM
    So, if Pakistan will admit that Islam is the reason for ALL terrorism in the world, then, and maybe then, will the world embrace that fact. If we are to believe that poverty, despair, anguish, tyranny, etc are just causes for committing violence, death, and hatred in the world then we must all face the facts that religions, all religions only foster separatists ideals and justifications for evil.

    by: Hashimi from: Afghanistan
    March 28, 2016 10:00 PM
    I extend my deepest condolence to all the families, who lost their be loved members in this inhuman act. We, Afghans suffering from last few decades and everyday, we hear same news from around Afghanistan. If we want to have a peaceful life than all those, who support mentally and physically should target regardless of good and bad Taliban or insurgents.

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    March 28, 2016 9:36 PM
    Pakistani Govt is incapable to provide At least safety and security to helpless and poor Pakistani. They are inefficient and do not know how to Govern. Ex President is living Lavish life in Dubai. When the purpose of Govt to make illegal money and then go abroad to live lavish life.
    Pakistani Govt and Army have strong connection with Terrorist but due to Handsome Bribe from Middle East, no body is willing to take action against them. How is it possible that Terrorists are killing every day Help less Pakistani as per their sweet will. These Terrorist killed more than 100,000/= Pakistani in the past 30 years. Every day Pakistani will listen Long List of Promise from Govt side but no action.
    We pray to God to protect and help Poor and Helpless Pakistani from Corrupt and Inefficient Management

    by: TF from: US
    March 28, 2016 6:52 PM
    The idea that Pakistan will do anything against the Taliban is wishful thinking. They are one and the same.

    by: Johnny from: Boston
    March 28, 2016 5:50 PM
    Eradicate? This is the country that introduced terrorism to the world.. if it gets eradicated in Pakistan 80% of terrorism on this planet will truly be subsided.

    by: julius from: eldoret KENYA
    March 28, 2016 1:48 PM
    terorists are just obeying what they have been tought and this is happening every day in the society .though muslims condemns it ,it is one of their pillars and they know it .let us teach them the truth as written in the Quran as they dont read it ,someone reads for them wrongly
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