Christians all over the world celebrated Easter, but in Pakistan, the celebration turned into horror. A splinter of the Taliban allied with ISIS conducted a suicide bombing in a Lahore park where families of Christians had gathered to celebrate, killing at least 72 and wounding hundreds more. The terror group called Christians “our prime target”:
At least 72 people were killed and more than 320 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a busy park in Lahore on Sunday, officials said.
“Mostly women and children are killed and injured in the blast,” Lahore Police Chief Haider Ashraf said, adding that the park was busier than usual as local Christians marked Easter Sunday. “He chose a soft target and that’s why went towards women and children in the park.” …
“Members of the Christian community who were celebrating Easter today were our prime target,” TTP-JA spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told NBC News from an undisclosed location while using an Afghan cell number.
He added: “We didn’t want to kill women and children. Our targets were male members of the Christian community.”
That’s absolute nonsense. They could have targeted the men with a more precise method of attack, or at other places and times. They deliberately chose an Easter celebration because it would involve families at a time when their guard would be down. That is the cowardly nature of terrorism in general; it uses civilians as indiscriminate targets in order to use the horrors of war to force a surrender to the aims of whatever extreme ideological/theological agenda the terrorists espouse. They most certainly did want to kill women and children — in order to force Christians to either convert or flee.
Also, the bombing took place in an area of the park specifically set aside for women:
Local police chief Haider Ashraf said that the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bomber. Initial forensic investigation into the attack revealed that the suicide bomber had packed more than 20 pounds of explosives in his vest. Ball bearings, which are typically used in bomb attacks to maximise casualties were also found in the scene, Ashraf said.
“We can say it was a suicide blast, in which most of the Christian families and Muslim families who went to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park to enjoy the holiday were targeted. He said that the suicide bomber had denoted his explosives near an area marked off for women.
Pakistan’s mainly poor Christians say their faith marks them with an almost criminal status in the country, and they want the world to notice:
Islamabad’s Christians allege rampant discrimination by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League government. They say their small proportion of the population means they don’t stand a chance at the ballot box and are now demanding a voice.
Recently retired cook Rehmat Masih has lived in Islamabad for four decades. The 65-year-old offers a bleak assessment of life in a Christian slum.
“I think being Christian, in this place, this Pakistan, is a crime,” he said. “If we speak out, our corpses will be on the road.”
Masih lives in “100 Quarters,” a litter-strewn slum tucked between Islamabad’s posh Margalla and Hill Roads. It is named after the first 100 apartments granted to Christians by the government in the 1960s, but it has since grown and now houses more than 1,000 Christian families.
“They say that Islamabad is a great capital of a great nation,” said Masih, standing next to an overflowing drain. “But they let us live like this in middle of Islamabad. Officials drive by every day in BMWs and see this. Yet we are kept like this. Why?”
At least for now, Pakistan’s government has pledged to track down the terrorists behind this attack, and the Washington Post reports that the round-up of usual suspects has begun:
Security forces Monday arrested a “number of terrorist suspects and facilitators” in at least five raids in cities across Punjab province, where Lahore is located, according to an army spokesman. The spokesman, Gen. Asim Bajwa, said “a huge cache of arms and ammunition” was recovered in the operations, but did not say where the weapons stockpile was found.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif traveled to Lahore – in the eastern province of Punjab, one of his political strongholds – to visit the wounded in one of the city’s many hospitals, the premier’s office said. …
The government of Punjab province announced three days of mourning. A statement from the office of Punjab’s chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, who is the prime minister’s brother, pledged that the culprits would be brought to trial.
The Post also points out that TTP-JA broke off from the Afghan/Pakistan Taliban two years ago, only to return to the fold a year later. They have remained aligned with ISIS as well. The enthusiasm of the Pakistani government’s response to this outrage may well depend on which faction led this and which the Sharif government sees as a threat, and which they think they can turn to their own purposes.