At least 72 people were killed and over 340 injured in a suicide blast on Easter Sunday at Gulshan Iqbal Park, Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, Pakistan, Because of Sunday and Easter’s celebrations, the park was packed and there were around 3,000 people at the time of blast. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the exit gate of the park where many Christians, mainly women and children, were celebrating Easter after Easter’s prayer services. So far, ten Christian families’ dead bodies have been identified. According to The News, the children were playing on swings and enjoying other recreational facilities available in the park along with their parents when they were hit at 6:35 pm on Sunday. Many eyewitnesses told media that there was no security in and around the park.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman of Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban has accepted responsibility for the deadly attack. “We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter,” he said in his message.
The Punjab government announced three days mourning in memory of blast victims, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting after the blast to review the security situation in the country.
This was not the first suicide attack on Christians in Pakistan, they have continuously under attack by terrorist groups because of their faith. According to Minority Concern, around 21 people were killed and more than 80 injured on 14 March last year, in two suicide attacks by Taliban at two churches in Youhanabad, a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore. After a year on, not even a single person has been brought to justice. On 23 September 2013, Taliban suicide bombers attacked the All Saints Church in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in which more than 80 were killed, and about 120 people were injured. The majority of them were women and children.
The alleged suicide bomber was identified as Mohammad Yousaf from district Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab. He studied in a madrasa in Lahore, and he was resided at the same madrasa for the last 8 years. The Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said on Monday that a number of alleged terrorists and their facilitators have been arrested in anti-terrorism raid conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan.
Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of the Minority Concern of Pakistan magazine and former National Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan.