Christians leaders condemn the attacks and call for stronger action against terrorists
By Dan Wooding, Founder ASSIST News Service
QUETTA, PAKISTAN (ANS – August 9, 2016) — A suicide bomb attack at a hospital in Quetta, South West Pakistan on Monday (August 8, 2016), has killed at least 70 people. Officials have also stated that a further 120 were injured in one of Pakistan’s most deadly terrorist attacks.
According to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), the attack took place near the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department where the body of a prominent lawyer, Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was killed in a gun attack only hours earlier, was being brought out.
Mourners had gathered to pay respects to their colleague and friend, many of them were from the legal fraternity of Quetta and wider Pakistan.
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban named Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has already declared responsibility for the attack and for the murder of Mr Kasi who was the President of the Balochistan Bar Association. He had vocally opposed the gun and bomb attacks on civilians and the targeting of lawyers by the Taliban.
“In doing so Mr. Kasi had made himself their main target and he has received many threats against his life,” said a spokesperson for the BPCA (http://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/).
On Monday morning, two unidentified men opened fire at Advocate Kasi’s car near Quetta’s Mengal Chowk on Manno Jan Road as he left his for the main court complex in Quetta. Mr. Kasi died on his way to the hospital and huge media coverage led to a large gathering at the hospital from visitors desiring to pay their last respects.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks. We will release a video report on this soon,” the group’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in an email.
Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, also claimed responsibility for the attack.
“A martyr from the Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] detonated his explosive belt at a gathering of justice ministry employees and Pakistani policemen in the city of Quetta,” the armed group’s Amaq website said.
The blast happened at the gate of the emergency room in the morning.
Pakistani media said that journalists were among the victims, with at least two cameramen killed. One cameraman was named by local media as Aaj TV’s Shehzad Khan.
The other was Mehmood Khan of Dawn News, who had in the past worked for Al Jazeera. His colleague Sumaira Jajja wrote on Twitter that Khan, a father of seven children, started out as a security guard before joining Dawn as an officer worker to then become a cameraman. He had planned to do a master’s degree in journalism.
BPCA has told the ASSIST News Service that Christian politicians have spoken out against this attack that comes only a five months after the attack in March by the same group targeting Christians.
Asiya Nasir, a Christian politician and member of the national assembly, who hails from Quetta, said: “I condemn the blast at Quetta Civil Hospital’s Emergency Department in the strongest possible terms. The casualities include a large number of lawyers and two journalists. 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.”
Kamran Michael, the Federal Minister for Human Rights, also voiced grief over the loss of valuable lives. He denounced the killing of the President of Baluchistan Bar Advocate Bilal Kasi, and condemned the bomb blast. “This targeting of innocent Pakistani citizens is simply an act of evil, an atrocious act led by anti-Pakistan elements who must be stopped,” he said. “The Pakistani nation is united against the scourge of terrorism, and all communities have already paid a heavy price owing to this malaise. The Government will pursue justice and strike against the terrorists.”
Finally, Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: “This attack shows little progress has been made since the bomb attack in Gulshan Park on Easter Day this year. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar were responsible for that attack and many of their supporters were rounded up in the aftermath, but reactive policing inspires no-one.
“Response to an attack simply serves to increase the death toll and violence meted out on innocent civilians in Pakistan – creating pain, anguish and polarization. What the people wants is an incorruptible intelligence service that focuses on internal espionage that successfully thwarts such attacks.”
He added: “The nation’s instability can only be blamed on the Government of Pakistan who are failing to tackle ongoing extremism. 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. Lack of a strong inspectorate for schools means that madrassa education and twisted ideologies have made recruitment of impressionable minds into extremist groups a simple operation.”
Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has oil and gas resources and is afflicted by fighting, violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and a separatist rebellion.
“The attack took place at the main gate to the emergency area,” said Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad.
“Importantly, this happened after the president of the Quetta bar was gunned down,” he said. “There are big questions after this security lapse. There is a very heavy death toll and most killed today are people belonging to the legal fraternity.”
Hyder said an attack took place at the same hospital in 2010
For an interview, please call Wilson Chowdhry on +44 (0) 7854 972 343 or +44 (0) 208 514 0861.
Photo captions: 1). Lawyers and journalists were among those injured and killed (AFP). 2) The attack took place at the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department. 3) These lawyers received medical treatment in the back of a vehicle after the blast. 4) Lawyers in Lahore take to the streets to condemn the attack on their colleagues. 5) Dan Wooding with his BPCA Award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He also has one weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. Dan has received a special award from the BPCA for his reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
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