Dawn – Situationer: when fear takes over

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 24 February 2017. Around noon on Thursday a mother received a call from her daughter’s school in Gulberg. The caller informed her that the school was letting parents collect their daughters early in view of the blast in DHA an hour ago.

As she rushed to the school, a friend texted her a message that one news channel was airing ‘unconfirmed’ reports of an explosion at an American fast food chain’s Gulberg outlet, which is perilously close to the school.

“It was like I had already died. The message numbed my mind and body, totally. Don’t know how I pulled up the car and started calling the school. But the call wouldn’t connect,” she later told the mother of one of her daughter’s classmates, her eyes swollen and her voice choking because of crying.

After failing to reach the school administration by telephone she pulled herself together and drove “madly” to get to the school only to run into a security picket.

The Rangers and the police had thrown a cordon around the Gulberg Main Boulevard outlet of the international chain. A policeman told her to take an alternative route.

“When I asked him about what was going on there and if the Rangers were searching only the food outlet or all the buildings, including the school, in that block, he refused to confirm or refute. He just kept asking me to move on and away,” the mother of two boys and a girl told Dawn.

She wasn’t the only mother to have suffered the trauma. Other parents too had similar experiences. Many made a dash to the school as soon as they heard of the Defence blast. Others were asked by a text message or call from the school administration or from their daughters.

Outside the school you could see many parents crying. Inside the school the children waited to be picked up as soon as possible.

“It was during the short break that the cell phones of our teachers started ringing incessantly. Everyone suddenly started talking about the Defence explosion and then ‘news’ of another blast in Gulberg,” an A-Level student said.
“We were asked by our school administrator to call home so that our parents could pick us up early. Every child was frightened, not knowing what was actually happening outside the school walls.”

‘Close to our homes’

Lahore is no stranger to terrorist attacks. Over the last decade the people of the city have seen hundreds of deaths in suicide bombings and sectarian attacks at public places and shrines like the rest of the country.

Parents remember refusing to send their children to school for days or taking them to public places. Some had even made their peace with their fear of death.

But the recent string of militant attacks in the country that began with a suicide attack on a protest at Charing Cross on the Mall in front of the Punjab Assembly earlier this month seems to have triggered a fresh wave of fear across the country. Thursday’s explosion has intensified these fears.

“The recent bombings have shaken everyone. This new wave looks dangerous. This is different from before. They (militants) seem to be closer… they’re hitting very close to (our) homes this time,” said an executive of a company who didn’t want to be named.

Unlike the past, traders too appear quite mindful of the threat and voluntarily shut down the markets. Restaurants that otherwise are usually filled with guests gave a deserted look.

“No one feels safe now. Everyone is advising everyone to avoid shopping malls, markets and restaurants. People are scared,” a trader told Dawn.

Many blame the electronic media and the government for the current environment of fear.

“If some media outlets are responsible for airing rumours as confirmed news, the (Punjab) government hasn’t done itself any good either by persistently trying to pass off the bomb explosion in Defence as an accident,” argued a LUMS professor. “Indeed, these government denials didn’t help”.

The ministers and officials have only added to the confusion, and public fears, just because it doesn’t want to look inefficient and weak. Such an outlook could boost demands for giving the Rangers more powers.”

The LUMS professor agreed that the management of the General Hospital had taken a good decision in disallowing the media from entering the premises for ‘live’ coverage.

“The media persons don’t realise how dangerous this can be for everyone, besides obstructing the effort to help the wounded.

The loss of 100 lives in a Quetta hospital in August last year and in Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital should be enough to make media refrain from following the wounded to hospitals and creating chaos for militants to do their work.”

Yet TV did spread rumours and panic with the news of Gulberg blast. “It is a tough call: do we inform our viewers and readers or do we play it down along with the likes of Rana Sanaullah,” said a journalist.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316684/situationer-when-fear-takes-over

The Hindu – Pakistan on edge as terror hits continue

Mubashir Zaidi

Karachi, 23 February 2017. At least eight people were killed in a blast at a crowded market in Lahore, 10th attack in two weeks

At least eight people were killed and 30 injured in an explosion in the highly guarded Defence Housing Authority area in Lahore, the 10th attack in less than two weeks pointing to a resurgence in Islamist violence in Pakistan.

The blast comes a day after Pakistan announced a new nation-wide anti-terror offensive. Muhammad Iqbal, Senior Superintendent of Police, Counter-Terrorism Department, Punjab, said immediately after the attack that the blast was caused by explosives.

“How the explosives reached the area and how it got exploded is under investigations,” he said. The blast happened in a popular commercial area known for its cafés and restaurants.

The blast ripped through a yet-to-be-opened restaurant where people gathered to finalise its opening. Restaurant owner Moazzam Paracha was among the dead.

Four cars destroyed

The blast happened next to popular Indian cuisine restaurant Bombay Chaupati. Provincial minister Rana Sanaullah said the blast was “huge”. Rescue in-charge Farooq Ahmed told reporters the injured have been shifted to nearby hospitals. Four cars parked nearby were completely destroyed. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

Just over an hour later rumours of a second blast in another affluent area nearby sent ambulances racing to the scene, though authorities later said the reports were false. Media regulator PEMRA issued notices to 31 news channels as police claimed that the news was wrong.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in Turkey, said in a statement that he is grieved over the loss of life.

Over the past two weeks, terrorists have struck cities in all the provinces setting alarm bells ringing for the Sharif government and the powerful military.

More than 120 people have died in these attacks. Authorities are claiming to have killed more than 150 suspected terrorists in a country-wide crackdown on militancy.

Optimism dented

The incidents, most of which were claimed by the Islamic State group or the Pakistani Taliban, have dented optimism after the country appeared to be making strong gains in its decade-and-a-half long war on militancy.

“After some relief over the last year or two, it’s turmoil again, it’s very troublesome,” Asha’ar Rehman, the Lahore editor of leading daily Dawn told AFP.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pak-on-edge-as-terror-hits-continue/article17355820.ece

Dawn – Hindu pilgrims arrive for Shivratri celebrations

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Lahore, 23 February 2017. As many as 217 Hindu pilgrims arrived here on Wednesday through Wagah border on a seven-day tour to participate in Shivratri (night of Shiva) celebrations at the Katasraj temple in Pothohar area of Punjab.

The pilgrims, led by Shiv Partap Bajaj, were received by Evacuee Trust property Board Chairman Saddiqul Farooq.

Welcoming the delegation, the chairman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered foolproof security and arrangements for the visiting guests.

“The prime minister has extended the hand of friendship to India and repeatedly urged cooperation between both neighbours in order to solve all outstanding issues,” the chairman said.

Cooperation and friendship was the only way forward for both countries so that they could prosper and help the entire region develop, he said.

Reciprocating the comments, Indian team leader Shiv Partap, who was born in Multan and is on his 10th visit to Pakistan, said both countries should resolve their issues and let people enjoy the fruits of peace.

“It has always been a pleasure to return to one’s roots. My family belonged to Pind Dadan Khan, I was born in Multan and the first memory I have is of Lahore.

All those who left this side of the border have always been eager to return to see their ancestral villages and homes and avail first opportunity to do so. In order to do so, we need peaceful borders and increased people-to-people contact.”

Ms Ashu, who is on third visit to Pakistan, told Dawn that judging by the arrangements and the “reception we get here, it looks that if we are eager to come here, Pakistan is more eager to welcome us.

The warm welcome and perfect arrangements are a big encouragement for all of us and we thank Pakistan for all this and also for all reported development work at the mandir.”

The pilgrims would spend a day in Lahore and then move to Katasraj, where main celebrations will be held on Friday. The pilgrims would return to India on 28 February.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316513/hindu-pilgrims-arrive-for-shivratri-celebrations

Pakistan Today – Sikhs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) continue to live without basic amenities

Peshawar, 21 February 2017. Approximately 10,000 members of the Sikh community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are deprived of fundamental necessities such as education and health.

Brimming with gurdwaras from before partition, the Peshawar’s Sikh community can currently use only two worship places.

“Plazas have been constructed in place of some gurdwaras. The ones not sold have been taken over by the land grabbing mafia,” alleged Pakistan Sikh community Chairman Radesh Singh Tony.

“The community does not have a shamshan ghat (cremation ground) to perform the last rites of the dead,” he added. Instead, the community has to make cremation arrangements in Attock in case of a death, which costs around Rs 65,000 per person.

Members of the Sikh community had to move to Peshawar’s Muhalla Jogan Shah and Saddar Bazaar localities after the law and order situation posed threats to their security. Children were pulled out of schools due to safety concerns.

“We are renting property to create makeshift schools. It is difficult to bear the expenses. We request the government to provide us with a building and funds for education,” said school headmaster Baba Jugerpaal Singh.

Despite the tough living conditions, the Sikh community remains fairly positive that its issues will be resolved by the government. “The prime minister is taking a lot of interest in resolving minority issues. Recently Pakistan has passed a bill against forced conversion,” MNA Asfan Yar Bhandara said during his visit to a gurdwara.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/02/21/sikhs-in-kp-continue-to-live-without-basic-amenities/

The News – Pakistan, Afghanistan to fight terror together: General Bajwa

Rawalpindi, 21 February 2017. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa on Monday said that Pakistan and Afghanistan have fought against terrorism and shall continue this effort together.

Chairing a meeting at the GHQ, the COAS reviewed the security situation and border management along the Afghan border.

He said that enhanced security arrangements along Pakistan-Afghan border are to fight common enemy i.e. terrorists of all hue and colour.

The army chief directed for more effective border coordination and cooperation with Afghan security forces to prevent cross border movement of terrorists including all types of illegal movement.

He also welcomed recent proposals from Afghan authorities to take forward the mutual coordination or result oriented efforts against terrorism.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/187646-Pakistan-Afghanistan-to-fight-terror-together-Gen-Bajwa

Dawn – Army wants joint anti-terror fight with Afghanistan

Baqir Sajjad Syed

Islamabad, 21 February 2017. After days of talking tough on Afghanistan in the aftermath of recent militant attacks, the Pakistan Army on Monday spoke about fighting terrorism jointly with Afghanistan.

The change in mood at the military headquarters coincided with the receipt of a demarche from the Afghan foreign ministry demanding arrest and handover of 85 leaders of Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups and action against 32 alleged terrorist training centres, besides a warning that continued violence would push Kabul to seek international sanctions against “terrorist groups and their supporters”.

The Afghan demands came after Pakistan handed over a similar list of 76 Pakistani terrorists based in Afghanistan.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a statement issued after what was described as a ‘high-level security meeting at GHQ’ chaired by Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said: “Pakistan and Afghanistan have fought against terrorism and shall continue this effort together”.

Kabul says it has delivered a list of 32 terror camps on Pakistani soil

The comments clearly contrasted with the earlier tone which bordered on unilateralism. The military had soon after the suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan closed down border crossings with Afghanistan and the troops pounded ‘terrorist targets’ along the border.

General Bajwa had himself told US commander in Afghanistan General Nicholson that the Afghan government’s inaction against terrorists was testing Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint.

Media reports also said that Pakistan had sent reinforcements to the border and deployed heavy armaments.

ISPR quoted General Bajwa as explaining at the meeting that “enhanced security arrangements along Pakistan – Afghan border were for fighting common enemy”. He also repeated the oft-mentioned refrain of targeting “terrorists of all hue and colour”.

General Bajwa issued directives for cooperation with Afghan forces in checking “illegal movements” and welcomed Afghan proposal for cooperation against terrorism.

Responding to Pakistan’s demand for action against 76 terrorists who have taken up sanctuaries in Afghanistan, the Afghan presidency had reminded Islamabad of an agreement reached during Quadrilateral Coordination Group talks about fighting terror and sought its implementation.

Meanwhile, the Afghan foreign ministry said it hoped to cooperatively work with Islamabad against terrorism under the Quadri­lateral framework that also included the United States and China.

It said it delivered a list of 85 Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders and 32 terror camps on Pakistani soil, which it claimed were involved in “crimes against people of Afghanistan”.

It said Pakistan had positively received the Afghan lists and expected that action would be taken against people and facilities of concern to it.

Alluding to Pakistan’s support for relaxation of UN sanctions against Taliban, the Afghan foreign ministry said it would push for further sanctions against “terror groups and their supporters” through the UN and other international fora.

In the meantime, Afghan defence ministry has described Pakistani shelling of the border areas as an “act of aggression” and called for resolution of the issue through “diplomatic means”.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316035/army-wants-joint-anti-terror-fight-with-afghanistan

Pakistan Today – Merger of Gilgit-Baltistan would amount of stabbing Kashmiris in the back

Wise or unwise?

Ashiq Hussain Bhat

Lahore, 19 Feberuary 2017. Recent news reports from Pakistan suggest that the Nawaz government is mulling the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan with the federation of Pakistan. Such a measure on part of Islamabad would have serious consequences for the rest of Kashmir because it would set a precedent for India to merge Kashmir in a similar manner with the Indian Union.

Gilgit and Baltistan were two separate entities inside the former Princely State of Kashmir. Baltistan was part of Ladakh Wazarat right upto August 1948; and Gilgit was a separate Wazarat (district) headed, as was Ladakh, by a Waziri-Wazarat (a sort of Deputy Commissioner).

In March 1935 the Maharaja of Kashmir leased it out to the British government of India. Since then the British Agent at Gilgit exercised full authority there. In fact the Agent exercised greater control than the Wazir right from 1880s when the British set up an Agency there.

When in 1947 the British decided to withdraw from the sub-continent, and transfer power to Indian hands (Muslim majority Pakistan and non-Muslim majority India) all the agreements, including the Gilgit Lease, between the Indian princes and the British rulers were to lapse, under the provisions of States Memorandum of 12 May 1946, on 15 August, the day of Transfer of Power.

Accordingly, the Maharaja deputed Ghansara Singh, Waziri-Wazarat designate, to take over the administration of Gilgit Wazarat. Ghanara arrived there on 30 July 1947. However, he found himself unwelcome in Gilgit (p.116 Kashmir A Disputed Legacy, Alastair Lamb). He found that no administrative set-up existed in Gilgit, not even in name.

And the only authority that the people of Gilgit recognised was that of the Corps of Gilgit Scouts, a militia of local men raised by Gilgit Agent in 1913, who did not want to be part of the Maharaja’s Kashmir, or part of an Indian Kashmir.

The Indian army intervention in Kashmir on 27 October 1947 prompted the Scouts to take action. Openly supported by their British Officers, Major Brown and Captain Mathieson, and by the Muslim component of 6th Battalion of State Forces, they killed the Sikh component of the State Forces that manned the Janglote outpost; and forced Ghansara to surrender (p.240 The History of Jammu Kashmir Rifles Major Brahma K. Singh).

In the coming days, led by Colonel Shahzada Mataul-Mulk, the new free army of Gilgit, which comprised the Scouts, the Muslim component of the erstwhile State Forces, and other locals, and which they named as Azad Central Forces (ACF), headed towards Baltistan.

En route they liquated the Sikh component of State Forces guarding the Tsari Pass on the left bank of Indus River while as the Muslim component guarding the Tsari Pass on the right bank of the River joined hands with them voluntarily (pp.251 & 258 The History of JK Rifles Major B. K. Singh).

They fought pitched battles in February to May 1948 in and around Skardu with the Skardu Dogra garrison and the troop reinforcements sent from Srinagar and Kargil. Finally the ACF forced the Skardu garrison to surrender on 12 August 1948 (p. 259 The History of JK Rifles Major B. K. Singh).

The ACF had already gifted Gilgit in November 1947 to Pakistan on a plate. Now they gifted them Baltistan also.

Meanwhile, the 1948 Pakistan-India war over Kashmir ended in a ceasefire courtesy of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP).

Next year, 1949, the two countries agreed upon demarcation of a ceasefire line (LOC since 1972) which passed through the erstwhile Princely State of Kashmir thereby partitioning it into three parts with Pakistan receiving, in addition to Gilgit and Baltistan, portions of Kashmir and Jammu provinces of the State, collectively referred to as “Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)” by Pakistan and “Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK)” by India.

The UNCIP also recommended a plebiscite for Kashmir State so that the final disposition of the State could be decided in accordance with the wishes of its people.

This ascertainment of peoples’ wishes was never effected, India accusing Pakistan of failing to withdraw its forces from State territory as laid down in the UNCIP Resolutions; and Pakistan accusing India of scuttling the process by stalling the appointment of UN-nominated plebiscite administrator.

Since then the State remained a bone of contention among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris which led to wars and internal revolts.

Since January 2016 reports started coming from Pakistan that suggested that the Nawaz Sharif government was seriously considering the issue of merger of Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of the country in total disregard of the consequences this measure would have on the broader issue of Kashmir.

It was given out at that time that the Islamabad administration were concerned about the passage of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through internationally disputed Kashmir State territory of Gilgit and Baltistan. So, if they merged Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan, it would serve their economic interests better.

As of now, February 2017, such reports have again started making rounds. The most recent reports on this issue, published by Pakistani newspapers, suggest that the Nawaz government has finalised the plan to merge Gilgit-Baltistan with the endorsement of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly which was convened first time in 2009 under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order.

Should that happen, the balloon of resistance in Kashmir Valley, nurtured by Pakistan itself, would be deflated. New Delhi administration would make merry.

Despite their long winded rhetoric that Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK belonged to India and were illegally occupied by Pakistan, and that they meant to liberate these by force, the reality seems to be that they fervently desire Islamabad administration to effect constitutional changes for merger of Gilgit-Baltistan (and also AJK) with Pakistan as provinces at par with other provinces of the federation, because this would create a precedent for them (New Delhi administration) to do likewise with the rest of the State which is under Indian administration.

They can easily obtain concurrence for required constitutional changes from the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir which is full of their own people. Probably some sort of nexus has developed on this issue between New Delhi and Islamabad, or Islamabad might not have thought of this merger.

Up until now the Kashmir resistance forces accused India of not allowing a plebiscite in the valley as laid down in the UNCIP resolutions and instead seeking its merger with the Union with the concurrence of unelected assemblies (the Constituent Assembly in 1950s and the Legislative Assembly since 1957).

Now Pakistan has set the process of merger of Kashmir State territories in motion.

They can hardly justify their action on the grounds that the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan is supportive of these measures; and that people of Gilgit-Baltistan wish to be part of Pakistan.

Should they do so, then the New Delhi administration could embark upon a similar adventure; abrogate the Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India; obtain the concurrence of the Kashmir Legislative Assembly; and thereby finally merge Kashmir with the Union of India at par with other States of the Union.

If this were to happen, the people (read Muslims) of Kashmir would have two options available: Either accept the new dispensation hands down and curse Nawaz government; or fight back with more vigour.

If they settle for the second option, it will, in turn, prompt New Delhi administration to seriously consider their options.

They can either do with Kashmiris what Sri Lanka did with Tamils, knowing well that the State of Pakistan, which previously claimed to be the traditional protectors of Kashmiris, would be looking the other way, having themselves stabbed them in the back; and/or, kick out the intransigent elements among them (Kashmiris) across the “LoC” (which would have by now been accepted by Pakistan State as International Boundary) just as they (Indians) kicked out people in 1948-49 across Sucheetgarh into Pakistan.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/02/19/merger-of-gilgit-baltistan-would-amount-of-stabbing-kashmiris-in-the-back/

Dawn – Tracking the footprints: All roads lead to South Punjab

Nasir Jamal

Panjab, 19 February 2017. The year witnessed a significant de-escalation in terrorist and sectarian attacks in south Punjab as militant violence mostly shifted elsewhere, mainly to the northern cities, in the province.

Apart from a deadly attack on a gathering at the election office of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Amjad Farooq Khosa in Taunsa near DG Khan in mid-October and a suicide raid in Multan, no other significant incident of violence took place in the southern Punjab that made headlines a year earlier as the hub of nationwide militant activity, especially in Urban Pakistan.

Having said that, the ‘footprints’ the militants left behind elsewhere in the province have more often than not led the investigators back to the southern districts to hunt for suspects and their abettors. “Even of the two California shooting suspects, Tafsheen Malik had links with south Punjab,” a former Punjab counter-terrorism official sighed.

It, therefore, surprised few when police claimed to have arrested 140 suspects from south Punjab just days after a suicide bomber assassinated provincial home minister Shuja Khanzada along with several others at his election office in Attock in mid-August.

“The arrested suspects were linked to various banned faith-based militant organisations active across the province and some of them carried a bounty on their head,” a Punjab police official had said at the time.

A spokesman for Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was carried out to avenge the killing of Malik Ishaq, the emir of the deadly Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

He went on to say that the attack was carried out with the help of a banned group active in Punjab.

Malik Ishaq’s killing on the outskirts of Muzaffargarh, again a south Punjab district, in a ‘shootout’ with his supporters who were trying to free him revved up hopes that the provincial government had finally woken up to the challenge and was ready to destroy terrorist infrastructure.

However, all hopes were lost when the government failed to initiate a comprehensive police operation.

Even though the National Action Plan (NAP) promises to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, the government has dithered on bringing them under control for fear of backlash from the religious parties as well as the militants.

Police claims having carried out intelligence-based operations throughout the province, denying the presence of a strong network and infrastructure of banned militant groups in south Punjab.

“You do not conduct large-scale operations in any area just on the basis of speculation and public perception,” a police official said, adding: “It is not feasible to undertake such an operation in cities. We’re conducting search raids across the province and not just in one particular region.”

Though the official claimed to have arrested hundreds of suspects, killed many, and recovered arms and ammunition, but was not prepared to concede that the militants still have a large network in the region.

Analysts believe that south Punjab, with thousands of seminaries and a history of having provided foot soldiers to militant and sectarian outfits for decades, now offers a promising opportunity for Islamic State (IS) to strengthen its network in the region.

“The main battle has to be fought in the tribal backyard, but the job will remain half-done unless the militant sanctuaries and support networks in the cities both in southern and northern Punjab are completely dismantled,” warned a Lahore-based security analyst.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1230468/tracking-the-footprints-all-roads-lead-to-south-punjab

Dawn – At least 70 dead as bomb rips through Lal Shahbaz shrine in Sehwan, Sindh

Mohammad Hussain Khan – Qurban Ali Khushik – Imtiaz Ali

At least 70 people were killed and more than 150 injured in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening.

“So far 70 people have been killed and more than 150 have been wounded,” Inspector General Police Sindh A.D. Khawaja said.

“Many of the wounded are in critical condition and they will be shifted to Karachi as soon as navy helicopters and the C-130 plane reach the nearest airport.”

Medical Superintendant Dr Moinuddin Siddiqui of Sehwan Taluka Hospital confirmed that 61 bodies were received by the hospital.

“Almost all the bodies were brought here. We have handed over 26 bodies to the heirs of the deceased, while those that remain unidentified are at the hospital,” said Siddiqui.

Deputy Commissioner Munawar Maheesar confirmed the dead included at least four children and 12 women.
Sehwan is located 193km to the north east of Karachi.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he added.

The explosion took place in the area where the dhamaal (a Sufi ritual) was being performed after evening prayers.

A large number of devotees, from different faiths and from across the country, frequent the shrine on Thursdays — a day of spiritual significance in Pakistan’s shrine culture.

Security for shrines was tightened across the province following the attack.

Armed forces aid in rescue efforts

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, following the attack, directed that immediate assistance be provided to civil authorities. Army contingents were dispatched along with medical personnel. Combined Military Hospital Hyderabad was also alerted to receive casualties.

Air evacuation of the injured was started from Nawabshah airport, the armed forces had tasked a C-130 aircraft and helicopters to aid in the effort. The injured were taken to Karachi and Hyderabad, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

The ISPR added that the armed forces had placed all required resources to facilitate the rescue effort. Pakistan Army and Rangers assisted with rescue efforts at the site.

The chief of naval staff placed all navy hospitals in Karachi on high alert. The air force also placed its hospitals on alert to treat the injured.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah had directed all rescue teams to reach the spot of the attack.

“Doctors from Jamshoro, Nawabshah and Hyderabad were sent to Sehwan,” Shah told DawnNews. He also said security has been tightened at all shrines across the province. Sehwan is Shah’s constituency.

A mobile forensic van of the Sindh Police was dispatched to the shrine following the attack.

To read the full article :

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315136/at-least-70-dead-as-bomb-rips-through-lal-shahbaz-shrine-in-sehwan-sindh

BBC News – Pakistan hit by deadly suicide attacks

Wednesday, 15 February 2017. At least seven people have been killed and several more injured in two separate suicide attacks in north-western Pakistan.

In the first, six people died when two suicide bombers targeted a government compound in the Mohmand tribal region.

Three of the dead belonged to a tribal police force, two were civilians and one a paramilitary soldier.

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, said it was behind the bloodshed.

In the second attack on Wednesday, a bomber on a motorbike rammed a government van carrying four judges in the city of Peshawar.

The driver was killed, and the four judges were injured. They have been transferred to a nearby hospital.

Peshawar police chief Tahir Khan told media at the scene that the judges appeared to be the bomber’s target.

Pakistan has seen an upswing in militant attacks of late, after a period of relative calm.

On Monday, a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Lahore killed at least 13 people and wounded more than 100, most of whom are still being treated in hospitals.

The blast occurred when owners of medical shops were demonstrating against amendments to a law governing drug sales in Punjab province.

Jamaat-ur-Ahrar said it had carried out the attack, as well as two gun assaults in Karachi on 12 February.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38984070