Death Toll hits 44 in Pakistan Mosque Attack

Dear Readers,

Bodies were blown to pieces. The sectarian violence in Pakistan is not new. It has been going on for many years. Extremist Sunnis are killing innocent Shi'ites, Ahmedia, Christians, and the Shi'ites and Ahmedias are fighting back killing innocent Sunnis and other groups of people in the revenge attacks. Though it is too early to put blame in any one group, this is a very similar pattern of violence arising months after months, years after years. Now the scared civilians in Pakistan will be awaiting for the revenge attacks from the other groups, and this cycle will continue unabated unless the Pakistani Government takes impartial initiatives and implementations of their dust filled rules in stopping further killings.

"If these incidents are not halted then terrorism will engulf the entire country," this was uttered by Sajid Ali Naqvi, head of Islami Tehrik Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf said, "It is unfortunate that some elements in Pakistan are undermining what Pakistan stands for. It is unfortunate that this small minority are able to derail or undermine national feelings". He promised for a strong response.

And a strong response he must take. But along with this proposed "strong response" comes the necessity of a democratic Pakistan, without Musharraf's wielding military uniforms and boots in governing Pakistan from unmistakable shadow. With the real democracy established in Pakistan, these blood-filled grievances and revenges among the various communal groups can be dealt with more effectively with the participation of wide range of peaceful Pakistani people in the governing process, handling and neutralizing the extremist elements of the society from within not from outside influences.

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
July 4, 2003

Death toll hits 44 in Pakistan mosque attack

A suicide attack on a packed Shi'ite mosque in southwestern Pakistan during Friday prayers killed at least 44 people and wounded 65 others, the country's leading private emergency service said.

Describing what was the worst such attack in Pakistan in recent years, witnesses at the main Shi'ite mosque in the centre of the city of Quetta reported seeing gunmen firing on worshippers before at least one suicide bomber blew himself up.

"According to our information, 44 people were killed and 65 wounded," Ali Murad of the Edhi Welfare Foundation told Reuters.

Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Mehdi Najafi, who was leading prayers at the time of the attack, gave a toll of 40 dead and 52 injured.

Earlier, officials put the toll at 32 dead but said it could rise.

"I saw bodies blown to pieces," said worshipper Khan Ali, 60, who was slightly injured in the attack, which sparked angry protests among Shi'ite Muslims in the city.

No group claimed responsibility for the raid, but officials said it appeared to be linked to rivalry between minority Shi'ites and majority Sunni Muslims, which has often exploded into violence in the past.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said it was too early to say who was to blame.

Military leader President Pervez Musharraf, in Paris on an official visit, vowed to punish the perpetrators.

The attack will come as an embarrassment for Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led "war on terrorism", who tried during his visit to Europe and the United States to calm investors' fears after a spate of attacks on Western and Christian targets in Pakistan last year blamed on Islamic militants.

Witness accounts of the latest attack varied.

Worshipper Mahmood Hussain said two bearded men fired on worshippers before a third person blew himself up.

Another witness reported seeing two suicide bombers setting off explosives, while the information minister said there were three attackers, two of them suicide bombers who died instantly and a third later who died of his wounds.

Hundreds of people have been killed in sectarian violence involving Sunni and Shi'ite militants in recent years.

Violence has worsened again this year after a relative lull in 2002.

Angry crowds of Shi'ites from the Hazara tribe, some armed and firing shots into the air, took to the streets and gathered outside the hospital where the bodies and casualties were taken.

Vehicles, shops and a wing of the hospital were set ablaze and the army was called in.

Crowds began to disperse after paramilitary troops used loudspeakers to announce a curfew.

Musharraf has arrested hundreds of Islamic militants since announcing support for the "war on terrorism" in 2001 but still failed to prevent such attacks.

He vowed a "very strong" response.

"It is unfortunate that some elements in Pakistan are undermining what Pakistan stands for. It is unfortunate that this small minority are able to derail or undermine national feelings," he told reporters.

Sajid Ali Naqvi, head of Islami Tehrik Pakistan, the main Shi'ite political group and an opponent of Musharraf, called it a "terrorist incident" organised with the knowledge of state agencies.

"If these incidents are not halted then terrorism will engulf the entire country," he said.

In the southern port city of Karachi in February, nine Shi'ites were shot dead outside a mosque by gunmen on motorcycles.

Days later, two more Shi'ites were killed.

Less than a month ago, 11 police recruits were killed and nine wounded when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in Quetta.

All the victims were Shi'ite Hazaras.