16 February 2017
Bishops accuse Pakistani Government of failing to protect citizens following spate of terrorist attacks
The Lahore bombing has been claimed by Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban Pakistan
Bishops in Pakistan have accused the Government of failing to protect the country’s citizens and police officers, after a suicide bomber killed 13 people and injured 108 in an attack on a protest rally in Lahore.
The attack took place in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly where some 400 pharmacists had gathered to protest against amendments to a law governing drug sales on 13 February. Six members of the police force were killed in the blast, local news reports confirm.
The bombing has been claimed by Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban Pakistan, which has said previously that it would continue to target government offices in retaliation for their crackdown on terrorism.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority issued a warning on 7 February that “an unidentified terrorist group has planned a terrorist attack in Lahore”. It urged “extreme vigilance and heightened security measures”.
“The Commission calls on the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice and address the root causes of this intolerance, increasing the measures for the protection of all citizens,” the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan said in their statement, released on 15 February.
Claiming that the Government has failed its people by not acting on warnings of further suicide attacks, the Bishops urged the Government to implement a national plan of action against terrorism, in their statement, released on 15 February.
“This must be a top priority if the Government wants to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the country," reads the statement signed by the President of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.
The statement added that the country’s security forces should be adequately equipped so that they can perform the “courageous and risky” task of defusing explosive devices.
Dominican Father James Channan has also blamed the Pakistan Government for what he described as a lethargic response to the threat, reports Crux News.
“The Government has claimed that a warning was issued on February 7 that such an attack was expected,” said Fr Channan, who is director of a church-affiliated Peace Center in Lahore.
“I take it as a failure of the Government and law enforcement agencies that security measures were not taken and the terrorists arrested,” he added.
Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has condemned the attack and vowed not to be intimidated.
“Such cowardly acts cannot deter the resolve of the nation to stand against terrorism, and our government is committed to root out this menace,” he said in a statement on 13 February.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said in reaction to the attack:
"Pakistan will not be able to win this war against terror by increasing and improving their security forces alone. They must start to address the Madrassah education, the extremist ideology promulgated by
mosques and the Islamic bias within the state's own education system and national curriculum.”
The bombing in Lahore is the latest in the series of terrorist attacks carried out largely in the north and southeast of Pakistan over the past three weeks.
On 15 February, suicide bombers targeted the main gate of the tribal headquarters in Ghalanai, in the Mohmand tribal region, killing three police officers and two civilians. Later that day, a suicide bomber targeted a government van in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least one person and wounding several others, officials said.
Jamut-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
The Taliban group were also behind the Easter suicide bombing of a public park in Lahore that killed at least 72 people, many of whom were thought to be children. The group said they were targeting Christians celebrating Easter.
PICTURE: Outside of the Punjab Provincial Assembly in Lahore following the detonation of a powerful explosive on 13 February
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