09 August 2016, The Tablet

Pakistan Church condemns Quetta hospital bombing

Pope Francis has also sent a message of condolence to the victims and their families

The Catholic Church in Pakistan has condemned a suicide blast at a hospital in Quetta, south-west Pakistan, in which at least 70 people – many of them lawyers and journalists – were killed and more than 120 injured.

The attack was carried out yesterday at the entrance of the emergency department of a government-run hospital, while colleagues of lawyer Bilal Anwar Kasi were mourning his death. Mr Kasi, president of Balochistan Bar Association, was taken to the hospital after he was shot by two unidentified gunmen while on his way to court.

According to local media reports, the slain Bar Association chief had condemned the early August killing of a lawyer and announced a two-day boycott of court sessions to protest the death.

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said it was behind the bombing. They also admitted to being responsible for the killing of Mr Kasi. The attack on the hospital was seen as a deliberate targeting of lawyers and journalists.

"Killing innocent people is (an) inhuman act and totally unacceptable", said the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a rights-based organisation of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, in a statement condemning the "tragic killing".

"The commission and the Catholic Church stand firmly with the people of Balochistan in this hour" and ask the government "to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice", said the Church statement signed by justice and peace officials, including Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad.

"This tragic incident has caused bereavement throughout the country," the statement added, offering prayers for peace and condolences to the families of the victims.

Pointing out that Balochistan province has experienced more than 1,400 incidents of violence and targeted killing over the past 15 years, the statement urged the government of Pakistan to improve security measures.

"This is terrible," Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the justice and peace commission, told Catholic News Service from Lahore. "The atmosphere is getting frightening. Lawyers and journalists are targeted like this."

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and anguish" over the killing, lawyers and journalists held protest demonstrations across several cities.

Meanwhile Pope Francis sent his condolences and assured all involved of his prayers.

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