Pakistan says it will launch a military crackdown on militants in its most populous province, Punjab, following the Easter Sunday bombing that killed at least 72 people.
At least 29 children are among the dead after a suicide bomber struck in a busy park in Lahore, the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
It is the sound of a mourner at the funeral of 11-year-old Sahil Pervez, one of dozens of children killed in a bomb blast at Easter celebrations in Lahore.
The Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was specifically targeting Christians.
Now, relatives of the victims – including Sahil Pervez’s uncle, Aftab Gab – are demanding to know why more could not be done to prevent such an attack.
(Translated)”The government of Punjab had no security arrangements for the parks. Even today, here in this church. They are so lazy. Our request for our government — and especially the Prime Minister — is that he take personal interest to finish terrorism in this country.”
The attack’s severity has even prompted a call to action from Pope Francis.
During his Easter Monday address to thousand of worshippers at the Vatican, the Pontiff has demanded Pakistan’s authorities step up their efforts to protect religious minorities.
(Translated)”I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this vile and senseless crime, and invite you to pray to the Lord for the many victims and their loved ones. I appeal to civil authorities and all sectors of that nation to make every effort to restore security and serenity to the population, and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.”
After visiting survivors at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded better coordination between security agencies to fight terrorism.
In a televised address, he renewed his pledge to hunt down the perpetrators, as well as any other groups posing a threat to the Pakistani people.
(Translated)”Today, I have come to you to renew my vow that we are accounting for each and every drop of blood of our martyrs. This score is being settled, and we will not sit comfortably until the last tranche of this account is settled.”
A full-scale operation has reportedly been launched involving paramilitary Rangers.
They will have powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects the same way they have been doing in the southern city of Karachi for more than two years.
The Pakistani amy has confirmed security forces have carried out five raids so far, making a number of arrests and seizing weapons.
It is yet another example of the civilian government granting special powers to the military to fight the militants.
Prime Minister Sharif says, despite the latest attack, his government has been getting results in recent years.
(Translated) “With the firm resolve of our armed forces, the endeavours of our police and institutions of national security, and the support of our people, the number of terrorist incidents has receded over the past three years. We will not let that number rise again, God willing. We will not allow the terrorists to play with the lives of the Pakistani people. This is my resolve, my government’s resolve and the resolve of 200 million Pakistani people.”
But some sections of the Pakistani court system have observed a full-day strike, demanding more measures be taken.
At one of several candlelight vigils across the country, lawyer Waseem Qureshi said all sections of government – and the international community – must work together against terrorism.
“At the same day, you can see that we are there — all the persons from different religions, castes and creeds are under the one umbrella, which is Pakistan. As terrorism is the global issue and the global challenge, I would like to request all the international communities, players and the stakeholders, especially the diplomats working in Pakistan, to arrange an international conference in Pakistan to combat and to resolve this global challenge.”