(Editor’s note: Beware, the pictures here may be graphic and disturbing for some readers. Although, no more disturbing than the reality of murder and inhumanity that they depict.)
It was just weeks ago that we were humming along with Arif Lohar about selling wangaaN (bangles) at Data Sahib (the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri) in Lahore. Today, brutal murderers ruthlessly butchered at least 40 innocent Pakistanis and injured another 170 in a heinous and dastardly suicide attack on Data Durbar that specifically targeted the vulnerable, the poor, the religious, the helpless in their ongoing war against Pakistan. This is one more in a string of attacks in and around Lahore which seem to have picked up just as momentum gathers for an operation against militants and extremists in the Punjab in the aftermath of the attack on Ahmedi worshipers in Lahore.
That Lahore’s single most iconic and revered location has been attacked – and on a jumaraat, which many consider to be sacred – reeks with symbolism and speaks volumes about the depth of hatred that these murderers have for all things Pakistan. Yes, I take this personally. Just as I have taken every murder of innocent Pakistanis anywhere in Pakistan, personally. Anyone who loves Lahore cannot hear of this and not have a shiver go down the spine; as it went mine. But that shiver is now a nearly daily occurrence. Whatever the symbolism of Data Sahib may be, it is paled by the outrage at the murder – yet again – of innocent people: the begunah, the masoom!
I would like to find the words to express that outrage, to express what Data Darbar means to so many, to describe the pain that pounds me once again as it has each time these murderers have hit Pakistanis anywhere. I would like to do that but – quite literally – my hands are trembling, my eyes have swelled up, and that shiver up my spine has gripped my entire body. Maybe later I will find the words to say what I need to say, but right now I ponder only on the darkness that resides in the hearts of the men who commit these acts, those who plan them, and those who choose to justify them.
For now, all I can do is to give you the essential details, as reported in Dawn:
LAHORE: In the first terrorist attack of its kind in the Punjab capital, two alleged suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine on Thursday night, killing at least 40 people and injuring 170 others. The first explosion took place in the basement reserved for ablution and the second in front of the shrineâ€™s main building where a large number of people from across the province gather for worship on Thursdays.
At first, police announced that some crackers had exploded near the shrine. The two bombers entered the shrine and exploded themselves three minutes apart. Surveillance cameras, walkthrough gates and metal detectors turned out to be ineffective. Around 100 volunteers and several policemen were present in and around the shrine, searching visitors thoroughly.
Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Chaudhry Shafiq Ahmad told Dawn that two suicide attacks had been carried out and investigators had found the bombersâ€™ skulls and limbs. He said ball-bearings and other material used in the blasts had also been collected. Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervaiz Bakhtiar told journalists at the spot that the bombers had blown themselves up during a large congregation. In reply to a question about involvement of a foreign hand in the attack, he said the strike was a horrible conspiracy but â€œour own people become instruments in the hands of othersâ€.
The official said an investigation had been launched about the breach in security measures. According to witnesses, the explosions were so powerful that a large number of people fell down and several of them were injured in a stampede. The shrineâ€™s administration announced seconds after the first blast that a generator had exploded in the basement and they might continue their activities. The bomb disposal squad estimated that 10-15kgs of explosives had been used in each suicide jacket.
Ambulances of Rescue 1122 and the Edhi Foundation took the bodies and injured people to hospitals. According to a devotee, two gates on the north and south side of the shrine, which usually remain closed, were open on Thursday. He suspected that the bombers had entered through those gates. Scores of enraged people gathered outside the shrine and protested against terror attacks. They also damaged public and private property. There were reports that a cracker was exploded before the suicide blasts to create a panic.
Police evacuated Data Darbar to collect evidence and carry out rescue work. All commercial and residential buildings adjoining the shrine were also searched for suspects. Following the blasts, an extensive crackdown was launched across the city and several people were detained for interrogation. A suspect was also taken into custody near the Darbar. Rumours of terror attacks on other shrines in the city panicked devotees and police also launched a search operation there. Security was beefed up in and around all shrines and religious places.