At least six people, two women among them, were killed in a bomb blast outside the shrine of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan on Monday.
Two men riding a motorbike left a milk container near the gate of the shrine which exploded into a huge fireball, a witness said. “Four persons were killed [on the spot] and at least 12 wounded,” regional police chief Mohammad Kashif told reporters. “The rescue work is over. We’re now investigating.”
According to witnesses, the blast demolished the shrine’s boundary wall and damaged several shops and stalls outside it where the 12th century saint, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, is buried. Police said the blast took place near the eastern gate of the shrine, which remained undamaged. The shrine, he said, had been closed for security reasons. Dr Mohammad Ashraf, head of the hospital in Pakpattan where the injured are being looked after, said that two women were among the dead and three among the wounded. Seven people were later discharged after providing them first aid, adding that two critically wounded patients had been shifted to Lahore, AFP quoted Ashraf as saying.
Leader of the Sunni Ittehad Council Fazl Karim described the attack as an attempt to create sectarian unrest. “There will be a three-day mourning and on Friday protest rallies will be taken out across the country,” Karim said.
Shrines to be closed
The Punjab home department and police have recommended keeping all shrines in the province closed between sunset and sunrise to avert terrorist attacks because of its inability to make foolproof security arrangements. There are 320 shrines across the province.
The proposal was made during a meeting held a week ago to review security arrangements and installation of security equipments in all shrines in the wake of a string of attacks, an official said. After a suicide attack on the shrine of Hazarat Ali Hajveri, the home department received various reports of threats complied by security agencies and issued instructions to police and the Auqaf department to enhance security.
The Auqaf department has, however, opposed the proposal, saying that most people visit the shrine at night and if the government would enforce such a rule, it would result in resentment among the visitors, adding that it might create a law and order situation.
According to data, 320 shrines are supervised by the Auqaf department with an annual earning of Rs800 million. As much as 80 per cent of the amount is received via donations or contributions.
AFP (With additional reporting by Anwer Sumra in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2010.