Belying lofty claims by the federal and provincial governments of putting in place foolproof security arrangements for mourning processions during the holy month of Muharram, terrorists struck two imam bargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi at will on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people in their destructive trail.
The horrifying and tragic incidents came as the government prepares to host the D8 summit in Islamabad today (Thursday) to be attended by high-profile dignitaries from across the Muslim world, leaving the authorities scrambling over the country’s security situation ahead of the crucial moot.
The bombings on the two imam bargah were not the only violence shaming the government’s claims, as three security officials and four policemen were among nine people killed in terror attacks in Quetta and Bannu, respectively.
The imam bargah bombings came only two days after the bombing of another imam bargah in Karachi on Sunday that killed four Shia mourners. Ironically, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has claimed that there’s no sectarian friction in the country and such incidents of terrorism are the work of a “third power”.
The Rawalpindi blast took place at around 11:30pm outside Qasre Shabbir imam bargah in the city’s Dhok Syeddan area on Misriyal Road, when a large number of Shia mourners had gathered for a Muharram congregation.
The explosion left at least 20 people dead and injured more than 46. Reports said seven hand grenades had been recovered from the site as well.
Sources said the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber, adding that there were chances of the death toll climbing as a number of victims were critical.
Rescue personnel faced difficulties when mourners refused to leave the surroundings and electricity to the area was cut off after the blast, causing further panic and confusion. Evacuating the injured was another problem as the ambulances had been parked a little distance away from the site of the blast.
The government declared an emergency in all hospitals in Rawalpindi, while Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the administration to make all out efforts to deal with the incident’s aftermath.
Earlier in the evening, two people were killed and sixteen, including journalists and security personnel, injured in twin blasts that hit Karachi’s Orangi Town.
The first blast occurred close to imam bargah Haider Qarar in Orangi, while the second occurred an hour later next to the gate of the facility.
The blast occurred when a large number of Shia mourners were busy in Muharram rituals inside the facility.
Witnesses said a motorcycle rider was heading towards the imam bargah but collided with a rickshaw before getting closer, triggering an explosion that resulted in nine people being injured and damages to several shops and vehicles.
Security personnel and rescue officials rushed to the area and initiated evacuation and shifting the injured to hospitals.
Just as the rescue activities were underway, another explosion jolted the area, injuring several journalists, security and rescue personnel.
Seven people were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital with injuries.
Police and Rangers pushed back the crowd and media teams after the second blast and completely cordoned off the area. The Bomb Disposal Squad said initial investigations revealed that ball bearings were not used in the second blast and it was not as powerful as the first one. SIU SSP Raja Umar Khattab said, “Security personnel were busy in investigating the first blast when the second bomb went off. He said it could not be confirmed if the first blast was a suicide attack or not. He, however, said explosives for the second blast were planted in a cement block.
But DIG West Javed Odho said the first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed a rickshaw driver and injured seven others. Odho said the police force was working across the city and the assigned deployments would remain in their locations.
A police official said on condition of anonymity that the second bomb targeted security officials.