|Attacks on Sufi shrines, such as this one of October 7 in Karachi, have been blamed on pro-Taliban groups [AFP]
At least five people have been killed in a bomb blast after dawn prayers at a famous Sufi Muslim shrine in eastern Pakistan, police say.
Monday's attack occured at the Baba Farid shrine in the city of Pakpattan, 190km from Lahore, the capital of the heartland province of Punjab.
Two men riding a motorbike left a milk container near the gate of the shrine, which then exploded in a huge fireball, a witness said.
The dead from Monday's attack included at least one woman, Maher Aslam Hayat, a senior government official in the Pakpattan district, said. Local media reported that at least 20 people were also wounded in the bombing.
The blast damaged several shops outside the shrine, Hayat said. But the shrine itself, which is dedicated to the 12th century Sufi saint Baba Fareed Shakar Ganj, was largely undamaged, he said.
After the attack Mufti Muneebur Rehman, a top Sufi scholar, criticised the government for not doing enough to protect the Sufi population. Pakistan is 95 per cent Muslim, and the majority practice Sufi-influenced Islam.
"Our rulers are too busy serving foreign masters and have not prioritised protecting the people and sacred places from terrorists," Rehman said.
Sufi worshippers who follow a mystical strain of Islam have frequently been the target of attacks by pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan.
In one of the deadliest strikes, a bomb blast in July at a popular Sufi site in the eastern city of Lahore killed more than 40 people.
On October 7, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a Sufi shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, killing nine worshippers, including two children.
Pro-Taliban groups see visits to Sufi shrines and some rituals as un-Islamic.
Bomb attacks in Pakistan killed 10 people last Friday, targeting a military patrol in the tribal belt on the Afghan border and worshippers leaving a mosque in the main northwestern city of Peshawar.
The attack on the Sufi shrine in Pakpattan came shortly after the US made an offer of $2bn in fresh military aid to Pakistan, where it wants the military to do more to fight al-Qaeda fighters crossing into Afghanistan from the tribal belt.
US brands the area an al-Qaeda headquarters, although there had been a relative lull in violence since Pakistan suffered devastating floods in late July that affected more than 20 million people.
More than 3,740 people have been killed in suicide attacks and bomb explosions, blamed on homegrown Taliban and other anti-governments networks, since Pakistani troops stormed a mosque in Islamabad three years ago.
Pakistan flatly denies US suggestions it is not doing enough to tackle Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked fighters who have carved out strongholds in the northwest and last year inched closer towards the capital Islamabad.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies