At least 70 people dead and more than 300 wounded as bomber kills mostly women and children in Pakistan’s Lahore.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and six-year-old Zainab Jamshed could not wait to spend the day at the park with her family.
“She was making sure again and again that we were going to the park for real,” her uncle, Ghulam Murtaza, recalled. “Zainab was very excited that we’d decided to spend the day there.”
The young girl – the only one in her family – had already arrived in Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal park when a massive suicide bomb went off a few metres from a children’s play area, killing her and at least 69 other people. Hundreds were also wounded, and most of the victims were women and children.
“Today when we held her coffin, my arms were shaking, I could not carry her coffin. She was too young to die. She was just six years old,” Murtaza told Al Jazeera.
“If one person from the group tells me it was her fault and why she deserved to die, I will say this attack on innocent people was justifiable.”
The attack, which was claimed by a breakaway Taliban faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, was aimed at killing members of Pakistan’s Christian minority gathered at the park to celebrate Easter Sunday.
However, most of those killed were Muslims – like Zainab.
“What is their religion? It is not Islam. It cannot be any religion, because no religion teaches you to kill an innocent person,” said Mudassir Butt, who lost his eight-year-old niece and a 55-year-old brother in the blast.
“The attack was not just on Christians, it was on humanity.”
One of the Christians killed in the attack was 17-year-old Sagir Masih.
Breaking down in tears, his father, Ashraf Masih, questioned the Pakistani government’s efforts for the security of the country’s Christian minority.
“Just because our religion is Christianity, does that mean we deserve to die?” he said.
“We want to know how we are protected as a minority in this country. The government is answerable.”
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar vowed to continue such attacks and also took responsibility for the twin bombings of a Christian Church in Lahore last year.
Pakistan launched a special paramilitary crackdown in Punjab province in response to Sunday’s attack, granting special permission to paramilitary rangers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects.
A number of suspects were arrested after several raids across major cities, army spokesman General Asim Bajwa said in a statement.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to Lahore on Monday where he visited victims in the hospital.
In a speech addressing the nation, Sharif vowed to eliminate the perpetrators of Sunday’s attack.
“I am here today to reiterate our national resolve to fight the menace of terrorism till it is rooted out from our society,” he said.
“Terrorism has become a global threat and the whole world is affected by it.”
Yet, the attack has left many people terrified as markets were shut and traffic was thin on the roads across the province on Monday.
“If places like schools and parks are attacked in this country, none of us is safe. We all are still under threat,” Murtaza said.
“The government needs to completely eliminate these terrorists or else our children will keep dying in such attacks.”
The bombing marked Pakistan’s deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of more than 130 schoolchildren at the Army Public School in the city of Peshawar.
“Attacking children is a sign of their cowardice,” Murtaza said.