Pakistan shrine blasts prompt alert

Protesters condemn failure to crack down on attackers as Lahore bomb toll touches 42.


    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports on the deadly suicide
    bomb attack on Pakistan's most important Sufi shrine

    About 2,000 people, some armed, staged protests in Lahore on Friday, shouting "Down with Shahbaz Sharif", the chief minister of Punjab.

    His repeated vows to "defeat terrorists" were ridiculed.

    Thousands of worshippers were said to be visiting the shrine, where Syed Ali Hajwairi, a famous Sufi saint, is buried, at the time of Thursday's attack.

    The suicide bombers struck in the evening when the shrine was at its busiest because of the cooler weather.

    Taliban dislike

    Taliban fighters generally abhor the Sufi strand of Islam and disapprove of Muslims visiting shrines, popular with many Pakistanis.

    They may have been trying to whip up emotions by attacking sacred religious sites in a bid to destabilise Pakistan, analysts say.

    In Depth

     

      Riz Khan: Battling religious extremism
      Riz Khan: Pakistan's violent frontier
      Riz Khan: Pakistan's political landscape
      Riz Khan: Pakistan - Heading to civil war?
      Inside Story: Pakistan: A new wave of attacks?
      People & Power: Breeding discontent
      Focus: Caught in the crossfire

    Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban have launched a wave of attacks across Pakistan in apparent revenge for the military offensives in their bastions in the northwest of the country near the Afghan border.

    Ties between armed groups in Punjab, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are especially worrying for the Pakistan government, which has said the military is stretched in campaigns in the northwest.

    While most of the reprisal attacks have taken place there, fighters have also stepped up operations in the country's heartland, mainly Punjab, in recent months.

    More than 80 people were killed in twin attacks on the mosques of the minority Ahmadi sect in Lahore in May.

    Talat Masood, a defence analyst and former Pakistan military officer, said Taliban-linked groups are exploiting the uncertainty over the government's response to such attacks.

    "At the moment there is lukewarm support from the people, and the people have no confidence in the government and their governance," he told Al Jazeera on Friday.

    "These people are taking full advantage of this vacuum. You can only win against militancy if you really harness the support of the people, and this is exactly what has not been done."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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