Pakistan PM visits scene of shrine bombing
Angry Pakistanis are demanding a strict action against extremism.
Lahore: Pakistan`s Prime Minister on Saturday visited the scene of a double suicide attack in the eastern city of Lahore as angry protesters around the country demanded action against extremism.
Police said they had "apprehended" several people in Lahore in their investigation into Thursday`s bombings, which killed 43 and left a trail of carnage at a packed Sufi shrine, but have made no formal arrests.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the shrine and vowed to defeat extremists, saying he had convened a special law enforcement meeting to work out a solution.
"We have to be united to defeat terrorism and have appealed to the international community to help us enhance the capacity of our law enforcement agencies," Gilani said.
Shops and offices were closed in a number of cities and towns on Saturday in a strike protesting against Thursday`s attacks.
Raghib Naeemi, a leader of a Sunni Muslim council that called the strike, said a major rally was planned for Saturday evening and urged the government to step up its efforts against extremism.
"We will continue our protest till the government takes some concrete actions to curb terrorist activities," he said.
The council`s chief Sahibzada Fazal thanked Pakistanis for observing the strike and for holding protests.
"Today`s successful strike shows that people hate those who do terrorist acts in the name of religion. People have completely rejected these hired assassins," Fazal said.
Rallies were held in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and several other cities on Saturday, with demonstrators shouting slogans against terrorism and extremism.
"We reject massacre in the name of religion," read one banner at a rally in the southern port city of Karachi.
Television footage showed enraged protesters burning tyres and shouting slogans against the government, criticising it for not improving security.
Protests erupted on Friday blaming Taliban extremists for the latest bloodshed in Lahore, a major military, political and cultural hub and Pakistan`s second-largest city.
A report said markets were closed on Saturday and roads deserted in the otherwise bustling city. Schools are already closed for the summer holidays.
Investigators said they had yet to identify the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up among crowds of worshippers at the shrine to Sufi saint Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore, capital of Punjab province.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the Pakistan Taliban, which has been blamed for a wave of bloody attacks over the past three years, denied it was involved.
Police also said they had uncovered 20 suicide bombing vests and two dozen police commando uniforms during a raid in Lahore late Friday.
Investigators said it may take some time to identify the bombers, who were caught on camera in dramatic closed-circuit television footage of the bomb blast and the carnage and chaos that ensued.
"We quizzed the family of a man we suspected to be one of the suicide bombers, but he turned out to be one of the victims. His body has been handed over to the family," a senior investigator said.
About 700 people attended the man`s funeral Saturday outside Lahore with mourners insisting on his innocence.
"This gathering condemns terrorism. We are peaceful people. Terrorists should stop this bloodbath," prayer leader Asghar Farid said at the funeral of 27-year-old Mohammad Rafiq.
Pakistan has been hit by a wave of Islamist militant attacks over the past three years which many attribute to Islamabad`s alliance with Washington and the US-led war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
In May, gunmen wearing suicide vests storm two mosques belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect in Lahore, killing at least 82 people.
The United States led Western condemnation of the Sufi shrine attack, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as a "brutal crime" and vowed to support Pakistan against militants who wish to "destabilise" the country.