MUMBAI, India — At least 53 people died while 50 others were left severely wounded when a powerful blast struck a civil hospital in Quetta, a city in southwestern Pakistan, on Monday morning.
According to eyewitnesses, the blast took place at the entry gate of the emergency room section of the hospital, soon after the dead body of a lawyer named Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was shot to death earlier in the day, was brought in.
Gunshots were also fired after the bomb blast.
Law enforcement agencies and rescue teams immediately rushed to the blast site and shifted the injured to a military hospital. A situation of emergency was declared in the city.
Most of the dead and injured were lawyers who had arrived at the hospital after the early morning killing of Kasi. Lawyers increasingly have been targets for terrorist incidents in the region, and Kasi had recently announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest at the killing of a colleague.
The former president of the local bar association, Baz Mohammad Kakar, was among the dead, as was Supreme Court Bar Association former president Kamran Murtaza. A cameraman of Aaj News was also killed, while a cameraman for Dawn News was seriously wounded.
None of the groups typically involved in terrorist activities in the province claimed responsibility for the blast in its immediate wake.
Following the blast, a regional official named Sarfraz Bugti said it was a matter of a serious security lapse, as there was no security alert for the hospital.
“I am monitoring the investigation personally,” he said.
Dominican Father James Channan, who directs a Peace Center in Lahore, Pakistan, condemned this attack in the strongest words possible. Speaking to Crux, Channan, who serves as a consultant to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said, “It is really heart-breaking … Such a horrific attack has to have been carried out by terrorists who do not want a stable Pakistan.”
“They are determined to tear apart our country, and they look for opportunities to carry on their terrorist activities and attack on soft targets and look for those places where they can cause maximum damage and kill precious lives,” he said.
“Such kinds of attacks pose great challenges for our government, and especially our armed forces, who have stared military operations against the terrorists in Pakistan,” Channan said.
“There is grave need of united and concerted efforts by the civilian government, armed forces and intelligence agencies to share their intelligence report and findings and thus make joint strategy to curb terrorism from our land.”
“I express my solidarity with the families who have lost their dear ones, and pray for the speedy recovery of those who are injured,” Channan said.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace, an organization of Pakistan Catholic Bishops’s Conference, also strongly condemned the attacks. The statement said that the region of Pakistan in question, Balochistan, has experienced 1,400 incidents of violence and targeted killings over the past 15 years.
“The Catholic Church stands firmly with the people of Balochistan in this hour of need,” the statement said, demanding that the government “bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.”
“Killing innocent people is inhuman act and totally unacceptable,” it said, calling on the government of Pakistan “to improve their security measures and ensure the right of life for all citizens. ”
The statement was signed by Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad and two officials of the commission, Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani and Cecil Shane Chaudhry.