Death toll spirals to 83 amid grief filled protests: Peshawar church
PESHAWAR: As the death toll from the Peshawar church blasts mounted on Monday there was a visible escalation in the intensity of protests with the enormity of the tragedy sinking in more deeply into the national pysche.
Some 24 hours after the blasts, enraged Christians took to the streets in several parts of the country — some protested peacefully, while others resorted to violence as the number of those killed in the twin blasts climbed to 83.
The most violent protest was reported from Karachi where mobs of Christians and Muslims clashed with each other for several hours in the Khulfa-e-Rashideen Colony, Korangi area. There were incidents of arson, in which one house was gutted while another was partially burnt. Aerial firing was also reported and one man was killed by a stray bullet.
After five hours of rioting, Rangers and police personnel finally took around two dozen suspects into custody.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, more than 600 protesters blocked a major city highway for several hours during the Monday morning rush hour, causing long tailbacks.
In Peshawar itself, demonstrators took to the streets, smashing windows at the Lady Reading Hospital, where many of the victims were still being treated.
New K-P IGP appointed
In a key reshuffle, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa IGP Ahsan Ghani was replaced by Nasir Khan Durrani, senior government officials informed The Express Tribune. “The decision was taken at the highest level,” said one official. The appointment of the IGP is at the prime minister’s discretion.
Secretary Establishment Division Shahid Rashid also confirmed the appointment, “We issued the notification on Monday.”
Durrani was working as Punjab Counter Terrorism Department Additional Inspector General Police. Officials claimed that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar recommended his name after K-P CM Khattak sought Durrani, a reputed police officer.
The relations between now former IGP Ghani and CM Khattak had been reportedly strenuous. However, Shiraz Paracha, CM Khattak’s spokesperson, denied Ghani’s removal had anything to do with the twin blasts.
Meanwhile, an investigation team led by SSP Investigation Masoodur Rehman Khalil began the probe on Monday. The team visited the church, met with the injured and talked to the people of the Kohati area to record statements. The police recovered two pistols from the bomb site, a police official told The Express Tribune.
Contrary to initial information, the police found no evidence of the suicide bombers wearing police uniforms. “These are baseless rumours. According to our investigation, they were in plain clothes,” he said. The heads of both the bombers were found and it would help the police in preparing sketches of the suicide bombers, he added.
Political leaders from across the country visited the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), Peshawar, to express their solidarity with the families and inquire about those injured in the blasts. Sindh CM Qaim travelled to Peshawar from Karachi. He announced Rs500,000 for families of the dead and Rs100,000 for the wounded.
Separately, National Assembly’s Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah also visited the hospital where he called for collective efforts to eradicate terrorism. “The Peshawar church attacks are an attempt to sabotage talks with the Taliban.”
Speaking to journalists at the hospital, former interior minister and PPP senior leader Rehman Malik said he equally shared the grief and sorrow of the bereaved families. He said the victims’ families should not consider themselves alone in this hour. Nurses belonging to the Christian community complained to the former minister that the victims were not being treated properly.