11/14/2016, 12.03
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Balochistan, Catholic leaders condemn attack on Sufi shrine that left 52 deads

by Kamran Chaudhry

The explosion took place before sunset at the shrine of Shah Noorani, about 750 km south of Quetta.  It is a place of pilgrimage from all over Pakistan and abroad. The faithful of Sufism are accused of heresy for rituals involving singing and dancing. Taliban extremists operative in the region and the Islamic State.


Karachi (AsiaNews) - At least 52 dead and over 100 wounded, among them many women and children. This is the toll from yesterday’s tragic attack on a Sufi shrine in Balochistan region, during  a traditional sacred ritual of Sufism. Today Catholic leaders condemned the violent incident, the latest in a long series that is bloodying the region, one of the most turbulent in Pakistan.

Fr Bonnie Mendes, a former regional director of Caritas Asia, says: "Every terrorist attack is to be condemned, against holy sites and civilian sites. It is even more sacrilegious that the target was a Sufi shrine. The poor are those who suffer most in such tragedies. It is indeed a tragedy that such incidents take place continuously in our country ".

The attack took place before sunset, while the faithful were performing the Dhamaal, a ritual dance accompanied by the sound of drums. The explosion occurred outside the building, where there were about 600 faithful at that time.

According to the latest updates, the Islamic State militants claimed responsibility. Sufism is a proponent of moderate Islam and includes mystical practices and performances (such as music and dance) which are opposed by the extremists, who regard them as heretical and an insult to Islam. Recently the radicals also targeted Amjad Sabri, one of the most famous Sufi singers in the world, assassinating him in broad daylight on the alleged charges of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Fr. Mendes believes that "perhaps the authorities are not doing enough. We ask for sincere efforts to eliminate this threat. The violence is rooted deep in the tribal culture of the province of Balochistan. There are extremist fringes of the Islamic State who share the same ideology and tactics. "

The shrine of Shah Noorani, about 750 km south of Quetta, is considered a sacred place by both Sunni and Shiite. The shrine is dedicated to the figure of the Sufi master Hazrat Baba Shah Noorani, who lived there over 500 years ago in solitude on the mountain top. The place attracts pilgrims from all over the country and from abroad. Given the harsh conditions of the terrain, rescuers had difficulty in reaching the blast zone.

The attack in Balochistan is just the latest in a long trail of blood left by the terrorists in this region. Last October the group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) carried out one of the most brutal massacres in Pakistani history against the military school in Quetta, which killed 61 people including cadets and guards.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, National Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, believes that the attacks in the "province is an internal matter. They cannot all be [fighters] from outside, certainly even the locals are involved. The Islamic Caliphate has many sympathizers in the region. The attackers believe they are masters of their own faith, but we cannot understand what religion they claim to follow. "

"This is a failure of the government - said the priest - The chief minister announced that he will put up roadblocks in places where prayers are held. They should have done this before. We demand additional security measures be implemented throughout the country. Everyone has the right to profess their faith. "

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