At least 70 people were killed and more than 150 injured in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening.
“So far 70 people have been killed and more than 150 have been wounded,” Inspector General Police Sindh A.D. Khawaja said.
“Many of the wounded are in critical condition and they will be shifted to Karachi as soon as navy helicopters and the C-130 plane reach the nearest airport."
Medical Superintendant Dr Moinuddin Siddiqui of Sehwan Taluka Hospital confirmed that 61 bodies were received by the hospital.
“Almost all the bodies were brought here. We have handed over 26 bodies to the heirs of the deceased, while those that remain unidentified are at the hospital,” said Siddiqui
Deputy Commissioner Munawar Maheesar confirmed the dead included at least four children and 12 women.
The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he added.
The explosion took place in the area where the dhamaal (a Sufi ritual) was being performed after evening prayers.
A large number of devotees, from different faiths and from across the country, frequent the shrine on Thursdays — a day of spiritual significance in Pakistan's shrine culture.
Security for shrines was tightened across the province following the attack.
Armed forces aid in rescue efforts
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, following the attack, directed that immediate assistance be provided to civil authorities. Army contingents were dispatched along with medical personnel. Combined Military Hospital Hyderabad was also alerted to receive casualties.
Air evacuation of the injured was started from Nawabshah airport, the armed forces had tasked a C-130 aircraft and helicopters to aid in the effort. The injured were taken to Karachi and Hyderabad, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
The ISPR added that the armed forces had placed all required resources to facilitate the rescue effort. Pakistan Army and Rangers assisted with rescue efforts at the site.
The chief of naval staff placed all navy hospitals in Karachi on high alert. The air force also placed its hospitals on alert to treat the injured.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah had directed all rescue teams to reach the spot of the attack.
“Doctors from Jamshoro, Nawabshah and Hyderabad were sent to Sehwan,” Shah told DawnNews. He also said security has been tightened at all shrines across the province. Sehwan is Shah's constituency.
A mobile forensic van of the Sindh Police was dispatched to the shrine following the attack.
Condemnations pour in
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan condemned the suicide blast and said he was shocked and saddened on the terrorist attack which targeted innocent people, including women and children.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also strongly condemned the blast at Sehwan. He expressed deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives and sympathised with the bereaved families.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the terrorist attack on the shrine in Sehwan was the worst form of terrorism aimed at ripping apart the Sufi fabric of unity and peace.
"This was an attack on our culture, history and civilisation. Every single individual of this land will fight against the terrorists and uproot this menace, said the PPP scion adding that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Resurgence in terror attacks
Pakistan seems to be experiencing a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.
Earlier today, an explosive device had targeted an Army convoy in the Awaran area of Balochistan, killing three soldiers.
On Feb 15, a suicide bomber struck in Mohmand, killing three personnel of the Khasadar force and five civilians. The attack was claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP)
The same day, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying judges in Peshawar's Hayatabad Phase 5 area, killing the driver and injuring its four other occupants. The attack was claimed by the TTP too.
On Feb 13, a suicide bomber had struck a protest on Lahore's Charing Cross interchange, killing 13 and injuring 85. The attack had happened right outside the gates of Punjab's Provincial Assembly.
The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.
On the same day, two personnel of Balochistan's bomb disposal squad were killed as they attempted to defuse an explosive device planted under the Sariab Road bridge in Quetta, the provincial capital.
The last attack on a shrine of a Sufi mystic took place on November 12, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck the shrine of Shah Norani in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan, where at least 52 people were killed and 102 were injured.
The explosion had also taken place at a spot inside the Shah Noorani shrine where the dhamaal was being performed. At the time of the blast, there were at least 500 people gathered at the spot to observe the ritual.