Three more Pakistanis — a son and his parents — were confirmed to have died in the March 15 New Zealand terrorist attacks on two mosques, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said on Sunday, taking the total death toll of Pakistanis in the incident up to nine.
In a post shared on Twitter, Dr Faisal said the deaths of Zeeshan Raza, his father Ghulam Hussain and mother Karam Bibi had been confirmed and that the FO was in touch with their family.
Also on Sunday, New Zealand police announced the death toll from the racist attacks had risen to 50 as anguished relatives awaited authorities to release the remains of those who were killed in the massacres.
Prime Minister Imran Khan extended "all our support to the families of Pakistani victims of the terrorist attack in Christchurch".
He added that the country was proud of Naeem Rashid, one of the victims, who the premier said would be recognised for his courage with a national award.
"Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was martyred trying to tackle the White Supremacist terrorist and his courage will be recognised with a national award," said Prime Minister Khan.
Rashid was identified by a relative from the video live-streamed by the attacker. It appeared from the video that he had attempted to stop the assailant as he gunned victims down in the mosque.
Earlier on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a press release, had confirmed the deaths of six victims as follows:
- Sohail Shahid
- Syed Jahandad Ali (Lahore)
- Syed Areeb Ahmed (Karachi)
- Mahboob Haroon (Islamabad)
- Naeem Rashid (Abbotabad)
- Talha Naeem (Abbotabad)
They had noted that three Pakistanis were missing.
Dr Faisal, in a Twitter post, had said that Rashid and his son would be buried in Christchurch for which arrangements had been made with the assistance of Muslim and Pakistani associations in the city.
He said that the Pakistani Mission in the city was working with the families of the other four victims for the transportation of their bodies back to Pakistan.
Earlier in the day, the FO spokesperson had released a list of Pakistanis that were considered 'missing'.
New Zealand foreign minister calls Qureshi
Also on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters called Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to express his "deepest condolences" over the killing of the nine Pakistani nationals in the terror attacks.
"He conveyed his condolences and sympathies with the bereaved families of the innocent victims," a press release issued by the Foreign Office said.
Foreign Minister Qureshi during the conversation condemned the attack and called it a "heinous and cowardly act" while expressing his grief about the 50 lives lost as well as the 34 who were critically injured.
"The menace of terrorism had reached shores of a peaceful and beautiful country like New Zealand. The mindless killing spree carried out by the terrorists once again proved that terrorism knows no religion or boundaries," the FO quoted the minister as saying.
"Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and has lost more than 70,000 innocent lives. This affirms Pakistan’s narrative that terrorism is an international phenomenon, having no religion and should not be associated with any religion," he added.
Qureshi wished for a speedy recovery of the injured and assured his counterpart of Pakistan's support for the people and government of New Zealand in this "hour of grief".
He also requested Peters' assistance in transporting the bodies of the Pakistani victims back to the country.
Crisis management cell, visa facilitation
A Crisis Management Cell was established at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad for the timely dissemination of information and assistance, a press release issued by Dr Faisal on Saturday had stated.
The 24/7 cell was to address the developing situation, provide information and updates on the well-being of Pakistani citizens living in New Zealand, the spokesperson had added.
Moreover, Pakistan’s High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner in New Zealand would also be available for guidance, round the clock, the press release said.
Furthermore, a circular was released by the foreign ministry notifying details regarding visa facilitation for the immediate family members of the Pakistani victims.
According to the notification, family members can log in here to apply for a visit visa. Once applications are submitted, the applicants are advised to send their application numbers, along with scanned copies of their passports to Mr Moin Fudda, Honorary Consul General of New Zealand for Pakistan at:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Whatsapp: +923428200200
In the event of any difficulties, for example in filling out financial details, the applicants should inform by letter that they are the relatives of the victims of the Christchurch attack, the circular further advises.
The Christchurch attack
A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been charged with murder. The prime suspect, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who was arrested shortly after the Friday shootings, was indicted by a district court for murder on Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.
The Australian man, Tarrant, live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away. He also published a racist 'manifesto' on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being "displaced" by immigrants and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.
His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.
The survivors included 17 members of Bangladesh's cricket team, whose game against New Zealand on Saturday has been cancelled, and a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.
New Zealand police described the footage shot by the gunman as “extremely distressing” and warned web users that they could be liable for up to 10 years in jail for sharing such “objectionable content”.
In addition to the footage, a number of pictures were posted to a social media account showing a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.
The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing around 50 murders a year in the entire country of 4.8 million and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place.
Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes and the threat level in the nation was raised from “low” to “high”.
In Auckland, 1,000 kilometres away, two unattended bags left near a railway station were detonated by military explosives experts.
Police also attended a property in Dunedin which they believe is linked to the attack and evacuated nearby residents. The southeastern city was named in the suspect's manifesto as the original target for his attack.
Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand” in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally near the shooting.