At least two people were killed and 59 injured — two of them critically — in an explosion targeting an Ashura procession in Bahawalnagar on Thursday, Punjab Home Minister Raja Basharat said.
Speaking to Dawn.com, the home minister said that a man hurled a grenade at a procession passing by Jamia Masjid in Muhajir Colony in Bahawalnagar at around 10am, adding that the attacker had been taken into custody.
Basharat said besides the two people killed in the explosion, two of the injured were in critical condition and undergoing treatment at Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital, where all wounded had been shifted.
Rangers have been deployed in the area, while further investigation is underway, he added.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar chaired a high-level meeting at the Safe City Authority and ordered the Counter Terrorism Department to submit a report on the Bahawalnagar blast after completing the combing operation and investigation.
The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) strongly condemned the "cracker attack" in a statement shared on Twitter by PUC president and Special Representative of the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi.
"Anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan elements want to spread terrorism and extremism to create chaos in Pakistan, [attempts at which] have been made unsuccessful by the Pakistani nation in the past and will be made unsuccessful now as well," the statement said.
Senator Sehar Kamran also issued a condemnation, calling it a "cracker attack" and prayed for the recovery of those who were injured.
Earlier, videos circulating on social media showed police and ambulances rushing towards the site of the incident. They also showed wounded citizens waiting for help by the road side.
Communications in the area were difficult as authorities had suspended mobile phone service across the country during the Ashura for security reasons.
Security for processions
Stringent security arrangements were made for processions in small and major cities across the country.
A statement issued by Karachi Police Media Cell today (Thursday) said 6,368 police personnel, three teams of Rapid Response Force and 90 snipers of Special Security Unit had been deployed for the security of the main procession.
As many as 218 processions would be taken out in Karachi on Muharram 10, the press release said, adding that a total of 12,455 security personnel had been deployed across the city. Moreover, more than 1,000 traffic police personnel had been deployed to guide commuters with regards to alternative routes, it said.
In Lahore, at least 46 processions emerged from different areas of city and respective police teams were deployed for security along the routes.
According to city police, as many as 64 inspectors, 121 patrolling officers, while 726 wardens were deployed on different locations as part of a security layer for processions.
A number of other processions are being held in small and major towns and cities across the country.