World View: Christian Riots Follow Bombing of Two Churches in Lahore, Pakistan


This morning’s key headlines from

  • Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan
  • Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims credit for Lahore bombings, rejoins TTP
  • Rumors abound in Russia on the disappearance of Vladimir Putin

Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistani Christians block a street during a protest in Karachi on Sunday, following attacks on churches in Lahore. (AFP)
Pakistani Christians block a street during a protest in Karachi on Sunday, following attacks on churches in Lahore. (AFP)

Violent riots by Christians followed the suicide bombing of two churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, in the predominantly Christian Youhanabad district of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province in eastern Pakistan.

The bombings themselves killed 15 people, including two policemen, injuring at least 70 others. At one church, a guard prevented the suicide bomber from entering the church, and was killed when the bomber detonated the explosive. The other explosion took place inside the church, causing most of the casualties.

Some 4,000 Christians later took to the streets in Lahore, many armed with clubs as they smashed vehicles and attacked a city bus. Two people were accused by the mob of being behind the explosions, and were attacked and killed by the mob. There was also rioting in other Pakistan cities, including Islamabad and Karachi.

Christians make up around 2 per cent of Pakistan’s mainly Muslim population of 180 million. They have been targeted in attacks and riots in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy regarding the Koran or Mohamed. Sunday’s attacks on Christians were the worst since September 2013, when a double suicide-bombing in Peshawar killed 82 people. That came months after more than 3,000 Muslim protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighborhood of Lahore, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man.

According to an editorial in the widely read Dawn news site:

The suicide attacks against two churches in Lahore yesterday could have been just another gruesome incident in the long list of horrors that has been inflicted on this country in recent years.

The reaction by sections of the Christian community in Lahore and other cities of the country — with protesters taking to the streets and some turning to violence that resulted in two deaths — though suggests that the state’s halting response to the terrorism threat is leading to dangerous ruptures in society.

When non-Muslim and sectarian communities take to the streets in protest and turn to mob violence, it surely reflects the acute stress and intolerable strain that they are under. While all mob violence is deplorable, perhaps the lesson for the state here is that endless violence and horrors visited on a population lead to fear taking over and ugliness manifesting itself.

AFP and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims credit for Lahore bombings, rejoins TTP

The terror group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack in Lahore, and promised that there would be more attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was formed last year in September, when several terror groups splintered off from the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban – TTP) because of a major leadership dispute within the TTP. At that time, a group of TTP commanders formed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, taking with them several Taliban factions from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

In November, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed credit for 45 Pakistani deaths and 120 injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a border crossing with India, near Lahore, at a time of day when there were crowds of people on the Pakistan side to watch a colorful flag-lowering ceremony. ( “3-Nov-14 World View — Multiple Taliban groups claim credit for suicide bombing in Pakistan”)

Last week, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and two other major terrorist groups rejoined the TTP, after a meeting in which the leadership issues were presumably resolved, although a new leader of the combined group has not yet been chosen. The spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar issued this statement:

We congratulate the Ummat-e-Muslima [the Muslim community] in common and especially the Mujahideen of Pakistan for the coalition of strong Jihadi groups, Tehrik-e-Taliban [Movement of the Taliban] Pakistan, Jamaat ul Ahrar, Tehrik-e-Lashkar-e-Islam and Tehrik-e-Taliban on one name Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] against the Taghooti [satanic], Infidel, Democratic, unIslamic system and the Na-Pak Murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] Army.

Dawn (Pakistan) and Long War Journal and Geo TV (Pakistan)

Rumors abound in Russia on the disappearance of Vladimir Putin

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who has not been seen in public since March 5, is scheduled to meet with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg on Monday (today). Moscow has been abuzz with rumors about Putin’s disappearance, and a Monday appearance should bring some resolution.

Until then, here are some of the rumors going around:

  • He has the flu, and doesn’t want to be seen with the flu because that would spoil his macho image with the public.
  • He died.
  • He’s seriously ill, and unable to attend public events. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov vigorously denies this, saying that Putin’s health “is perfect.”
  • He gets regular Botox injections, and one of them went wrong last week, badly disfiguring him.
  • He’s in Vienna being treated for back problems.
  • He’s in Switzerland with his girlfriend, who just gave birth to a love child, as I reported yesterday. According to Peskov, “The information on a baby born to Vladimir Putin is false. I am going to ask people who have money to organize a contest on the best media rumor.”

The main speculation is that his disappearance is related to a major political crisis that I described days ago triggered by the assassination of Putin’s very high profile political opponent Boris Nemtsov, possibly under the orders of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya. The most extreme version of this rumor is that Kadyrov’s Chechen men are planning to kill other Putin opponents, and Putin is hiding for fear of retribution. Even if Putin makes an appearance in St. Petersburg on Monday, the rumors about a political crisis over the Nemtsov assassination will continue. Guardian (London) and Daily Mail (London)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, Lahore, Youhanabad, Tehrik-e-Taliban, TTP, Pakistan Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Peshawar, Joseph Colony, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Boris Nemtsov, Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya
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