LAHORE: Eighteen people including DIG Traffic Ahmed Mobin and SSP Operations Zahid Nawaz Gondal, DSP Pervez Butt and three other police officials were killed and about 60 others injured, about a dozen seriously, in a bomb blast in front of the Punjab Assembly Chamber on Monday.
The blast occurred during protest of chemists. DIG Traffic Ahmed Mobin alongwith other officials was negotiating with protestors when there was a bang and a huge blast and everybody ran for safety. Mobin was reportedly negotiating with protesters for an end to the strike and clear the area.
A group of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers had gathered in front of the provincial assembly to protest a government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs. There was a significant presence of law enforcers in the area while the protest was ongoing.
Explosion was caused when a man riding a motorcycle collided with a vehicle, said a traffic officer on the scene. “Apparently it was a suicide blast but police are still investigating to know the exact nature of blast,” Punjab police spokesperson Nayab Haider said.
Police and officials of other law enforcing agencies cordoned the blast site, whereas the injured were moved to nearby hospitals, including Ganga Ram Hospital, Mayo-Hospital and Services Hospital where emergency was declared. An unknown suspicious person was taken into custody from the site.
As many as 36 injured were shifted to Ganga Ram Hospital, 14 to Mayo Hospital and 8 to Services Hospital. Provincial ministers Khawaja Imran Nazir, Khawaja Salman Rafique and Bilal Yasin and Lord Mayor Lahore visited different hospitals to enquire after the health of injured person. They also directed the hospital authorities to provide best treatment facilities to the injured.
Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique told media that senior doctors have been called and quality treatment facilities are being extended to the injured.
Rescue services, including ambulances and fire tenders, reached the scene soon after the attack. The injured were shifted to Mayo Hospital and Ganga Ram Hospital. An emergency was declared in all hospitals of Lahore.
The security forces cordoned off the area with tents, with the inner cordon taken over by Army personnel. Forensic teams were collecting evidence and had started initial investigations.
Deputy Commissioner Lahore said there was security threat and the protestors were requested to clear the main Mall road.
In a Feb 7 letter addressing the Home Secretary, Punjab, the Provincial Police Officer and DG Pak Rangers Punjab, the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) had warned of a possible terrorist attack in Lahore. NACTA had directed that all vital installations, including important buildings, hospitals and schools, be kept under strict vigilance.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that maximum preparations were made after the threat alert was received. “The spot where the blast took place is always under threat. Even if there was no alert, strict security measures are always taken in the area.”
The President, the prime minister and Army Chief have condemned the terrorist attack in Lahore. They expressed their heart- felt grief over the tragic incident.
Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over loss of precious human lives in bomb blast in Lahore and announced one-day mourning in the province. The national flag will remain half mast on government buildings on this occasion. The Chief Minister said that we equally share the grief of the bereaved families of the martyrs and the entire nation is standing with them in this hour of distress. Staff Reporter