Islamabad, Pakistan - In the ongoing series of attacks against the followers of Sufi tradition, the suspected hardline extremists exploded a bomb at the gate of a revered Islamic shrine in Pakpattan, 190 kilometres south of Lahore, killing six people, three of them women, and injuring 16 others.
The explosion took place at the shrine of the twelfth century Sufi saint of the Chishti order of South Asia, Baba Farid Ganjshakar, shortly after the morning prayers, when worshipers were leaving the site, police said. Recognized as a great poet of the Punjabi language, Baba Farid is revered by Muslims Sikhs and Hindus. He is also considered to be one of the fifteen Sikh Bhagats within Sikhism and his selected works form part of the Guru Granth Sahib.
"Two boys, posing as milkmen came on a motorcycle and parked it near the eastern gate of the shrine, minutes before the explosives in a milk container went off," said Muhammad Kashif, police chief of Pakpattan. The explosive device was remote-controlled, he said.
At least a 200 people have been reported to be present at the time of the blast. The injured were taken to the District Headquarters hospital in Pakpattan. Ten injured people were said to be in critical condition.
In the past, Taliban claimed responsibility for such attacks but according to police investigations, sectarian groups are often found behind attacks on shrines. In Karachi, a police official said the Abdullah Shah Ghazi attackers belonged to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni sectarian outfit that has previously targeted Shias. In recent years it has developed ties with Taliban and al-Qaida and founded sanctuaries in the restive tribal areas.
Criticising the government, Pakistan's leading religious scholar, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, said the government has failed to protect the shrines of Sufis.
"The priorities of our rulers are different. They are busy most of the time to serve their foreign masters instead of protecting the people, mosques and shrines from terrorists," he said.
The hardline extremists view mystical Islam, deeply rooted in the subcontinent, with contempt. Twin blast at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi earlier this month left nine people dead. 47 people were killed in July when Taliban extremists attacked the Shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore. At least 100 people were killed in May when militants attacked worshippers of the minority Ahmadi sect in mosques in Lahore.