The battle for Punjab
YEARS of terrorism have had a numbing effect on Pakistan. Most of the nearly 10,000 attacks the country has suffered in the past six years took merely hours to fall from the view of politicians and the media. It generally takes child victims or an attack on Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous, prosperous and peaceable province, to galvanise attention for longer. A suicide-bombing on March 27th—Easter Sunday—in a park in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, had both these elements.
Poorer families had flocked to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park for the affordable thrills of its fairground rides. After sunset a bomber sauntered in and blew himself up next to the queue for the dodgem cars. He killed 74 people, many of them children, and wounded over 300.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an especially repugnant splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, was quick to take credit, saying the bombing was intended to target Christians. In fact, most of those killed were Muslims: as if in justification, the group also said that it was avenging the government’s assault on militants operating out of Punjab. “We have entered Lahore,” it warned Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister.