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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Mertze Dahlin   

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September 23, 2013

Carnage at Pakistan church after Sunday mass:
More than 80 killed in suicide bombing 

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar after Sunday Mass, killing at least 81 worshippers while injuring 145 in the deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan. Among the dead were 38 women and 7 children, according to official sources.

City Superintendent of Police Ismail Kharak told the media later that a suicide bomber had entered through the rear gate of the church where a police constable tried to stop him. However, the attacker blew himself up, killing the policeman also. The two attackers struck at the end of a service.

In a statement to news agencies, Ahmad Marwat, who identified himself as the spokesman for the Jundullah group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying attacks would continue as long as U.S. drone strikes do.

“We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop,” Ahmad Marwat, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location. 

The Associated Press quoted him as saying: "All non-Muslims in Pakistan are our target, and they will remain our target as long as America fails to stop drone strikes in our country."

Jundullah has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on minority Shia Muslims in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

‘Terror incidents are not conducive to peace talk’

Sunday’s attacks could complicate efforts by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to engage Taliban in meaningful peace negotiations at a time when roadside bombs, targeted killings and suicide attacks continue unabated.

Hours after the attack, Nawaz Sharif said that the government and nation were unable to proceed any further on the proposed dialogue with the Taliban.

“We had proposed the process of dialogue with good intention and this enjoyed the backing of all the
political parties,” Nawaz said while talking to the newsmen after arriving in London from Pakistan. The prime minister is on his way to the US to attend UN General Assembly session scheduled to be held on September 27.

He said incidents like the attack on a church in Peshawar are not a good omen for the intended dialogue.
“Such incidents are not conducive for
peace talks,” Nawaz said in televised remarks. “Unfortunately, because of this, the government is unable to move forward on what it had envisaged, on what it had wished for.” 

On September 9, Pakistan's political leadership  decided to hold peace talks with Pakistani Taliban who have been battling the armed forces in different parts of the northern territories along Pak-Afghan border. Alluding to the US, which has been unhappy with previous peace deals between Pakistan government and the Taliban, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the participants of an all-party conference: "The decision to hold talks with Taliban is our own. No one should have any objection to that."

The all-party conference was called by Sharif in hopes of reaching national consensus on how to deal with the issue of militancy and terrorism.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an alliance of militant groups that have been battling the Pakistani army in different parts of the northwestern tribal belt for the past decade, has welcomed the new government offer to launch peace talks.  The TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said Taliban would be willing to enter into "meaningful dialogue" after the government announced its policy on how to proceed.

Imran Khn asks why terror attacks occur whenever talks are on cards

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan has questioned as to why attacks like Sunday's strike on a Peshawar Church take place, specially, at a time when preparations are afoot to initiate peace talks.

Talking to media after inquiring about the health of people injured in the blasts at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the PTI chief  said all the political parties had decided to hold talks with the Taliban at the recently held All Parties Conference and the Peshawar blasts should not be politicized.

Imran Khan, whose party rules the volatile Pakhtunkhwa province, emerged as the third biggest political party in last May's elections. One of his party's major plank was to take out Pakistan from America's war on terror. Last year he led a long march against the US drone attacks which he says foment militancy in Pakistan.

 Imran Khan pointed out that a US drone attack was also carried out today.

Press reports indicated that the suicide bombing of Peshawar church was followed shortly by a US drone attack on a suspected militant compound in North Waziristan. The U.S. drones fired four missiles into a compound in Shawal, an area of North Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan, killing six suspected militants and wounding three others, according to Pakistani security officials.

The identity of those killed is rarely given. It is often claimed that the militants took away the bodies of their dead comrades.

Interestingly, Pakistan government's policy on the drone attacks is contradictory. Pakistani officials regularly condemn the drone attacks as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the government is known to have secretly supported the strikes.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.