Last weekend, as Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday, many in Pakistan were no doubt remembering a day of similar celebration five years ago – one that sadly turned into a day of horror and mourning.
On that day in 2016, suicide bombers carried out an attack targeting Christians who had gathered to celebrate in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. Over 72 people were killed, and around 300 more were injured.
On the fifth anniversary of the attacks, CSW spoke to several of those whose lives were changed forever on that day, and who continue to await justice.
Lives changed forever
Qaiser Maqsood, 31, from Bahar Colony, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, suffered severe head injuries in the attack, and struggled to access adequate medical care in the months that followed. As a result, he suffers from short-term memory loss to this day.
Mussarat Tariq Gill, 65, is also from Bahar colony. The bombing took place just ten minutes after she’d arrived at the park with her family, and she sustained a fracture to her hand and other injuries which made it hard for her to walk.
Still waiting for justice
Mr Maqsood and Mrs Gill are just two out of hundreds of those whose lives will never be the same after these horrific attacks, and yet the Christian community in the country continues to await justice.
No one has been held to account for the Easter Sunday bombings, and Christians and members of other religious minority communities continue to experience severe societal hostility, harassment, intimidation, discrimination and even mob-related violence.
Michelle Chaudhry, President of The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) and a key partner to CSW, has been involved in helping the families who were affected by the bombing. She described to CSW their continued search for justice and accountability.
The international community must continue to press the government of Pakistan to investigate the attacks and hold all those responsible for their planning and execution to account. Beyond that, Pakistan must also make efforts to promote an environment of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence which makes clear that horrific attacks such as that of Easter Sunday 2016 have no place in Pakistani society.