Grieving Pakistanis held special prayers and memorial services on Monday to mourn the victims of Sunday’s massive suicide blast in Lahore, as expressions of solidarity poured in from around the world.
With the national flag flying at half-mast on all government buildings as part of a three-day mourning period, most of the dead were buried on Monday in different parts of Lahore.
Over two dozen bodies were sent to their hometowns for burial, Mohammad Osman, Lahore’s deputy commissioner, told reporters.
Emotional scenes were seen at many of the funerals, as female friends and relatives of the slain wailed loudly as the men carried the coffins to the graveyards.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 70 and injured more than 300 others, mostly women and children, outside a public park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, striking at the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political heartland of Punjab.
Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Soon after the attack, the Punjab government ordered all public parks to be closed and announced three days of mourning in the province. The main shopping areas were shut down and many of the city's main roads were deserted.
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people, is plagued by Taliban militants. Punjab is its most-populous and richest province.
In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated militants in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan to launch paramilitary crackdown
Pakistani government and military sources said on Monday that the country would launch a special paramilitary crackdown in Punjab after a suicide bomb attack in the eastern city of Lahore killed 70 people.
According to a senior security official based in Lahore, the crackdown would give paramilitary Rangers extraordinary powers to carry out raids and interrogate suspects similar to those the Rangers have used for more than two years in the southern city of Karachi.
"The technicalities are yet to be worked out. There are some legal issues also with bringing in Rangers, but the military and government are on the same page," the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to share details of the plan.
The decision represents the civilian government once again granting special powers to the military in an attempt to fight militant groups.
One other military official and two government officials confirmed the decision on condition of anonymity.