ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Sunday Pakistan’s national flag would fly at half-mast on Monday in solidarity with the families of victims of attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, confirming that nine Pakistanis had perished in the twin assaults.
Around 50 people were killed in the twin attacks on Friday that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to describe as a terrorist act. A list of people missing in the attack released by New Zealand Red Cross included nationals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Nine Pakistanis were killed in the attack, the foreign minister confirmed, and one Pakistani was in critical condition and “not out of danger.”
“The whole nation is in mourning and the prime minister has decided that our national flag will fly at half-mast tomorrow,” Qureshi said at a news conference.
The foreign minister said the process of identification of Pakistanis who were killed in the attack had been completed and New Zealand authorities would start handing over bodies to heirs on Monday. He said New Zealand had agreed to keep the Pakistani foreign ministry in the loop as it went ahead with investigating Friday's attacks.
“We are in touch with all ten families here,” the foreign minister said. “Six of the families want their loved ones to be buried in Christchurch, while three bodies will be sent back to Pakistan. The process will begin from Monday.”
He paid special tribute to Naeem Rashid, a Pakistani victim who was shown in video footage of the attack, live streamed by the gunman, launching himself at the attacker in an attempt to disarm him. He was gunned down. Rashid would be honored with a national award on Pakistan Day, March 23, Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries had been called in Istanbul on March 22 to discuss the causes of Islamophobia and ways forward in the aftermath of the attacks in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
"The idea [behind summoning the meeting] is to devise a strategy against Islamophobia, while keeping the Christchurch tragedy in mind," Qureshi said.
He said he had contacted leader of the opposition Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and would discuss the National Action Plan, Pakistan’s primary counter-terrorism blueprint, with all parliamentary leaders on March 28.
On Friday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the New Zealand attack on Twitter and said: “I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 (where) 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror.”