ISLAMABAD: The national flag flew at half-mast across Pakistan on Monday as the nation observed a day of mourning in solidarity with victims of attacks on two mosques in New Zealand last week.
At least 50 people, including nine of Pakistani origin, were killed by an ultra-right white extremist who opened fire on worshippers in two mosques during Friday congregational prayers and live-streamed the assault on social media.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign minister announced a day of mourning to show solidarity with the grieved families. He also announced a national award for Mian Naeem Rashid, a Pakistani professor who lived in the New Zealand city of Christchurch and was gunned down in one of the mosques after trying to disarm the gunman. Rashid’s son Talha was also killed in the assault. His brother and mother will leave for New Zealand today to attend his funeral.
The government has announced that it will assist the families of Pakistanis killed in the attack, and ensure that they could travel to Christchurch to attend the funerals of their loved ones and bring their bodies back home for burial.
The process of handing over the bodies of Pakistanis killed in the gun attacks will begin on Monday, New Zealand's foreign minister Winston Peters told his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi over the phone.
Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha told reporters that dozens of graves had been dug in anticipation of the arrival of the bodies from Christchurch.
“The process has been highly emotional and stressful for all ... as in accordance with Islamic faith the families have wanted the bodies to be returned as soon as possible,” he said. “We have burial expert teams in place ready to receive the bodies at any point.”