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Tehrik-i-TalibanPakistan (TTP), the largest umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban, has denied involvement in the attack. The group’s spokesman, Azam Tariq, said the attack was masterminded and executed by the U.S. through private defense contractors to create schisms among the local population.

“This is shrewd on the part of TTP, which has been serving as the action arm and mouthpiece of al Qaeda in Pakistan, to cover up for the strategy, as well as to avoid the public anger. Otherwise, the attack has a signature of al Qaeda and TTP on it,” said Imran Khan, a local researcher on Taliban and al Qaeda.

While holding the Punjab Taliban responsible for the shrine attack, Barelvi clerics have accused the government of Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan, of supporting Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, particularly adherents of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah, who organize attacks on shrines.

Jama’at-ud-Da’wah is the alias of the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan’s federal government recently blamed Punjab’s government for doling out public money to Jama’at-ud-Da’wah.

India has blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed more than 160 people.

After the shrine attack in Lahore, the chairman of the Sunni Unity Council, Sahibzada Fazal Karim, said Sunnis would continue their protest until the Punjab government cuts off its “links with terrorists” and ousts officials who are “sympathizers of Taliban.”

Fauzia Wahab, a spokeswoman for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, accused the Punjab government of supporting Taliban terrorists. Speaking in Lahore, she said Punjab “will have to shun the policy of patronizing militants to curb the menace of terrorism.”

Ms. Wahab also chided the Punjab government for providing about $1 million to Jama’at-ud-Da’wah.

Punjab’s government is ruled by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which is headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ousted in a military coup in 1999, Mr. Sharif spent much of his exile in Saudi Arabia and has been accused of receiving financial support from Osama bin Laden. He returned to Pakistan in 2007.

Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer, also has accused his province’s elected government of abetting Taliban terrorists.

In an interview with a local TV station, Mr. Taseer said that although several terrorists had been brought to trial, including those who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team last year in Lahore, the government’s weak prosecution of their cases allowed the terrorists to be acquitted because of a lack of evidence.