Islamabad: Hundreds of Hazara Shias on Saturday protested against bomb attacks in the Southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta that killed dozens of members of the minority community, saying they would not bury their dead till the security situation improves. The protesters, including women, children and the elderly, gathered at Alamdar Road, a Shia-dominated neighbourhood of Quetta, with the bodies of over 80 people killed in bomb attacks Thursday night.
Despite the biting cold, the Shias said their protest would continue till authorities acted to improve security. Footage on television showed protesters sitting on the road with bodies wrapped in shrouds.
Shia Conference president Syed Dawood Agha told the BBC that his community would not bury its dead till the army gave an assurance that it would take administrative control of Quetta. Leaders of the community said the Balochistan government had failed to protect them and demanded that the army be deployed in Quetta, the provincial capital, to prevent sectarian attacks.
Top Shia leader Maulana Amin Shaheedi publicly criticised army chief General Ashfaq Kayani. Ninety-two people, a majority of them Hazara Shias, were killed in blasts at Alamdar Road.
A suicide attacker blew himself up inside a crowded snooker club. Minutes later, a car bomb went off in the same area. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the blasts.
The LeJ has carried out a series of attacks in Quetta and surrounding areas over the past few years, killing scores of Hazara Shias. Shia leaders in Quetta were also angered by the fact that no member of the Pakistan People's Party-led government in Balochistan had met the victims of Thursday's attacks or visited the protesters at Alamdar Road.
The Hazara Democratic Party demanded that the provincial government should be dismissed and a caretaker setup formed after consultations with all political parties. The HDP further demanded that security forces should carry out targeted operations against militants targeting Shias.
Maulana Amin Shaheedi, a leader of the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen told a news conference that it was time the Army chief took note of the bloodshed being carried out in the province and the way Shia s particularly from the Hazara community were being mercilessly targeted by banned extremist outfits. "My question to the army chief is that although he has got a extension of three years as Army chief what have you done to protect the Shias of Pakistan. Tragically the attacks on Shias have only increased in the last three years," he said.
The Pakistan government and intelligence agencies routinely blame the Indian government and its spy agency of fomenting trouble in the province by providing arms and support to militants and separatist outfits. But Maulana Shaheedi said the attacks were being carried out by banned outfits like Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LeJ) and others who had no fear of being caught or punished.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it could feel the outrage of the Shia community as their people had been brutally targeted for last many years specially in Baluchistan. "The situation is really bad there only last year around 500 Shias mainly from the Hazara community were killed in the province," an official of the organisation said. Danyal Hasan of the Human Rights Watch also said the minority communities particularly Shia's belonging to the Hazara community were living in great fear.