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January 12, 2013

Hazaras stage sit-in, look to army as toll reaches 118

January 12, 2013

QUETTA: The city wore a gloomy look on Friday as the provincial capital mourned its 118 dead, who were targeted in Thursday’s multiple blasts in one of the country’s deadliest single day of violence over the last five years.
The Hazaras turned out to be target of these bombs. In protest, they refused to bury the dead on Friday, and staged a sit-in, demanding that the government protect them from barrage of bombings and shootings.
The Hazaras took more than 50 bodies to the main Rehmat Khan Chowk at the Alamdar Road, saying that they will not bury them until the government improved security in the city. The protesters burnt tyres and blocked the road.
The community has long been persecuted by the Taliban and other terrorists because they belong to the Shia sect.
After October 2007 when the terrorists killed over 150 people in an attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Karachi, Thursday’s was the bloodiest bomb explosion the country had borne.
A complete shutter-down strike was observed in the provincial capital to condemn the bombings on the call of the Anjuman-e-Tajiran Balochistan, endorsed by nearly all politico-nationalists parties.
All markets and business centres at Liaquat Bazaar, Prince Road, Jinnah Road, Shahra-e-Iqbal, Mission Road, Shawak Sha Road, Masjid Road, Alamdar Road and Abdul Sattar Road remained closed throughout the day.
Traffic was thin on the city’s roads compared to routine. Heavy contingents of the police and law enforcement agencies were deployed to maintain law and order. However, no unpleasant incident was reported.
The Hazaras shouted slogans against the provincial government and held it responsible for the killings. The demonstrators demanded of the government to step down in the larger interest of the province as it had failed miserably to maintain law and order in Balochistan.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, who visited the CMH to inquire about the health of

the injured, also expressed his displeasure over the deteriorating law and order situation in the province. He strongly condemned the bombing incidents at Quetta.
“We have lost the right to govern,” Magsi told the media at the hospital.
He said that it was the responsibility of the government to provide security to people. The people ought to elect good politicians in the upcoming elections, he advised. In a news conference, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Chairman Abdul Khaliq Hazara announced to observe three-day hunger strike in protest against the terrorism in the province. He demanded removal of the provincial government underlining the need for an interim set-up in the province. He demanded a targeted operation against the attackers in the supervision of the army.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan government once against gave the police powers to the Frontier Corps (FC) to maintain law and order in the province. A notification issued here stated that the FC was given police powers for one month in Quetta to maintain law and order. According to the notification, the FC would act under the supervision of the civil administration and would follow the restrictions and conditions laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. Previously, the government had withdrawn the police powers from the FC on December 3, 2012.
Agencies add: “We want safety for all sects, and all security measures should be taken for our safety,” said Fida Hussain, a relative of one of the victims. “We will not bury them until the government fulfils all our demands.”
Shia volunteers erected tents to keep the bystanders away from the severely-damaged building, where the pool hall once occupied the basement.
Nearby resident Jan Ali said, “It was a scene like hell on earth. Rescue people were carrying out dead and injured, people bleeding and crying, and rushing them toward ambulances. I have never seen such a horrifying situation in my life.’’
One of those killed in the carnage was a young human rights activist named Irfan Ali. “He was a very active, energetic activist,” said Tahir Hussain, a lawyer and vice chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Balochistan chapter. He said Ali had been associated with the HRCP for the last 10 years, often writing about social issues and oppression of the Shia Hazara community. Shia Hazara migrated from Afghanistan more than a century ago.
Ali appeared to have been killed during the second explosion after he rushed to the scene to help, said Hussain. On his Twitter feed before his death, Ali wrote about the Hazara families who were leaving the area in fear.
Many residents railed at the government for the repeated acts of violence.
“This government has totally failed in protecting us,” said Abbas Ali, who was collecting items from the rubble of his nearby shop, also destroyed in the blast. “Somehow we will get compensation for our losses but those who have gone away will not come back.” The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), a banned terrorist, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack.
Violence against Shias is rising and some communities are living in a state of siege, a human rights group said on Friday, warning that sectarian violence will only get worse.
“Last year was the bloodiest year for Shias in living memory,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “More than 400 were killed and if yesterday’s attack is any indication, it’s just going to get worse.”
The roughly 500,000-strong Hazara people in Quetta, who speak a Persian dialect, have distinct features and are an easy target, said Dayan.
“They live in a state of siege. Stepping out of the ghetto means risking death,” said Dayan. “Everyone has failed them — the security services, the government, the judiciary.”
Human rights groups say the government must investigate whether some of the groups have links to elements within Pakistan’s security services.
Shia leaders said they wanted the military to take control of Quetta to protect them.
“We won’t let them (the dead) be buried unless the army comes into Quetta,” said Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslameen, an umbrella organisation of Shias formed in 2008.
In a rare challenge, he publicly criticised military chief General Ashfaq Kayani over security in the country.
The criticism of Kayani highlighted the Shia frustrations with the state’s failure to contain terrorist groups who have vowed to wipe them out of the country time and again. “I ask the army chief: What have you done with these extra three years you got (in office)? What did you give us except more death?” Shaheedi said in a news conference. The latest attacks prompted an outpouring of grief, rage and fear among Shias, many of whom have concluded that the state has left them at the mercy of the LeJ and other terrorist groups.
“The LeJ operates under one front or the other, and its activists go around openly castigating us in the streets of Quetta and outside our mosques,” said Syed Dawwod Agha, a top official with the Balochistan Shia Conference.
“We have become a community of grave diggers. We are so used to death now that we always have shrouds ready.”

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