Central & South Asia

Pakistan Shias demand action over attack

Government vows action as Shia leaders give 48-hour deadline to act against perpetrators of attack that left 84 dead.
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2013 08:17

Shia Muslims in Pakistan have called on the government to take decisive action after a bombing by a pro-Sunni sectarian group killed 84 people in Quetta, even as the country’s interior minister assured better security for the beleaguered minority.

"We want to register our protests. We demand that the Pakistani army and judiciary take notice of the blasts and launch targeted operations against those responsible for such acts of terrorism," Fida Husain Sadiq, a Shia Muslim leader, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Quetta attacks
Since January 10, more than 204 people have died in attacks in the southwestern city. The majority of the victims have been from the Shia minority.

 January 10: 117 killed, over 200 injured Alamdar Road
 January 12: 2 killed on Brewery Road
 January 15: 3 killed in Bakra Mandi
 January 19: 4 killed in Khameesa Khan Bugti area
 January 21: 3 killed near Saryab Road
 January 23: 1 killed in fighting
 January 24: 2 barbers killed
 January 25: 7 bodies found outside Quetta
 February 7: 3 killed in Archar Road gunfight
 February 9: 1 killed in Kachlak
 February 16: At least 84 killed in Hazara Town

Rahman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, told Al Jazeera: "We are taking every possible measure to provide full security to the Shia community."

"We really feel sorry for the victims. Obviously those who are trying to destabilise Pakistan through sectarianism, I think that they have a plan… We have been handling it, and we will handle it further."

On Sunday, the government issued a $1m reward for information leading to the attackers.

The latest attack comes barely a month after nearly 95 Hazara Shia community members were killed in a terrorist attack in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the pro-Sunni sectarian group, claimed responsibility for both the attacks.

The provincial government was sacked after the January attack, which led relatives of the victims to refuse to bury their dead while they held a 76-hour protest sit-in.

The governor has said the blast was the result of a failure of the provincial security and intelligence agencies.

"Officials and personnel of these institutions are scared [of the terrorists]. Therefore they don't take action against them," Zulfiqar Magsi said in comments that were broadcast on local television.

'Arrest the culprits'

Malik, the interior minister, assured that action was being taken by the government to allay fears in the region.

"I have in fact instructed this afternoon to Frontier Corps [paramilitary force] and the police that they should hunt those Lashkar-e-Jhangvi guys wherever they are."

"We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of our people and after that we will launch strong protests"

- Aziz Hazara, Hazara Democratic Party

Aziz Hazara, vice president of the Hazara Democratic Party, said government was responsible for the killing of Hazara community.

"We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of our people and after that we will launch strong protests," he said.

The families of some of the victims have said they will not bury their dead until the army steps in to protect Shias, said Hasnain Zaidi, a spokesman for an alliance of Shia groups called Majlis Wahdat al-Muslimeen.

The violence touched a chord among Pakistanis elsewhere in the country, with small-scale protests being held in Islamabad, Karachi and at least 12 other cities.

At the Islamabad rally, hundreds of Shias and various civil rights groups demanded the government crackdown on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Unpopular government

The unpopular government, gearing up for elections expected within months, faces growing anger for failing to deliver stability.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Quetta, said: "It's after all a government that nobody takes seriously and [an] interior minister that nobody takes seriously, either, because he has been claiming that he would bring the situation under control and then it spirals out of control.

"The situation here in Quetta is once again becoming dangerous."

Last year was the deadliest so far for Pakistan's Shia Muslim community, which accounts for about 20 percent of the population, with more than 400 people dead in targeted killings.

Violence has been especially intense in Balochistan, which has seen more than 200 deaths in the last 35 days.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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