Members of Shia community in Pakistan’s Balochistan province have buried victims of deadly attacks, ending a three-day protest to demand better security after the provincial government was dismissed.
The protest that ended on Monday in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, was launched in the wake of a twin bombing at a billiards hall on Thursday that killed more than 90 people.
Thousands of Shias from the ethnic Hazara community gathered for the mass burial in the afternoon, according to a photographer with the AFP news agency.
Families wept and cried, with many beating their chests and heads in mourning as the coffins were brought to the graveyard in Quetta, guarded by hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers along with Shia volunteers.
Demonstrators refused to bury their dead and staged their sit-in outside the bombed building demanding the sacking of the provincial government and the imposition of military rule for their protection.
Abdul Qayum Changezi, one of the organisers of the protest, said they were ending the demonstration because most of their demands were met.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Pakistani prime minister, said in a televised address shortly after midnight on Sunday that the governor, who is appointed by the central government, would take over in Balochistan, replacing the chief minister elected by the provincial assembly.
“We are determined to defeat this mindset,” Ashraf was quoted as saying by state media, referring to those he accused of trying to divide Shias and Sunnis.
He said the governor could call the army at “any time for assistance” and the top commander in Balochistan would “directly” supervise paramilitary forces who had the power to arrest and investigate anyone.
The provincial government was widely criticised for failing to control the myriad security problems and the chief minister, Aslam Raisani, was criticised for making a trip to London while security worsened.
The bombing was carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian group allied with al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
Solidarity protests were reported on Sunday in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and especially Karachi, where hundreds gathered outside the Pakistani president’s private house.
In Lahore, protesters gathered outside the home of the governor of Punjab province.
Outside the Pakistani embassy in London, people gathered to mourn the victims and protest in solidarity with Shias across Pakistan. As similar protest was reported in Toronto, Canada.
Last year was the deadliest so far for Pakistan’s Shia community, which accounts for 20 percent of the population, with more thsn 400 people dead in targeted killings. Violence has been especially intense in Balochistan.