Shia Muslims in Pakistan have called on the government to take decisive action after a bombing by a Sunni 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 leader, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
January 10: 117 killed, over 200 injured Alamdar Road
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, an armed Sunni 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.
“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.
“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
“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.”
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, a group that has been linked to al-Qaeda in the past.
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.