Shia mourners refuse to end Quetta sit-in


Even after repeated assurances by the six-member parliamentary delegation of the government of providing security to Shias in Quetta, mourners protesting with bodies of Kirani Road bombing victims have refused to end their protest.

Heavy rain is being reported in Quetta, but the mourners remain steadfast and are sticking to their demand of handing Quetta to the army or else the sit-in will continue.

Earlier, the parliamentary delegation reached an agreement with Quetta sit-in participants , after which nationwide protests were called off.

The government representatives accepted most of the demands made by the sit-in participants, with the notable exception of calling in the army in Quetta.

The protesters’ demand at all these places was the same: Call in the army in Quetta and take immediate action against the extremist militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which in recent months has played havoc with Shias, mainly the peaceful Hazara community of Balochistan, through a string of attacks.

The team comprised Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP MNA Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, PPP MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan, PPP Senator Sughra Imam, PPP MNA Yasmeen Rehman and Federal Minister for Political Affairs Maula Bakhsh Chandio.

The sit-in had been called by the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) , Balochistan Shia Conference and Milli Yakjehti Council, who held successful negotiations with the government delegation.

Thousands of Hazara men, women and children had continued their protest sit-in for the third consecutive day. They had refused to bury those who died in Saturday’s explosion on Kirani Road, HazaraTown, unless action was taken against the perpetrators.

The delegation convinced the protesters to bury the victims during the negotiations.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sent the parliamentarians to Quetta to negotiate with the protesters and ordered an “immediate launch of a targeted operation” against those responsible, his office said without elaborating.

Local officials in Quetta announced earlier Tuesday that security forces had killed four men and arrested seven including an alleged mastermind of Saturday’s bombing in an “ongoing” raid on the edge of the city.

Police said another 172 people had been rounded up in the surrounding province of Balochistan in the past two days, including the provincial chief of extremist Sunni outfit Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and they were now being questioned.

The president of the Shia Ulema Council, Sajid Naqvi, had warned the protests could intensify if they were not happy with Tuesday’s meeting with the delegation.

“The government must know that if the talks fail the situation in the country will further deteriorate,” he told AFP.

But Daud Agha, chairman of the Balochistan Shia Conference which is one of the groups taking part in the protest, had expressed satisfaction at the raid and said a time would be announced for the burials to begin.

Another senior Shia leader, Sikandar Gilani, had said earlier that the matter could be resolved if the army gave a guarantee they would launch an operation against the extremists.

The youngest victim of Saturday’s blast was a five-year-old boy who died along with his mother when the bomb, containing nearly a tonne of explosives, demolished a shopping centre.

A similar protest, after suicide bombers killed 92 people at a Hazara snooker hall in Quetta on January 10, lasted for four days until Islamabad sacked the provincial government and imposed governor’s rule.