–Nine Hazara Shias among at least 20 persons killed in ‘suicide’ attack carried out in Quetta’s Hazarganji market
–PM Imran orders immediate inquiry and increased security for [targeted] people
–Hazaras hold sit-in against persecution, say they won’t go home until govt provides them justice
QUETTA: At least 20 people were killed and over 48 others were injured in a suicide attack targeting members of the minority Shia Hazara community in Quetta’s Hazarganji market on Friday.
The attack claimed the lives of nine Hazara and one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier who was deputed for the community’s security, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema told reporters. The 10 others who lost their lives included shopkeepers, businessmen and citizens working or residing in the area. Four FC soldiers were among the injured.
DIG Cheema said the blast targeted the Hazara ethnic community.
However, Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, who held a press conference later in the day, said that the blast was not targeting “a specific community”.
“Our guess is that no specific community was targeted. Marri Baloch and FC personnel were among those killed as well. The numbers of the Hazara community were just greater,” Langove said.
He also described the blast as a suicide attack.
Qadir Nayil, a Hazara community leader, asked the government for provision of better protection.
“Once again our people were the target and once again we will have to bury our dear ones,” he said.
“We demand more security from the government and all those involved in today’s act of terrorism should be found and punished.”
Following the explosion, a high-level meeting chaired by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal reviewed the security measures.
It was decided in the meeting that the affected families will be given immediate financial assistance and that the provincial government will bear the treatment cost of those injured.
Furthermore, it was decided that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be immediately installed at the Hazarganji market and other public places. Action on terrorists’ hideouts and against their leaders will also be boosted, the caucus affirmed.
The Hazarganji neighbourhood has been witness to similar attacks in the past. Hazara shopkeepers are known to stock vegetables and fruits from the Hazarganji bazaar to sell at their own shops. They are provided a security escort to and from Hazarganji since they are constantly under threat of attack.
The attack came after a lull of at least a year in attacks against Hazaras, though there have been isolated shootings.
PROTESTS IN QUETTA:
Following the bomb blast, the Hazara community, Shia organisations and civil society issued a call of protest in Quetta and Karachi.
In Quetta, the protesters held a sit-in near the western by-pass in the morning which had not ended by the time the copy went to the press.
The participants said the government had failed to protect them in spite of a number of major attacks targetting the community in addition to target killings. They said they won’t end their sit-in until the government provided them justice.
After the attack, Hazara rights activist Jalila Haider, on his Twitter handle, said they would protest outside Quetta Press Club against the persecution and would march towards Islamabad if needed.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned “the terrorist attack” and sought “an immediate inquiry and increased security for the [targeted] people”.
President Dr Arif Alvi also condemned the blast and expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives. In a statement, he termed it a “heinous act of terrorism which is a reminder for us as nation that few remnants of this menace are still left to be eliminated totally.”
Condemning the attack, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of the injured. He said the terrorists wanted to target the process of progress and development by harming peace in the country.
“The valiant people of Pakistan have been boldly facing the menace of terrorism and time is not far when terrorists will be completely eliminated from the country,” the minister added.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif prayed for the departed souls and expressed condolences to the grieving families of the victims. He said the nation and its institutions have rendered great sacrifices to eliminate terrorism from the soil.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari wrote on Twitter: “Condemn the terrorist attack in Quetta. The government must stop dragging its feet & take action to counter violent extremism. Thoughts and prayers with the families of the victims.”
Balochistan Governor Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, Chief Minister Mir Jam Kamal Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also condemned the attack in the strongest words.