A Shia girl at a protest in Quetta on Monday. (AFP)
Quetta, Feb. 18 (Agencies): Thousands of Pakistani Shias furious over Saturday’s sectarian bombing that killed 89 people protested today, demanding that security forces protect them from hardline Sunni groups.
The attack, near a street market in the southwestern city of Quetta, highlighted the government’s failure to crack down on militancy in Pakistan just a few months before a general election is due.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), seen as the most ruthless Sunni sectarian group, claimed responsibility for the latest bombing, just as they did for another bombing that killed nearly 100 people in the same city last month.
.In Quetta, some ethnic Shia Hazaras are refusing to bury their dead until the army goes after the LeJ.
Around 4,000 men, women and children placed 71 bodies beside a Shia place of worship. Muslim tradition requires that bodies are buried as soon as possible, and leaving them above ground is a potent expression of grief and pain.
Some coffins contained three or four bags of remains, with photographs of the dead on top. Grown men wept beside a hand-written list of victims hanging on a wall.
“We stand firm for our demands of handing over the city to the army and carrying out a targeted operation against terrorists and their supporters,” said Syed Muhammad Hadi, spokesman for an alliance of Shia groups. “We will not bury the bodies unless our demands are met.”
The paramilitary Frontier Corps is largely responsible for security in Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, but Shias say it is unable or unwilling to protect them. The roughly 500,000-strong Hazara people in Quetta, who speak a Persian dialect, have distinct features and are an easy target for Sunni hardliners.
Today, Pakistanis demonstrated in other major cities including Islamabad and Lahore, where Shia activists put up lights along roads and passed out water during a sit in. “Installation of lights and other arrangements indicate that we are ready to stay here till the government meets our demands and takes necessary measures to stop Shia genocide in Pakistan,” said Ammar Yasir, a Shia leader.
Four security guards and a civilian were killed in Peshawar today after gunmen, wearing police uniforms, raided the compound of a senior government official, officials said.
Two explosions were heard, followed by gunfire at the compound of top political official Muttahirzeb Khan, where tribal officials and members of political parties had gathered for talks. Officials suspected the attackers were suicide bombers.