Shi'ite Muslims gather in Lahore to protest against last
week's twin bomb attack in Quetta. REUTERS/Mani Rana
Protests against attacks on Shi'ites spread across
Pakistan as the prime minister flew to the city of Quetta to
meet mourners refusing to bury 96 victims of a sectarian bomb
attack until they were promised protection from Sunni
The protests were triggered by twin bombings on Thursday
targeting Shi'ite ethnic Hazaras in Quetta, capital of
Balochistan province. The attacks, claimed by the
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group, killed at least 96 people.
Sectarian killings have been rising in Pakistan even as
deaths from other militant violence have dropped.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose roots are in the heartland Punjab
province, wants to expel the Shi'ites who make up about a
fifth of the 180 million population. Human Rights Watch says
more than 400 Shi'ites were killed in sectarian attacks last
"We want assurances that the killers will be arrested so our
younger children will not die also," said Sakina Bibi, 56,
sitting by the coffins of two of her sons.
"They were my everything," she wept. "Sitting here will not
bring them back but it is our right to protest."
Islamic tradition demands that the dead be buried as soon as
possible. Leaving the bodies of loved ones above ground for
so long is such a potent expression of grief and pain that
many people in other cities held protests and vigils in
Protests took place in five areas of the commercial capital
Karachi, home to 18 million people. Protesters blocked
railway lines and the road connecting the airport to the
city. Hundreds also gathered outside the president's private
"If we remain silent now, the whole Shi'ite community will be
wiped out in Pakistan and the security agencies won't say
anything," said Ali Muhammad, 55.
"WE WILL CHOKE THE ROADS"
"We will choke the roads of the entire country if the demands
of the Hazara community are not met."
In the eastern city of Lahore, thousands of people gathered
outside the governor's mansion, vowing to stay there in
solidarity with the Quetta protesters.
In the provincial capital of Peshawar, around 600 people
settled down for the night outside the governor's house.
Small protests also broke out in 11 other cities across the
country, including Islamabad.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met local officials in
Quetta, but did not talk to the protesters, who refused to
leave the site of their vigil.
A person present at the talks said the government had
promised to carry out a limited operation against suspects
and consider legal possibilities for removing the chief
minister of Balochistan.
But there was no public statement and no sign that the
protesters - who want security guarantees, army action
against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the dismissal of the provincial
government - would back down.
"We will keep protesting until our demands are met," said
Raja Nasir Abbas, secretary general of
Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen, a national body of Shi'ite
groups and clerics.
Two national government ministers and three other senior
officials wrote to the president and prime minister
recommending that Balochistan's chief minister be fired.
Human Rights Minister Mustafa Khokhar said the head of the
police and the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which has primary
responsibility for security in the province, should also be
"The government has miserably failed to protect the rights of
its citizens," he said.