Shias refuse to bury dead; demand military takeover
* Protests erupt across Pakistan over Quetta attack as toll rises to 85
* Hazaras threaten march on Islamabad if demands not met
QUETTA: Shias called on the military on Sunday to take control of Quetta after a bombing by militants killed 85 people, and threatened to stage a long march to the capital if their demands were not met.
Pakistani leaders have done little to contain hardline Sunni Muslim groups, which have stepped up a campaign of bombings and assassinations of minority Shias in a bid to destabilise the nuclear-armed country and install a Sunni theocracy. The unpopular government, which is gearing up for elections expected within months, faces growing anger for failing to deliver stability.
On Saturday, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), seen as the most ruthless Sunni sectarian group, claimed responsibility for the Quetta attack, which deepened suspicions among Shias that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were turning a blind eye to the bloodshed or even supporting extremists.
The families of the 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.
Muslim tradition requires that bodies are buried as soon as possible and leaving them above ground is a potent expression of grief and pain.
“The situation is very tense,” Zaidi told Reuters. “Thirty five bodies were burned beyond recognition. Shia families will hold a long march to Islamabad if the army does not step in.”
The death toll from the bombing rose overnight, with most of the casualties in the main bazaar. The attack targeted ethnic Hazara Shias.
“The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces,” Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, governor of Balochistan province, said while touring a hospital.
Leaders of the Hazara community called on the government to take decisive action, and Pakistanis warned that sectarian violence was spiraling out of control ahead of elections expected in May.
“The government is responsible for terrorist attacks and killings in the Hazara community because its security forces have not conducted operations against extremist groups,” said Aziz Hazara, vice president of the Hazara Democratic Party.
“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.”
On Sunday, people searched for survivors under blocks of cement torn off buildings by the blast. A large blood stain could be seen on a wall near the site.
Many shops and bazaars were closed. Relatives of the wounded responded to an appeal for blood made by hospitals. “The government knows exactly who is doing what and who is behind all this,” said Mohammad Imran, a local trader. “If the government wants (to prevent it), no one can take even a kitchen knife into any market.” In the capital Islamabad, about 400 people staged a protest. Protests were also held in other cities, including Karachi. reuters