Thousands of protesters braved chilly weather in Quetta to protest over the killings of Hazara Shias in Mustang. In sub-zero temperature, women and children spent Wednesday night mourning the killings on the road, refusing to bury the bodies of the victims until the government gets hold of the criminals. Sharing in their bereavement, members of the Shia community in Karachi and Lahore have also staged sit-ins. They have refused to disperse unless their brethren in Quetta reach an agreement with the government. Lashker-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has claimed responsibility for the blast that killed 24 people. According to the mourners, most of the deceased were young boys between 20 to 25 years of age. A roadside blast on Tuesday hit a bus around 60 kilometres west of Quetta. It was carrying Shia pilgrims who were returning from Iran. There were similar protests last year after two devastating bomb attacks targeted the Shia Hazara, prompting Islamabad to sack the provincial government. A Human Rights Watch report this week said LeJ operated with "virtual impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks". More than 400 Shias were killed in targeted attacks across the country in 2013, the rights group said.
Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif asked Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Information Minister Pervez Rashid to visit Quetta and convince the protesting families to bury their relatives. Many ministers from the provincial government tried to solve the issue but the protestors refused to end their sit-in. It is good that the PM sent a high profile delegation and ultimately the government succeeded in convincing the victims of the Hazara killings to bury their dear ones. The matter however is not that simple. Unless the government succeeds in stopping the incremental genocide of Shia Hazaras by the LeJ, any act to console the victims will remain cosmetic. The LeJ is a known, banned terrorist organisation. Their hideouts are all in the full glare of the police and security establishment. But since their presence is heavily concentrated in southern Punjab, the Punjab government previously and now is loathe to take any concerted action. This discrimination, where Punjab is being 'saved' at the cost of other provinces is giving a bad name to the government. Just as the PM said the other day, we are in an extraordinary situation, which requires extraordinary steps to tackle the situation. The same thinking is required against the terrorists’ stronghold in Punjab. It is time for some hard thinking on the part of the PML-N. *