QUETTA - History repeats itself, they say. And it seems true for the Hazara Shias of Quetta who are again on city’s Alamdar Road for a protest cum mourning following Tuesday’s bombing of a bus bringing pilgrims back from neighbouring Iran. The attack in Dringar area of Mastung district by Lashker-e-Jhangvi brutes killed 25 people and wounded 40 others, young and old.
Braving bitter cold hundreds of men, women and children are sitting around the coffins on the road leading to Hazara Twon, city’s main Shia neighbourhood which was scene of even more deadly bombings last winter. And, the same road was the venue of protest by the powerless Hazara mourners then.
“What is our mistake? Is it a crime to be a Shia in this country? Why they don’t eliminate all of us in one go,” a woman sitting near the coffin of her relative questioned. “Ministers and government officers are more concerned about their own security than protecting the more vulnerable Shias, who are being slaughtered like goats every day,” she added.
Hassan, a young mourner, remarked, “We have no more strength to shoulder the coffins and burry our dear ones who were killed for no crime... Almost every family of Hazara community has suffered human losses during last seven years but nobody is really concerned about it and there seems to be no end to such horrendous episodes.”
“Targeted operation should be carried out against terrorists and perpetrators should be brought to justice,” demanded Syed Raza Agha of Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM), warning they will not burry the bodies otherwise. Addressing a press conference at Shuhda Chowk, he said strict action should be carried out against terrorists in Mastung, Dasht, Aktharabad and other areas.
In 2013, following deadly suicide attacks that claimed more than 100 lives, Hazara Shia community staged a sit-in at the same road that eventually led to imposition of governor rule in Balochistan and ended Nawab Aslam Raisani’s government.
“Quetta has been surrounded by terrorists from all four sides but our morale is high and we will defeat the terrorists,” said Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch during his visit to CMH hospital where he inquired after the injured. “Govt shares grief with affected families and all coalition parties are audaciously striving to revive peace. In this war, the people would be the victors,” he told reporters.
After frequent attacks on the Shia pilgrims on Taftan-Quetta highway despite stringent security arrangements, Dr Baloch said his government is now considering other options. The distance from Taftan, border city of Iran, to Quetta is 700 kilometres and this long distance makes it possible for terrorists to target pilgrims, he said. The CM said he has discussed the issue with federal government and they were finalising a new strategy for securing the routes of the pilgrims.
He said it should be a good idea to start a ferry service from Karachi to Chahabar city of Iran. “Ferry service would be safer; we will make special travelling arrangements and subsidise the fare for pilgrims.” He claimed the sectarian attacks in Balochistan had declined by 35 per cent in 2013 but some very unfortunate events have marked the start of this year.
Quetta city on Wednesday remained shut to mourn the Shia killings. Our Staff Reporters from other cities also reported huge protest demonstrations in other major cities of the country, on the call of MWM chief Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jaferi and other Shia leaders. Civil society activists also participated in the demos.
In Lahore, workers of MWM, Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) and others gathered in front of Governor House in the evening and started a sit-in which was continuing till filing of this story. MWM leaders Syed Imitaz Kazmi, Syed Aahmad Iqbal Rizvi and Syed Asad Abbas Naqvi and ISO central leader Syed Zain Zaidi were leading the protest. The protesters having placards and banners were chanting slogans against the government for failure to protect the Shia community. They said a handful terrorists had made the country hostage.
In Karachi also, hundreds of people on the call of MWM staged protest sit-ins at various main roads, causing massive traffic jams. The main venues of protests were Numaish Chowrangi, MA Jinnah Road, Ancholi Society and National Highway. Public transport vanished from the roads over fears of mob situation. Shia leaders demanded the government launch countrywide operation against the terrorists.
In Rawalpindi, Shia activists staged a sit in at Faizabad Interchange, and blocked Benazir Bhutto Road and Islamabad Expressway, causing huge traffic blockades. A scuffle was reported between the police and protesters at BBR when police tried to disperse the demonstrators to unblock the road. But protesters did not obey police and the sit-in was continuing till late into night.