QUETTA – Life remained paralysed in Quetta on Sunday to mourn the loss of 85 Hazaras who became victims of a deadly suicide blast and the authorities’ inaction to nab sectarian killers operating with impunity.
A complete shutterdown strike was observed throughout Quetta on the call of the Malis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) and the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP). As protests spread to different parts of the country, including Lahore, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Karachi and Multan among other cities, mass graves were dug up in Hazara town for the burial of those killed in the blast. Emotionally drained, the Hazara community however denied to bury their dear ones who were killed in the Saturday’s Kirani Road blast. Thousands of protesting Hazaras staged a sit-in at Alamdar Road and in Hazara town along with 65 dead bodies in order to urge the government to accept their demands, including a targeted operation, under the supervision of the Army, against the perpetrators.
The death toll from the blast has reached 85 as more than 190 injured were being treated in Quetta, while some had been shifted to Karachi. Earlier, 65 dead bodies were shifted to Hazara town from different hospitals where they were to be buried and all arrangements were in place. However, on Sunday night, the MWM said that the deceased would not be buried until the demand of army action is met. The same demand they had made after a double suicide bombing on a snooker club in the city on January 10 had killed at least 92 people. At that time, Balochitan was put under the governor’s rule, while the demand of army action was not met.
MWM’s Syed Hadi said that the dead would not be buried until three demands are accepted; the other two demands being the arrest of two leaders of Ahle Sunnat wal-jamat and provision of security to citizens of Quetta. Syed Daud Agha said that they had presented ten demands after the Alamdar Road incident but only one demand was met. “Governor rule was imposed. Still 9 demands are yet to be honoured,” he said, adding that they had demanded dismissal of incompetent government because some ministers were involved in murder of the Hazara community. He said that they had no doubt in the sincerity and personality of Balochistan Governor Magsi, though a handful of sincere officers could not ensure peace.
The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) has given a 48-hour deadline to the Balochistan government to start a ‘targeted operation’ and hunt down the culprits of the deadly Kirani Road blast. Banned religious outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Saturday’s explosion. The same group had claimed double suicide bombing on a snooker club in the city on January 10 that had killed at least 92 people. The strike was also supported by the other political parties, including Pashtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party, National Party and Awami National Party.
All business centres, shopping malls and markets located on Jinnah Road, Sharha-e-Iqbal, Brewery Road, Abdul Sattar Road, Double Road and Kirani Road remained shut throughout the day. City roads presented a deserted look as most of people preferred to stay home owing to the stressed atmosphere, while the links leading to Kirani Road were closed.
The people from the Hazara community blocked Brewery Road by burning tyres. The national flag was hoisted at half-mast as the Balochistan government had announced official mourning against the barbaric incident.
Police backed by Frontier Corps were deployed across the city to avert any untoward incidents and mobile teams of law and enforcement agencies kept patrolling throughout the day. Addressing a news conference, HDP Vice Chairman Azizullah Hazara called upon the Balochistan governor to order an operation “otherwise protest will be held outside the Balochistan High Court on a daily basis”. He said that the Hazara community is being massacred in a well-planned way and if this didn’t stop they would be vindicated in taking any step. “This terror incident in Quetta would not have taken place had the government unmasked culprits of last month’s killings,” he added.
The HDP leader said that besides Quetta, the HDP would also hold protest demonstrations in other parts of the world, including Europe, America, Australia and Canada; outside Pakistani embassies to register their protest. Also, the Hazara Students Federation (HSF) staged a demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club. When contacted, Balochista Home Secretary Captain (r) Akbar Hussain Durrani however gave a different toll. He said at least 79 people were killed and 179 sustained injures in the blast. He said that the suicide attacker was driving the water tanker that hit the main bazaar of Hazara town in Kirani Road.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that the compensation announced for victims would soon be paid. Meanwhile, on the call of the Shia Ulema Council, strike would be observed in Karachi on Monday (today). Transports will remain off road while markets would be shut. Also, Bars across the country, including the Pakistan Bar Council, the Karachi Bar, the Rawalpindi Bar, the Punjab Bar and the Balochistan Bar, have announced boycott of courts.
Punjab will hoist national flag half-mast to observe a day of mourning. Mourning has also been announced in Gilgit Baltistan. – nation