Protesters continued a sit-in at Governor’s House and started a new one at Thokar Niaz Beg here on Sunday to demand an army takeover of Balochistan to improve security for besieged Shias in the province.
The protesters vowed not to move till their demands were accepted and appeared to be hunkering down for the long haul. Participants in the sit-in on The Mall outside Governor’s House ate their meals on the road, while another sit-in at the intersection of Canal Bank Road and Multan Road at Thokar Niaz Beg swelled in numbers as night approached.
The protest at Governor’s House was called by Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafri of the Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen Pakistan (MWM) in response to Thursday’s bomb attacks in Quetta that left over a 100 dead and twice as many wounded. PPP leader Naheed Khan and Jamaat-i-Islami Ameer Syed Munawwar Hasan joined the protest for a while.
Addressing the gathering, MWM Punjab Secretary General Allama Abdul Khaliq Asadi condemned the Quetta massacre, saying the political government of Balochistan had completely failed in its duty to protect the citizens of the province. He said that the Shia community was being pushed to the wall and this was not the first time they had been targeted.
Asadi demanded that the chief justice of the Supreme Court take up the matter, as over a thousand Shias had been assassinated in targeted killings the province. He demanded the immediate removal of the chief minister of Balochistan and for the army to take responsibility for security in its capital city.
MWM leader Hassan Naqvi said that those responsible for citizens’ security appeared to have become their enemies. “They are not fulfilling their duties as part of the government, which has led to the devastation of our community in Balochistan in particular and in the country in general,” he said.
He said that 60 hours since the start of the protest in Quetta where the families of the victims of Thursday’s bombings have gathered at Alamdar Road carrying the coffins of their loved ones – not a single government functionary or organisation had visited them, not even for condolences.
“We do not want martial law in the country, but for the army to be responsible for security because the current government has failed miserably in this regard,” he said, adding that the protesters would not leave till their demands were met.
A growing number of people, carrying heavy shawls in preparation for a night out on the street, joined a sit-in at Thokar Niaz Beg from Sunday evening. Addressing the gathering, Allama Gulfam Hashmi said that they would stay camped at the crossing until the army took over Balochistan.
Another demonstration and sit-in was carried out by the MWM at Imamia Colony, Shahdara, on GT Road. They blocked traffic and chanted slogans. The protest leaders at all locations urged the participants to remain peaceful and do no damage to public property.
The All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajran, representing shopkeepers across the country, announced a strike in solidarity with the protesters on Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.