The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) closed its offices in five districts of Balochistan following the targeted killings of its two workers in Mastung. The workers, identified as Habibullah and Mohammad Zahid, were shot dead while travelling from Quetta to Mastung on Thursday morning.
“The offices are closed for two days in honour of our slain workers. We will review the security situation on Monday and then decide whether we will reopen the offices or not,” FAO project manager David Doolan told The Express Tribune. He added that the UN agency was facing extreme difficulties in the province due to a lack of security.
FAO currently functions in Qila Abdullah, Zhob, Loralai, Quetta and Mastung districts of Balochistan.
Shutter-down in Quetta
Meanwhile, a shutter-down strike paralysed business in Quetta following Thursday’s killings of five people, including a woman of the Hazara community.
The strike call was given by the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) and the Shia Conference, and backed by the Balochistan National Party (BNP), National Party (NP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), Jamhoori Wattan Party (JWP) and other nationalist parties.
The funeral prayers for the victims were offered at the Hazara graveyard. Addressing a news conference at the location, the vice president of the Shia Conference said that police have over 20 Hazara men in custody following ‘peaceful’ protests.
An earlier statement said they would not bury the community members until arrested protesters were released. Police have since released a few among those arrested.
At least five people were killed on Thursday morning and six others were injured, when a van carrying people belonging to the Hazara community was ambushed on Spini road.
Meanwhile, the Hazara community continued their protest for a second day. Scores of activists from the HDP demonstrated outside the Balochistan Assembly and raised slogans against the government.
“The government and intelligence agencies are well aware of the hideouts of target killers but do not have courage to take action against them,” said Ali Ahmed, senior leader of HDP. “The criminal negligence of the government and its functionaries is raising questions because the killings took place near the police check post and office of DIG operations.”
Stringent security measures were put in place in Quetta.
Talking to The Express Tribune, DIG-Operations Qazi Wahid said police have apprehended and were questioning 27 suspects in connection to the Spini road incident.
Regarding the arrests of the protesters, he claimed that some of them had opened fire at police and security personnel on Brewery Road. “We rounded up some protesters because they were armed with sophisticated weapons and shooting at the police,” he said.
The HDP meanwhile, lamented the fact that FIRs were already registered against 20 members of the Hazara community while no cases had yet been registered against the perpetrators of the Spini killings.
Chief minister’s reaction
Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani blamed foreign elements for fanning sectarian violence in the province. Presiding over a high level meeting he remarked: “Are the criminal elements more organised than law enforcement agencies? Why can successful action not be taken against criminals?”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.
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