Bloody sectarian violence continues unabated in the volatile Balochistan province.
On Saturday, seven members of the Hazara community were killed in two apparently coordinated drive-by shooting incidents on the outskirts of the provincial capital.
“Gunmen riding on motorcycles fired a volley of gunshots at a bus stop in the Hazar Ganji neighbourhood near a vegetable market,” Haji Khan, an officer at the Shal Kot police station, told The Express Tribune.
Five people – all vegetable sellers – were killed on the spot, he added. The victims belonged to the ethnic Hazara community who are Shias by sect.
Wazir Khan Nasir, the deputy inspector general of police (DIG), put the number of attackers at four and said they were riding on two motorcycles. He confirmed that it was a targeted attack against the Hazara community.
Earlier reports suggested that the gunmen intercepted a bus, pulled five Hazara vegetable sellers off the vehicle and shot them dead.
One and a half hour later, gunmen riding on a motorbike sprayed bullets on another bus stop in the same neighbourhood. “Two intending pilgrims from the Hazara community were killed,” Haji Khan said.
According to him, the victims were waiting at the bus stop to catch a bus for the Pak-Iran border town of Taftan.
Soon after the first attack, a heavy contingent of police and paramilitary Frontier Corps cordoned off the area and mounted a manhunt for the killers.
The victims were driven to the Bolan Medical College Teaching Hospital for medico-legal formalities before the bodies are handed over to their heirs for burial.
The victims were identified as Ali Baba, Jawad, Nauroz Ali, Muhammad Raza, Nauroz, Muhammad Ali and Aziz Ali.
The senseless killings sparked violence in some neighbourhoods of the city where members of the Hazara community took to the streets. Protesters went berserk, allegedly barged into houses and harassed residents.
Residents said irate protesters made their way into residences in Rasiani Town, Faisal Town, Bugti Street, Railway Housing Scheme, Qilla Muhammad Hassani, A-One City and threatened the occupants.
At least two persons were killed and nine others, including a police official, were wounded in protest. “We were caught up in violent protests. We were terrified and feeling insure in our own houses,” Azhar Khan, a resident of Faisal Town told The Express Tribune.
“It was anarchy-like situation – police and administration did not come to control the situation,” he added.
The Hazara Democratic Party staged a sit-in outside the IG office and condemned the targeted killings of their community members. They demanded immediate arrest of the killers.
Chief of Hazra tribe Sardar Sadat Ali called a shutter-down strike in Quetta on Sunday to protest the killings. The Hazara Democratic Party and Thahfuz-e-Azadari Council supported the call.
Alarmed by the recent surge in target attacks, the provincial government has delegated police powers to the paramilitary FC in an attempt to stem the tide of violence.
This means now FC troops can make arrest, search houses and detain people for questioning, an official told The Express Tribune.
In one month, at least 20 people have been killed in sectarian violence in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan which is a flashpoint for sectarian violence that has left thousands of people dead since the late 1980s.
LeJ claims responsibility
Late in the night, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) sectarian extremist group claimed responsibility for the gruesome killings.
A purported spokesperson for the LeJ said that his group was responsible for the killing of seven Hazara community members.
“From tomorrow (Sunday), we will start our campaign against the police. Top police officials will be targeted during the campaign,” the spokesperson, identifying himself as Abu Bakar, told Express News in a phone call from an undisclosed location.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2012.