PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE/ KARACHI:
The entire nation, from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh, felt the pain of the aggrieved Hazara community on Sunday as rallies were staged to denounce the deadly blast at Hazara Town.
About 400 protesters gathered at Islamabad’s D-Chowk to express solidarity with the Hazara community. They demanded the government stamp out extremism from the country.
Members of civil society, Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and people from different walks of life attended the protest. “If the security forces cannot protect its citizens, then we don’t need them anymore,” said rights campaigner Farzana Bari.
Holding placards and banners, protesters shouted “Stop Hazara genocide” and “We Need Protection”.
“The blast-hit area had only two points of entry and vehicles have to pass through pickets from either point … despite this, a vehicle rigged with 1,000 kilogrammes of explosives drove into the busy market,” said Naimat, a college student.
Sajjad Hussain Changezi, an engineering student, said that frequent bans on cellular services are cosmetic measures which cannot eliminate terrorism from the country. He added that a comprehensive strategy was needed to deal with this menace.
In Lahore, around 1,000 members of the Shia community staged a sit-in in front of the Governor House and demanded that Quetta be handed over to the military. Protesters also demanded a crackdown against Lashker-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) sanctuaries in Punjab. They resolved to continue the sit-in till their demands were met.
In Karachi, Shia community members continued protests and rallies for a second consecutive day, which were also marred by violence in certain neighbourhoods.
At least one man was shot dead and two others were injured during an exchange of fire between protesters and shopkeepers in the Saddar area.
According to DSP Zameer Abbasi, the incident took place when unidentified persons opened fire on a protest rally that was returning from the Karachi Press Club. In response, some protesters returned indiscriminate fire, hitting several nearby shops. Upon this, some shopkeepers snatched a firearm from a police constable and returned fire at the protesters.
At least three vehicles were also set on fire by protesters in Karachi, while at other places in the city, protesters pelted passing vehicles with stones.
Addressing a protest rally outside Karachi Press Club, MWM’s Karachi chapter general secretary Maulana Sadiq Raza Taqvi claimed that the elements opposed to governor’s rule in Balochistan might have masterminded Saturday’s blast.
The Jafaria Alliance Pakistan warned it would approach the United Nations and other international organisations if terrorism continued in Pakistan, especially in Quetta and Karachi.
The Shia community in Karachi also gave the call for a strike on Monday across Sindh. The call has been supported by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, along with the city’s business community, schools and transport associations. Protests were also observed in other parts of Sindh and Punjab, along with Peshawar and parts of K-P.
(Read: How many more deaths?)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2013.