While the Supreme Court and the federal government decided on Monday to take some steps on their part, Shia Hazaras protesting against a devastating attack on their community on Saturday refused to budge until the army was deployed in the city.
The Supreme Court announced to take suo motu notice of the killings of the recent attacks on the Hazara community in Quetta.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry fixed the case for hearing today (Tuesday) and has issued notices to the Balochistan advocate general as well as the attorney general of Pakistan.
Thousands of protesters have been staging a sit-in against the attack, which left 89 people dead and around 200 injured, at a local Imam Bargah, along with the bodies of the victims of Saturday’s blast in Kirani Town of Quetta.
They have refused to bury the dead until Quetta is handed over to the army and a targeted operation launched against the culprits.
Saturday’s blast came over a month after a massive attack on the Shia Hazara community in Quetta left over 100 people dead. Families of the victims had staged a sit-in at the site of the attack and demanded the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the province, which the government has conceded to. Banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for both the attacks.
A statement issued by the SC’s public relations department stated that Saturday’s incident as well as last month’s has created a furor amongst the Shia Hazara community not just in Quetta but across the country.
On the other hand, the prime minister has formed a six-member committee to visit Quetta and “assess the situation.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of the Hazara community met Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi on Monday but no significant result was achieved during the meeting, a source said.
Central vice president of the Majlis Wadat-ul Muslimeen Allama Amin Shaheedi said that they would not bury the dead bodies until the city of Quetta is handed over to the army.
During a press conference in the Imam Bargah of Hazara Town, he claimed that 110 people were killed in Saturday’s blast, which he added, exposed the failure of the administration.
Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, on the other hand, said that the situation in Quetta is under control and there is no need to call the army. Addressing a press conference here on Monday, he said that 89 people had died in the tragic bomb blast at Kirani Road, while 204 were wounded. Around 32 of the injured have been shifted to Karachi.
He insisted that the government had taken serious steps to curb incidents of targeted killings and bomb blast, and argued that kidnappings for ransom had declined to a great extent.
In Quetta, the areas of Hazara Town, Eastern Bypass and Alamdar Road were in a state of mourning on Monday.
Public transport was largely halted in areas of Quetta, while Hazara Town virtually became a no-go area.
The Balochistan Bar Association and Balochistan Hight Court Bar Association boycotted the court proceedings and condemned the attack.
Some residents of Hazara Town kept themselves locked in, in fear of their lives despite tight security arrangements.
Akhter Muhammad, a resident of Faisal Town said, “It looks like a curfew has been placed in our area.”
A young participant of the sit-in, Durdana Batool, whose uncle was killed in the blast said, “We did not even observe a chehlum (40 days of mourning) for our relatives killed in Alamdar Road and they targeted us again,” she said.
Another protester Haleema Ikram, 28, demanded that the Pakistan Army take charge of Quetta and that the injured be shifted to the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi.
Zara Ali, 35, told The Express Tribune that her five-year-old nephew, Ali Haider, was missing since Saturday. The only thing they found was his shoe from the blast site.
According to a press release issued by PM House on Monday, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has constituted a six-member parliamentary delegation to visit Quetta tomorrow to assess the situation. The delegation comprises Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Inter Provincial Coordination Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Chairman Public Accounts Committee Nadeem Afzal Gondal, Senator Sughra Imam, Yasmin Rehman (MNA) and Maula Buksh Chandio.
The team will meet the affected families, representatives of security and intelligence agencies, and the provincial administration.
The committee will compile a comprehensive report containing its assessment and recommendations.
Prime Minister Ashraf has also called for a comprehensive report from intelligence agencies regarding a breach of security by an explosives-laden truck used by terrorists during the attack.
He reiterated his resolve that the government would take all possible measures to identify those involved in the terrorist attack.
The premier has also spoken to the Balochistan governor and chief secretary regarding the incident, according to the statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2013.