A day after a deadly bus bombing that killed dozens of pilgrims in Mastung, the distraught families and their community members staged a huge protest in the provincial capital with the bodies of the victims. Protests were also organised in other major towns and cities of the country.
Carrying coffins of the Mastung blast victims, the bereaved relatives assembled on Alamdar Road, a predominantly Hazara neighbourhood, and vowed that they would not move or bury their dead until the government cracked down on perpetrators of unabated violence in the province.
According to officials, four more injured from Tuesday’s bombing succumbed to their wounds overnight, raising the death toll to 26.
Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch visited Alamdar Road to express solidarity with the protesters. “It is your right to protest,” he said. “We need to wage a joint struggle against extremism.”
Promising better security for the Hazara pilgrims on the Taftan-Quetta highway, Dr Malik said the provincial administration was considering the option of launching a ferry service.
“A ferry service would be comparatively safer, we will make special arrangements and subsidise the fare for pilgrims,” he added.
However, despite assurances from the chief minister, members of the Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM), the leading political group for the Shia community, called upon the federal government to take action against the groups stoking violence in the province.
“The provincial government is helpless and no one listens to them whether it is the Frontier Crops or Pakistan Army. We only want the federal government to announce a crackdown against religious extremist groups,” MWM leader Younus Agha said while talking to The Express Tribune.
Another MWM leader, Mohammed Raza, said the protest would not end until representatives of the federal government assured us of a targeted operation in the province.
“We will not bury the dead bodies until practical steps are taken. No one can pacify us with lip service,” Raza said.
Most parts of the Quetta city remained shut for business, following a strike call given by Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), Balochistan Shia Conference and MWM to condemn Tuesday’s attack. Shops, markets, and trading centres on Alamdar Road, Hazara Town, Liaquat Bazaar, Prince Road, Abdul Sattar Road and adjoining areas also remained closed.
Solidarity demonstrations were also held in other parts of the country. MWM supporters staged sit-ins, blocking major routes near Sehwan, Dadu, Nawabshah, Tando Allahyar, Bhit Shah, Badin and other districts.
In Lahore, MWM members staged a sit-in outside the Alhamra Arts Council, blocking the busy Club Road. The demonstrators chanted slogans against extremism and vowed to continue to protest till the perpetrators of Mastung bombing were arrested.
A large number of women and children also participated in a protest in Karachi’s Numaish Chowrangi
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2014.