•Death toll tops 84 •Army deployment sought: Outrage across country at Quetta carnage
Outrage over Quetta massacre erupted all over the country on Sunday with people expressing solidarity with the Hazara community and demanding immediate steps to punish the culprits.
Demonstrations and sit-ins were held in most cities and towns in the country. There were calls for handing over Quetta to army to protect the life and property of the people, particularly of the Hazara Shia community.
Quetta and several other towns in Balochistan closed in protest and in Karachi a call was given for a strike in the city on Monday. Traders and transporters supported the strike call. Schools in the city will remain closed.
Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: The Saturday carnage toll rose to 84 on Sunday but the bodies of the victims were not buried and some Shia organisations said the burial would take place only after Quetta was handed over to the army.
At least 169 people, including women and children, were injured in the massive explosion that rocked the entire city and destroyed four markets and 100 shops. A further rise in the toll is feared as, according to hospital sources, over 20 men and women with critical injuries are battling for their lives.
Leaders of the Shia community criticised the federal government and the Balochistan administration under the governor’s rule for having failed to act effectively against the terrorists involved in attacks on the Hazaras.
Tehrik Nifaz-i-Fiqa Jafria chief Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosvi, in a statement issued in Rawalpindi, urged the government to admit that it had failed to provide security to people.
The TNFJ leader said things were going from bad to worse and if the government was not able to protect the Hazara people from terrorists, it should provide them weapons and military training and enable them to defend themselves against the onslaught of sectarian terrorism.
“The toll has risen to 84 after some seriously injured people died at the Combined Military Hospital,” DIG Wazir Khan Nasar told Dawn.
But unofficial sources put the death toll at 96.
Over 70 bodies were handed over to families of the victims. But around a dozen bodies, charred beyond recognition, are lying in the morgue of the hospital.
“DNA test would be conducted to establish their identity,” hospital sources said.
Twenty people were missing, according to leaders of the Hazara community.
Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Balochistan Shia Conference and Milli Yakjehti Council failed to reach an agreement on burying the victims.
The Majlis leadership said no burial would take place until the army was deployed to protect the Hazara community and a targeted operation was launched against the banned organisation behind such attacks.
But leaders of the Milli Yakjehti Council wanted the dead to be buried but supported the demands made by the Majlis. Sources said a final decision would be taken on Monday.
The bodies have been kept in Imambargah of Hazara Town and in an open place adjacent to the graveyard in the town.
Meanwhile, about 2500 women of the Hazara community took out a procession and held a demonstration in protest against the carnage. Later, they held a sit-in with coffins of the bodies. They said they would not allow the burial until the city was given army’s control.
The Majlis leaders took part in the sit-in. Addressing a news conference, Majlis leader Daud Agha said the community had been pushed against the wall.
Also on Sunday, a gathering was held in connection with the Chehlum of the victims of Jan 10 Alamdar Road terrorist attacks.
Talking to reporters on the occasion, Allama Sajid Naqvi of the Islami Tehrik-i-Pakistan said: “Killing of Shia people in bomb blasts and other terrorist attacks has been continuing unabated for several years because of the government’s abject failure to act decisively to punish terrorists.”
He called upon the government to expose the sponsors of terrorism and uproot their network.
Abdul Qayyum Changezi of the council urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of bomb blasts and other heinous crimes in Balochistan.
Around 100 people were killed in the Jan 10 twin blasts and their bodies were not buried until Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf reached Quetta and announced dismissal of the provincial government and imposition of governor’s rule in the province.
Chief Secretary of Balochistan Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad visited the hospital on Sunday and enquired after the health of the injured. He said arrangements had been made to take seriously injured people to Karachi.
Heavy contingents of Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary and police patrolled the city. A large number of law-enforcement personnel was deployed in and around Hazara Town, Alamdar Road and other areas.
Roads leading to Alamdar Road and Hazara Town were blocked with containers and barricades.