QUETTA: Five people, among them three members of the Shia Hazara community, were killed and another was injured when their vehicle came under fire on Kasi Road here on Monday.
Police said two men on a motorbike opened fire on the van carrying vegetable sellers to the Hazar Ganji area.
Sources said the victims were going to purchase vegetables for their shops located in the Alamdar Road area of Marriabad. The vehicle came under attack when they reached near Allah Dina Street on Kasi Road. The gunmen managed to flee after the incident.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Rescue workers shifted the bodies and the injured to the Quetta Civil Hospital. The injured man, who received bullet injuries to the neck, was in a critical condition and was under treatment at the hospital’s trauma centre. Hazaras are frequently targeted by violent extremists in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled here since fleeing Afghanistan to escape the violence in their homeland during the past four decades.
“It was a targeted sectarian killing,” a senior police officer said, adding that the victims were travelling without security. He said four of the five victims belonged to the Shia community.
The deputy inspector general of Quetta police, Abdul Razzaq Cheema, told reporters the local police escorted Hazara vegetable sellers daily and had directed them to use secure routes.
“The people killed on Monday morning were using a separate route where there was no security deployment,” he said.
Police found 19 shells of 9mm bullets at the site of the attack, he said, adding that investigation into the incident was under way.
The victims were identified as Muhammad Ali, Khadim Hussain, Hussain Ali and Saleh Muhammad Bareach. The injured was identified as Ahmed Ali who belongs to the Shangla area of Swat.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri expressed sorrow at the tragic incident and directed the inspector general of police and other authorities concerned to submit their report as soon as possible.
Members of the Hazara community later held a protest sit-in, along with three bodies, in front of the office of the inspector general police at Shuhada Chowk. They chanted slogans against the killings and criticised the government and law enforcement agencies for failing to provide security to the community.
“We believe that today’s incident occurred due to the administration’s negligence,” Hazara Qaumi Jirga chief Abdul Qayyum Changezi said. “We have been told that the Hazaras will be escorted towards vegetable markets but there was no security today [Monday],” he said.
He said the National Action Plan should be implemented to eliminate terrorists and their outfits.
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti reached Shuhada Chowk to show solidarity with the protesters.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Bugti said the provincial government had a clear stance against terrorists. “I want to assure you that the provincial government will fight against all terrorists until we purge them from our peaceful soil,” he said.
Later on, the protesters dispersed peacefully after assurance from the home minister.
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2017