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Hazara protesters refuse to end Quetta sit-in amid Centre’s assurances

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Family members and relatives chant slogans during a protest on April 13 to condemn the Hazarganji blast. ─ Reuters
Family members and relatives chant slogans during a protest on April 13 to condemn the Hazarganji blast. ─ Reuters

QUETTA: Amid tight security, the Hazara community members continued their protest against the Hazarganji blast for a second consecutive day despite heavy rain in the city and the federal government’s assurance to the affected families of action against militant organisations and effective implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

The protesters, who were joined by workers and leaders of the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) on Saturday, blocked the western bypass, which links the provincial capital with main highways, by placing heavy boulders and barricades and burning tyres and set up camps in the area.

At least 19 people, including eight members of the Hazara community, were killed and 48 others were wounded in the suicide blast whose responsibility was claimed by the Qari Husain faction of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan on Friday.

Relatives sit in a Quetta hospital on Saturday near a man who was injured in the suicide attack a day before.—AFP
Relatives sit in a Quetta hospital on Saturday near a man who was injured in the suicide attack a day before.—AFP

However, according to Associated Press, the militant Islamic State group in a statement posted on an IS-affiliated website claimed it had targeted the Shia population and the Pakistani army. The group also released a photograph of the bomber along with his name, Agence France-Presse (AFP) added.

Militant Islamic State group claims responsibility for suicide attack, releases bomber’s photo

As the protest against the killings continued, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi arrived in the provincial capital and met the affected families.

Speaking to the media in Hazarganji after offering condolences to the families, the minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government was seriously pursuing the investigations into the suicide attack. He said the federal government claimed full responsibility of protecting its citizens regardless of their caste, creed, religion or province.

He said, “Yesterday’s attack is condemnable and the federal government will fully cooperate in the investigation with the provincial government.”

He assured the protesting families that the government would fully implement the NAP and would take strict action against the terrorist organizations and their facilitators.

The federal minister also went to Hazara Town where he condoled with the families of the suicide attack victims on the behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He strongly condemned the incident that targeted the Hazara community.

He said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan has issued a clear direction to all law enforcement agencies and cabinets to ensure that no religious or political groups affiliated with terror groups are exempted from action under NAP. Terrorism does not have any religion and we have fought this war for the past 20 years. Now, we are at the tail-end of our fight against terror.”

QUETTA: Members of the Shia Hazara community on Saturday protest against killings in Friday’s suicide attack. At least 20 people were killed and 48 wounded by the blast apparently targeting members of the minority community at a crowded fruit market.—AFP
QUETTA: Members of the Shia Hazara community on Saturday protest against killings in Friday’s suicide attack. At least 20 people were killed and 48 wounded by the blast apparently targeting members of the minority community at a crowded fruit market.—AFP

He said terrorism could be eliminated through education. “We will have to improve the state of health, education and security in the country or development will not be possible in the country.

“While this incident is horrifying, we are happy to see that Balochistan now has a chief minister who is far-sighted and dedicated,” Mr Zaidi said, adding that the first and foremost challenge was to turn Pakistan from a security state into an economic state.

However, the protesters refused to call off their sit-in. They said the protest would continue until all their demands were met.

The protesters were demanding that elements involved in the suicide attack be arrested and steps be taken to ensure protection of the community and implementation of the NAP without any discrimination.

They said the government had failed to protect the Hazara community.

Read more: Report sought on action against banned outfits in Balochistan

A large number of people also staged a protest demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club after marching on main roads.

Later, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal visited the protest camp of the Hazara community and expressed solidarity with the protestors. He strongly condemned the suicide attack and said that the government had failed to give protection to the people.

He vowed to fight against terrorism as he did in the past and assured the community of full support from his party.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019