QUETTA, Jan 11: Hundreds of people belonging to the Hazara Shia community staged a sit-in on Alamdar Road on Friday and refused to bury the dead till the army takes control of Quetta. The death toll from Thursday’s three blasts rose to 104 after nine more people died of their wounds.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the barbaric acts of terror and urged the government to take immediate measures to control the situation.
“Of the 92 people killed in the car bomb and suicide attacks on Alamdar Road in Quetta, 86 belonged to the Hazara Shia community,” Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told Dawn.
The burials were to take place after Friday prayers, but the bodies remained unburied till late in the night. The Hazara community called for removal of the provincial government and handing over the city’s control to the army for an operation to arrest the attackers.
“We will not bury the bodies of our loved ones until the provincial capital is handed over to the army,” Qayyum Changezi, a leader of the Qaumi Yakjehti Council, said. He said the provincial government should resign because it had failed to protect the life and property of citizens.
The Hazara people staged the sit-in on Alamdar Road, along with the bodies. Despite a severe cold and continuous rain, they did not leave the place.
Government officials held negotiations with leaders of the Hazara community and requested them to end the protest and bury the bodies, but they refused to do so.
The home secretary told Dawn that further negotiations were under way. He confirmed that the leadership of the community was seeking resignation of the provincial government and handing over of Quetta’s control to the army. Sources said Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani was abroad on a private tour. He is expected to return in a couple of days.
Meanwhile, the bodies of seven police personnel, including two senior officers, who had lost their lives in the Alamdar Road blasts, were buried on Friday. Thousands of people attended the funeral. The body of one officer was sent to Karachi.
The Namaz-i-Janaza of three media personnel who were killed while covering the first blast was offered on Friday. They were laid to rest in graveyards of their native areas.
The cameraman of Samaa TV, Imran Sheikh, was buried in Muslim Town graveyard.
The body of Saifur Rehman Baloch, a reporter of the same TV channel, was sent to Karachi for burial as members of his family were there because of winter vacation.
The body of Iqbal Hussain, a computer operator in NNI news agency, could not be buried as it was taken to Alamdar road where people continued their sit-in.
Former PTV news producer Murtaza Baig, who was working as a spokesperson for the Frontier Corps in Balochistan, was also killed when he came out of his house in Alamdar road area to ascertain the situation after the first blast in a snooker club.
Mr Baig was also seriously injured in May last year in a suicide attack on the residence of the deputy inspector general of Frontier Corps.
COMPENSATION: The Balochistan government has announced Rs2 million as compensation for each of the heirs of police personnel and Rs1 million for the families of other people killed in the blasts.
The families of journalists killed in the blast would be given Rs1 million each. The government said it would also bear the expenses of injured people who are under treatment in the Combined Military Hospital. It said seriously injured people would be sent to Karachi.
Our Staff Reporter adds from Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the bomb and suicide attacks in Quetta and Mingora and killings in Karachi. It called upon the government to take immediate steps to clamp down on terrorists.
In a statement on Friday, the commission said: “In the first few days of 2013, the HRCP finds itself lamenting, for the second time, the large-scale sectarian bloodshed in the country. The callous targeting of members of the Hazara community in Quetta in two of those bombings on Thursday has caused the highest death toll for any sectarian attack in a day in Pakistan so far.
“Lack of any apparent distress at these brutal attacks and absence of urgency to nab the killers has understandably prompted human rights organisations in the country and abroad to accuse the state of looking the other way, if not of downright complicity, as more and more citizens of the Shia faith are mowed down in appalling attacks.
“If the government has any remorse over its failure to stem the horrific spike in sectarian killings or the utter absence of its own writ, it has certainly done a good job hiding that. It defies belief how in a city like Quetta the attackers can manage to get through security checks and strike at will.
“A bombing in Mingora and the brazen bloodshed in Karachi on Thursday only demonstrate hastened descent into chaos as the general election approaches. The people expect much more from police and security forces than mere information on the nature of the explosions that claimed citizens’ lives.
“An ostensibly banned organisation has claimed responsibility for the Quetta bombings. The network and sanctuaries of that and other banned outfits must be taken apart across Pakistan, including Punjab, and the killers apprehended and tried.
“Until that happens, the charges of the state being soft on the terrorists would not go away. That is also the only way to restore the faith of the citizenry in the state’s ability to safeguard their lives and well being.”
MEDIA WORKERS: The HRCP further said: “Reflections are also in order on what could have been done to avoid fatalities among media workers in Quetta who were at the scene to cover the first bombing when the second explosion occurred.
“With escalating sectarian violence and the election-related violence that is almost certain to be the worst in Pakistan’s electoral history, because of weaponisation, brutalisation of society and the high stakes for all concerned, we might see journalists being caught up more frequently.
“The HRCP hopes that the government, media organisations and journalists’ bodies will invest in safety of journalists by developing SOPs, safety gear and training on conflict reporting.”
Reuters adds: In a rare challenge, a Shia leader publicly criticised Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani on Friday over the bloodshed.
“I ask the army chief: what have you done with these extra three years you got (in office)? What did you give us except more death?” Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads a national council of Shia organisations, said at a news conference.
The bodies would not be buried until the army comes to Quetta, he added.