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Pakistanis stand united against sectarian killings

January 14, 2013

Islamabad, Jan 13: The requiem and protest, all-in-one: condemning and mourning, the killings of Shia Muslims in Quetta — taking the shape of a nationwide movement — is all set to blitz over other crisis-priorities vying for the government’s attention.

In order to show solidarity with the 120 Shia Muslims killed in the two bomb blasts in Quetta, on January 10, 2013, protests were held in different parts of the twin cities and adjoining districts.

Protest trends have been overwhelmingly positive. Reports from not only the twin cities (Islamabad-Rawalpindi), but adjoining towns — Taxila, Attock, Chakwal, Azad Kashmir — all have a common construct: protests are no longer limited to a particular religious community but have been supported by all the other religious denominations of the country.

Plus the participation of women and children in all the small conservative towns feted for representing men of martial race has been unprecedented.

Interestingly, all the demands echoing from the nationwide protests have the smattering of the same: removal of the Raisani-led Balochistan government and a military operation targeting Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which claims responsibility for the Quetta killings.

Islamabad-Rawalpindi: Protests condemning the killings in Quetta were held in different parts of the city.

F-6, Civil Society: Civil society activists gathered in F-6, supermarket, outside a bookstore to show solidarity with protesters throughout the country.

Academicians, educationists, media, political social workers, religious leaders, scholars, senior citizens, youth, women and children were part of the gathering lighting candles, reciting inspirational poetry and appealing to the public to rise and ‘reclaim Jinnah’s Pakistan’ free from extremism, theocracy, intolerance and hate-filled ideologies.

Civil society members strongly condemned the blatant and open genocide and ethnic cleansing of Pakistani Shias.

Speakers demanded that the whole sordid affair in Quetta be taken up by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s High Commissioner.

Parliamentarian Bushra Gohar while talking to Dawn said that she has talked to government officials and her party (ANP) was trying to resolve the issue.

PML-Q leader Nilofar Bakhtiar said: “While PML-Q was in government, I told representatives of the Hazara community that peace in the region will be ensured but we failed because parliamentarians were busy projecting themselves rather than resolving issues.”

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said that Kafans (shrouds) of dead bodies in Quetta had been changed three times but the government is not willing to start negotiation.

“We have come to know that the Prime Minister has been sitting in the Governor House, Quetta, and has instructed protesters to come in groups of two or three for negotiations but protesters have demanded that he should come there for negotiations,” she said.

Sajjad Hussain, hailing from the Hazara community said that the community had two demands: Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani should resign because the Supreme Court had declared his government dysfunctional and a targeted operation against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Faizabad: Protesters including men, women and children thronged to Faizabad — bordering Islamabad and Rawalpindi — to participate in the main protest demonstration.

Volunteers provided green tea, water and even constructed a makeshift restroom for women participants.

As announced the night before, the Majlis Wahadat Muslimeen (MWM), a religious organisation, blocked Faizabad interchange, Sunday morning, taking the administration by surprise as hundreds of MWM workers including a large number of women and school girls, accompanied with children, staged a sit-in on the bridge going from IJ Principal Road towards Rawal Dam.

The head of women wing MWM, Sandleen Rizvi, recited majlis and made a fiery speech at the Faizabad Bridge, criticising the managers of the government.

“And there is nothing to say about the whole of Balochistan assembly,” she added, “Such an indifferent attitude to its own people is strange.”

While she continued to address the participants of the sit-in, the younger protesters blocked all the roads connecting the Faizabad flyover, including the Islamabad-Expressway, littering the roads with stones and bricks and making bonfire of tyres and wooden crates.

TAXILA: Scores of residents came out on the streets in order to protest and show solidarity with the victims of the sectarian carnage in Quetta.

For the first time, in a small town like Taxila, women and children were seen holding banners, placards and participating in the protest, side by side, with male protesters.

Protesters blocked the grand trunk road and staged a sit-in lasting nine hours. One protester complained: “It is unfair that the judiciary takes immediate suo moto notice of one Shahzeb and takes no notice of hundreds of Shazebs massacred in Quetta.”

Earlier, protesters gathered at Taxila chowk under the banner of Shia Ulema Council (SUC) and MWM and expressed solidarity with the victims of Quetta terrorist.

Addressing protesters, leaders of SUC strongly condemned the failure of the provincial and federal governments to enforce their writ, as well as the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to stop the killings.

They condemned the Shia genocide all over Pakistan and also denounced the Balochistan government for their failure to protect lives of civilians.

CHAKWAL: The main action in Chakwal was around Bhoun Chowk (BC), where despite the chill, people continued to protest for hours.

Hundreds of people gathered at BC, chanting slogans, delivering fiery speeches and burning tyres.

Due to the protests, there was a sense of anxiety and tension prevailing throughout the district. Resultantly, shops were closed and traffic remained suspended. However the protesters remained peaceful.

Even in Chakwal women were among the protesters, who lit candles to honour the victims massacred in Quetta.

ATTOCK: Like other parts of the country, a peaceful protest was held in Attock condemning the killings in Quetta. The protesters were holding black flags and chanting slogans against the government for its lukewarm response. Police were deployed around Katchery Chowk, on Attock-Kamra road, where the main sit-in took place.

Besides, people in the adjoining Jand tehsil also staged a protest demonstration on Kohat-Pindi road, causing suspension of traffic on the inter-provincial highway.

MUZAFFARABAD: Hundreds of protesters including a large number of women, protested against the killings in Quetta.

In an exemplary display of religious harmony that has been the hallmark of AJK, several people and leaders from the Sunni school were also part of the protest.

Midday meals were served to protesters by Khawaja Farooq Ahmed Qadri, a Sunni leader heading the traders’ wing of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Former prime minister and Muslim Conference president Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan and PML-N MLA from Muzaffarabad Barrister Iftikhar Ali Gilani were prominent among political leaders, who expressed solidarity with the bereaved families of Quetta by attending the sit-in, during the day.

Late at night, AJK minister for information Syed Bazil Ali Naqvi, minister for forests Sardar Javaid Ayub and minister for works Chaudhry Mohammad Rasheed also arrived and joined the sit-in.

The organisers had installed a canopy to protect the protesters from the cold weather.

Dr Rabia Naqvi, 26, one of the protesters, regretted that the blood of Shiite Muslims was being shed throughout the country and the government was not bothered about it. “The civilian government has miserably failed to protect our community. We don’t want them and this democracy,” said the 26-year-old.

Andleeb Sabir, secretary general Imamia Organisation AJK, broke into tears as she spoke about what she called slaughter of Shia community in Quetta.

“Our mothers and sisters are sitting with the bodies of their near and dear ones but its cutting no ice with the callous rulers,” she said.

Syeda Kulsoom Naqvi, an educationist, said target killing of Shia Muslims must come to an end because Pakistan belonged to people of all faiths.