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Protesters sceptical about govt assurances

February 19, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: In Quetta, government officials announced that they would agree to all of the demands of the communities protesting the recent attacks on Hazaras.

While Shia leaders asked for all demonstrations to be ended, distrust and skepticism brought protesters back to the sit-ins in Islamabad before nightfall, forcing some organisations to rethink their acceptance of the government’s promises.

The Balochistan governor delivered the government’s agreement in Quetta on Tuesday evening, joined by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, several MNAs and senators, and leaders of the Shia and Hazara communities. After the announcement, deputy Secretary-General of the Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) Allama Amin Shaheedi asked protesters across Pakistan to end their sit-ins.

Other organisations, such as Allama Sajid Naqvi’s Shia Ulema Council, also asked supporters to end their protest, since the government was believed to have met their demands.

After the announcement, protesters and MWM leaders began leaving the sit-in at Faizabad around 8pm. The government’s assurances failed to convince all the protesters, however.

Fida Shah, a resident of Islamabads Kuri Road and an office-holder in various Shia organisations, said that he did not have faith in the government’s support.

“We don’t trust them, so we are planning to hold another sit-in, at the airport.”

His son, a madressah student, who hopes to become a cleric, led a small group of people to join others there and continue protesting

The confusion and mistrust spread quickly, and by 10pm, the Imamia Students Organisation announced that they would continue their sit-in at Faizabad and begin others around the area.

Although MWM leadership maintained that the protests were over, media reports and SMS from ISO workers brought many people back to Faizabad.

In the crowd, people shared rumours, discussed their suspicions and reiterated their demands for meaningful support from the government to end terror attacks on their communities.

One protester, Sameer Abbas, mentioned a rumour that some found particularly troubling: reports suggested that the army had not been asked to take part in anti-terror operations. “What game are they playing,” he asked.

Sources in the armed forces subsequently confirmed these suspicions: Neither the federal government nor the Balochistan provincial government has as yet approached the army for their involvement.

“We can only consider taking part in these operations if we receive a formal request from the government,” a source said.

“Until we receive such a request, it’s pointless to ask if the army will come or what the army can do.”

Binte Zehra, a former schoolteacher, came to the sit-in in Faizabad with her children.

“How can anyone have faith in this government,” she asked. “We want this issue to be dealt with properly, not just a superficial response. It is their responsibility to establish peace and protect their citizens.”

She pointed out that the government had made similar agreements in January, when over 100 people were killed in Quetta.

“And on the day of their Chehlum,” Binte Zehra said, “another 85 people died.”

TAXILA: As people’s anguish and anger continued for second consecutive day against the Quetta carnage, scores of protesters staged a sit-in at GT road near Jinnah Colony.

Holding placards and banners inscribed with their demands regarding immediate arrest of the terrorists, the protesters, including women and children, staged the sit-in under the banner of Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) and Imamia Students Organization.

Another protest rally was taken out from Wah Cantt- Hattar road suspending every kind of traffic heading towards Islamabad- Peshawar motorway (M-1) and Brahma interchange.

The participants shouted slogans against the government’s inaction against those involved in the pogrom. They were demanding to hand over Quetta to army for restoration of peace and calm.

They also demanded immediate lifting of Governor’s rule in Balochistan. They also raised voice for grand military operation in the province to purge it from terrorists.