Note: Cross-posted from The Friday Times.
About 106 people died in two bomb attacks on Alamdar Road in Quetta earlier this month, including peace activist Irfan Ali, journalists, policemen and volunteers who had rushed to the site of the first attack.
Banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) took responsibility for the attacks and vowed to launch more such attacks in future. The year “2012 was the deadline for them to leave the country”, the group said about Hazara Shias in a statement published in a local newspaper, “but it seems as if they love their property more than their lives. So we will not let them escape alive.”
According to reports produced by various human rights groups, more than 800 Hazaras have been killed in the last 10 years. Around 130 were killed in 2012 alone. At least nine were assassinated in the first week of 2013 in Quetta, Khuzdar and Machh districts of Balochistan.
The families of the Alamdar Road bombing victims refused to bury the dead bodies of their loved ones and hundreds of thousands of people took part in a sit-in protest alongside the coffins.
“We will not bury the dead bodies until Quetta city is handed over to the army,” said Mirza Azad, speaking on behalf of the Quetta Yakjehti Council. Another demand, in Azad’s words, was “getting rid of this corrupt PPP government that has been declared a failure even by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”
“The police has totally failed to protect the masses while the paramilitary forces do nothing other than harassing the already affected members of the Hazara community by excessive and unnecessary body checks in and around Quetta city, while letting the terrorists go unchecked with tons of explosives and weapons,” said Jan Ali Changezi, ex-provincial minister, who was sacked last year by ex-chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani as he had refused to attend an assembly session in protest against the killings.
The bodies were buried four days after the attack, on January 14
The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) went on a hunger strike led by its chairman Abdul Khalique Hazara, on Mission Road in Quetta. “We demand the removal of the provincial government which should be replaced by a caretaker interim government with the consensus of all political parties in the province,” Khalique Hazara said. “We are democratic people and do not want a military takeover of the province or the city. However, we demand a fruitful clean-up operation against the terrorist outfits, their hideouts, and their facilitators under the supervision of the army and federal authorities within the framework of the Pakistani constitution.”
“The attack on Alamdar Road was a full-fledged preplanned terrorist operation against our community under the very nose of the provincial government, law enforcement agencies and the security establishment,” said Abdul Khalique Hazara. “How could the terrorists reach Alamdar Road with such a huge amount of explosives crossing those many security checkposts?” he asked. “We will call for international demonstrations. We will knock at the door of the international community if our demands are not met within three days,” he had warned.
“We will fight shoulder-to-shoulder alongside our brothers and by our attendance at the strike we would like to shame the otherwise ‘ghairatmand’ authorities who have all disappeared while failing to fulfill their duties,” said Advocate Jalila Haider Kamal, a woman activist. “If our demands are not met, we will call for the deployment of a United Nations peace force in Quetta where the sectarian terrorists and members of the Quetta Shura roam freely and kill.”
Thousands of Pakistani political workers and rights activists also took to the streets across the country to express solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack. Politicians such as Imran Khan of PTI, Liaquat Baloch of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sadique Imrani of PPP, Dr Malik of the National Party, and Raza Haroon of MQM also joined them.
As pressure increased on the federal government, Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf visited Quetta on Sunday, 13th January, and announced the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the province for two months, during his meeting with the leaders of the Hazara community on Alamdar Road. The dead bodies were buried four days after the attack, on January 14.
The imposition of Governor’s Rule might satisfy the families of the victims momentarily, but it will not prove effective to curb the menace of terrorism and extremism without adaptation of a serious national strategy which seems unlikely in the near future.
Note: Cross-posted from The Friday Times.