Pakistan’s Shiites calls for protection

Pakistan’s Shiites calls for protection

QUETTA, Pakistan
Pakistan’s Shiites calls for protection

Pakistani soldier inspects the damages after explosion at Meezan Chowk, Quetta. EPA photo

Pakistani Shiite leaders called on the military Jan. 11 to seize control of the provincial capital of Quetta to protect the Muslim minority following one of the worst sectarian attacks in the country’s history, which killed 125 people in one day.

Shiite leaders also told Reuters they would not allow the 82 victims of two bomb attacks in Quetta on Jan. 10 to be buried until their demands were met.

Extremist Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for what was the worst single attack ever on Shiites.

Two suicide bombers killed 92 people and wounded 121 after they targeted a crowded snooker club in the southwestern city of Quetta in an area dominated by Shiite Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority. A bomb at a religious gathering in the northwestern Swat valley killed 22 people and wounded more than 80. The government has announced three days of mourning in Baluchistan, and compensation to families of victims.

 Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility in telephone calls to local journalists. The group has links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Human Rights Watch said 2012 was the deadliest year on record for Shiites in Pakistan and the government’s failure to protect them “amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens.”

“Last year was the bloodiest year for Shias in living memory,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Pakistan Human Rights Watch, according to Reuters. “More than 400 were killed and if yesterday’s attack is any indication, it’s just going to get worse.”

The roughly 500,000-strong Shia Hazara community in Quetta are routinely hunted by extremist groups because their ethnically distinct features make them an easy target, said Dayan.