Protesting With Corpses

Feb 20 2013 @ 3:45pm

PAKISTAN-UNREST-SOUTHWEST

After Sunni militants killed nearly 90 people of the Shi’a Hazara minority in a Quetta market on Saturday, mass protests erupted among Pakistan’s Sh’ia population:

From Karachi to Parachinar, and Hyderabad to Multan, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, people staged sit-ins, blocking main thoroughfares. The protesters’ demand at all these places was the same: call in the army in Quetta and take immediate action against the extremist militant group, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi [LeJ], which in recent months has played havoc with Shias, mainly the peaceful Hazara community of Balochistan, through a string of attacks.

In Quetta, as seen above, thousands of Hazaras protested by refusing to bury those killed on Saturday, sitting next to the bodies of their friends and family members for three consecutive days until the government finally agreed to the majority of their demands. AJE has more:

On Tuesday, Information Minister Kaira announced that the government had arrested 170 suspects in connection with the attacks, and that the army would not be deployed. Four LeJ fighters were also killed on Tuesday in a suburb of Quetta, the government said. Seven of their comrades were arrested in that operation.

Hazara Shia community leaders, however, have told Al Jazeera that they believed the police and paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) were complicit in the attacks on their community. Last year was the bloodiest in recent history for Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, who account for about 20 percent of the population, according to Human Rights Watch. More than 400 were killed in targeted attacks across the country, at least 125 of whom were died in Balochistan.

And only one month ago there was a similar bombing in Quetta that killed more than 100. Jamila Shamsie notes that almost identical protests that followed that attack clearly did nothing to prevent the one on Saturday. She has trouble imagining a solution to the sectarian violence:

Everyone in Pakistan has their theories [about who is promoting the religious divide which is fueling the attacks]: it is the deal the intelligence agencies have made with militants in exchange for support in Kashmir; it’s an attempt to derail forthcoming elections; it’s linked to the army’s struggle against Baluch nationalists; it’s “the foreign hand” causing instability; it’s the Saudi influence; and on and on. But what will it take for the civilian government and – more importantly, the military – to do what is necessary to make it stop? This is the question that makes Pakistanis, uncharacteristically, fall silent.

(Photo: Pakistani Shiite Muslims gather around the coffins of relatives during a mass burial ceremony in Quetta on February 20, 2013. Mass burials for 89 victims of a bomb attack targeting Pakistani Shiite Muslims began after three days of nationwide protests at the government’s failure to tackle sectarian violence. By Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images)