Country in crises
Life halted after Shia massacre in Pakistan
Feb 19, 2013
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Life remained paralyzed across Pakistan as thousands of people took to streets on Tuesday and staged protest rallies and sit-ins on the call of Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) in order to express solidarity with the victims of the Quetta tragedy that occurred on Saturday. Politicians and social society fear that the situation in Pakistan is moving fast, where the only option left for the country is intervention of apolitical (non-political) forces to control the situation. Around 300 people of the Hazara Shia community have been killed during the last 2 months by terrorists belonging to Taliban-backed purists, Islamists who believe that Shia are non-Muslims and must be killed.
In the evening, the Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) leader, Maulana Amen Shaheedi, announced an end to sit-ins being staged across Pakistan after government representatives reached an agreement with Quetta sit-in participants on Tuesday. However, up until the filing of this report, families of the deceased have refused to disband the sit-in being held in Quetta.
The protestors blocked the roads in various cities of the country that caused enormous difficulties for commuters to reach their destination points. In order to carry on the flow of traffic, alternative routes were found to divert traffic, making it easier for commuters to reach their destinations.
In Lahore, a newly-launched metro bus service was also destined to be halted across the city today as scores of protesters came at various points of the bus service chanting slogans against the Quetta carnage.
Taken as a precautionary measure, the metro bus service authority made the decision to suspend bus operations due to the ongoing protest demonstration in the city against the Quetta tragedy. Due to the suspension of metro buses, passengers suffered a lot and were observed crying at different stations. Some passengers argued that as they had paid the fare, they wanted a ride on the buses to reach their destination. According to sources, bus service will be resumed as soon as the situation has returned to normal.
Similarly, Daewoo Express suspended its inter-city bus service for an indefinite period in most parts of the country after Shia protesters began lodging protest rallies and sit-ins. The company said it would resume bus service when the situation becomes normal.
The situation was the same in Karachi and most other parts of the country. Scores of sit-ins continued in different parts of the city in protest against the Quetta massacre causing cancellation of some flights and impacting the schedule of other flights so that passengers could not reach the airport due to road blockades and traffic hassles.
A large number of men, women, children, and elders were participating in the sit-ins being staged at Old Numaish, Teen Talwar, Clifton, Ancholi, Abbas Town, Ayesha Manzil, Five Star Chowrangi, Rizvia Society, Safora Goth, Malir, and others.
Almost all the main roads, including the Shahrah-e-Faisal, remained blocked due to these sits-ins that hampered road traffic and made it difficult for passengers to reach the Karachi airport that led to the cancellation of a few flights and others being delayed.
A six-member parliamentary delegation appointed by the federal government held negotiations with the sit-in participants today and accepted most of their demands, with the notable exception of calling in the army in Quetta, after which nationwide protests were called off.
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, which in recent months has wreaked havoc with Shias, mainly the peaceful Hazara community of Balochistan, through a string of attacks.
“All our demands have been accepted by the government,” Maulana Shaheedi told reporters.
Meanwhile, the chief of the Hazara community, Sardar Saadat Hazar, announced that the victims would be buried tonight or tomorrow.
Following the announcement of Maulana Shaheedi, the Yakjehti Council, Shia Ulema Council, and other Shia groups also announced ending the sit-ins.
Thousands of Hazara men, women, and children had continued their sit-in protest for the third consecutive day. They had refused to bury those who died in Saturday’s explosion on Kirani Road, Hazaratown, unless action was taken against the perpetrators.
Speaking on this occasion, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that a targeted operation was under way since Monday night. Four terrorists were killed and 170 were arrested by security agencies, he said. He said that the targeted operation would continue until the arrest of all the culprits.
The government team was comprised of Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP MNA Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, PPP MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan, PPP Senator Sughra Imam, PPP MNA Yasmeen Rehman, and Federal Minister for Political Affairs Maula Bakhsh Chandio.