Talks between govt, Hazara Shia protesters end inconclusively
QUETTA: Negotiations aimed at convincing members of the Hazara Shia community to call off their protest ended inconclusively on Saturday after efforts by Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and Federal Minister Syed Khursheed Shah.
Thousands of protesters have been braving chilly weather in Quetta to protest over killings of Hazara Shias in twin suicide attacks on Alamdar road area of the city. In sub- zero temperature, women and children spent Friday night to mourn the killings on the road, refusing to bury the bodies of the victims until the army takes control of the provincial capital.
The senior leaders of Pakistan’s federal and Balochistan government reached Quetta’s Alamdar Road on Saturday for negotiations with Shia leaders after almost 25 hours of a continuing sit-in by thousands of Hazara Shia community members.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Khursheed Shah said that an important meeting has been convened in Karachi to discuss law and order situation in Balochistan on Sunday.
Shah further said that he has sought one day to meet the demands of protesters.
“We will continue our sit in until Quetta is handed over to Army,” Syed Dawood Agha, the Chief of Balochistan Shia Conference had earlier said. Agha said that the provincial government and police had completely failed to provide protection to them.
The mourners have brought 86 bodies of victims of Alamdar road blast and blocked the road connecting main government offices with Quetta city. Women and children are also part of the protest.
“We have requested them to bury the dead bodies but they are not listening,” Capital City Police Officer Quetta Zubair Mehmood said. He said the government had given an assurance to the family and friends of victims that the perpetraters would be brought to book.
The leaders of the newly formed Milli Yakjehti Council have refused to bury the dead bodies despite repeated requests made by Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and the two federal ministers.
Markets and shops centers in the Hazara Shia dominated areas of Quetta are still closed.
On the directives of Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PPP Balochistan President Mir Sadiq Umrani also visited Alamdar road earlier and condemned the bombing. He tried to cajole the protesters to give up the protest but failed to convince the angry protesters.
Strict security measures have been taken by Balochistan Government to ensure security of protesters. Apart from police and Balochistan Constabulary, FC personnel have also been deployed on the roads linking Alamdar road with other parts of Quetta city.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were taking place in different cities of Pakistan against the carnage in Quetta on Thursday, and violence against the Hazara Shia community.
Protests were carried out in several places including Lahore, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Khairpur as well as Karachi, where public at the National Highway and Shahrae Faisal suffered due to traffic jams resulting from the demonstrations. The Islamabad Expressway also faced similar jams due to protests, while a candlelight vigil was carried out in Lahore in solidarity with the victims of Thursday’s blasts.
(Reporting by Syed Ali Shah from Quetta.)