Quetta bloodshed: Leaders put pressure on govt for tough action
ISLAMABAD, Jan 13: With protests by Shia Hazaras against the killing of members of their community in Quetta on Thursday intensifying on the third day and civil society across the country joining them, political leaders also started travelling to Quetta on Sunday.
For the first couple of days after the carnage, political parties issued only customary statements of condemnation. But the civil society holding sit-ins in all major cities and towns of the country and also in some major cities in the West to express solidarity with the mourners and support their demands must have brought political leaders under pressure to decide to rush to Quetta.
Shia leaders have refused to bury the victims until the government hands over security of Quetta to the army and sends Chief Minister Aslam Raisani and his cabinet packing.
Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf and Liaquat Baloch of the Jamaat-i-Islami were the first to join the protesters in Quetta on Sunday. PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has announced to visit Quetta on Tuesday, but his party workers took part in a sit-in organised by the civil society in Lahore.
Talking to Dawn, PML-N spokesperson Senator Mushahid Ullah said Mr Sharif would have gone to Quetta earlier but that there was mourning in his family over the death of his younger brother Abbas Sharif.
In Karachi, the MQM expressed its complete support for the grieving families and their demands against the provincial government.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf held talks with leaders of the Hazara community in Quetta and urged them to end their protest. He also held consultations with Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi.
According to sources in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Mr Ashraf was due to return to Islamabad by the evening, but he had to extend his stay in Quetta because relatives of the victims refused to remove and bury the bodies until their demands were met.
The prime minister, who was in Karachi, had on Saturday sent Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah to Quetta to hold talks with the protesters.
Meanwhile, a federal minister and three special assistants to the PM in a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari have demanded removal of the Balochistan chief minister, along with the inspector general of police and inspector general of Frontier Corps, for their failure to provide security to people in the province.
Federal Minister for Education and Training Sheikh Waqas Akram and special assistants to the PM Mustafa Khokhar (human rights), Fawad Choudhry (political affairs) and Hamid Yar Hiraj, who is also chairman of ERRA, have signed the letter.
It said the security mechanism of the provincial government appeared to have lost its credence and, therefore, people were demanding direct control by the armed forces. Recent incidents of sectarian killings are proof of the failure of the provincial administration.
The Balochistan chief minister and two key officials – inspector general of police and inspector general of Frontier Corps – have miserably failed to perform their duties to protect the fundamental rights of the people of Balochistan under the law and the Constitution.
Mian Aslam, JI leader and a former member of the National Assembly, who visited the protesters in Islamabad, said his party had been criticising sectarian killings and wanted harshest punishment for the hate-mongers behind such terrorist acts.
However, Mr Aslam did not support the involvement of army and instead suggested immediate dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies and holding fresh elections.