Grief-stricken Hazaras bury the dead as angry youths protest
QUETTA, Feb 20: Quetta buried the victims of the devastating Saturday sectarian attack in the Hazara Town graveyard on Wednesday amid tension as protesters and police both started firing into the air.
The bodies of men, women and children were taken to the graveyard in the morning after the Namaz-i-Janaza offered at an Imambargah. The graves had been prepared on Monday and Tuesday.
Dozens of women and youths started protesting and called for halting the burial. They said the bodies should be buried only after deployment of army in Quetta for launching an operation against banned organisations.
Some protesting women went down the graves as the bodies were being lowered and said they would not let the burial to go ahead until their demand was met.
Leaders of the Hazara community persuaded them to let the burial begin.
Some enraged Hazara Shia youths started firing into the air to prevent the burial, triggering a stampede when hundreds of people ran for their life. Four policemen and an employee of a TV channel were injured.
The youths also opened fire at the official vehicle of Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Kakar and pelted it with stones. The vehicle was damaged but the official remained unhurt.
Quetta police chief Mir Zubair supervised the action taken by law- enforcement personnel to avert any deterioration in the situation. “Police acted after Hazara youths had opened fire and those involved will be booked,” he said.
He said leaders of the community had assured senior police officers that no untoward incident would take place at the graveyard but some armed youths fired at the police and damaged the DC’s vehicle.
The burial process was resumed after law-enforcement personnel took control of the graveyard and areas around it.
Leaders of Shia organisations said 113 bodies had been buried but sources put the number of graves at 87.
Talking to reporters, Quetta Yakjehti Council leader Abdul Qayyum Changezi said the persons who had tried to obstruct the burial were not related to the dead.
“The relatives of the dead had given permission to the Shia organisations to bury their loved ones killed in the explosion.”
He said the government had promised a targeted operation against banned organisations and there was no reason to not bury the dead.
There were moving scenes as the heirs of the dead wailed and cried.
Personnel of the Frontier Corps, police, Balochistan Constabulary and Levies had been deployed in the area.
Some Hazara people, including women, held a protest sit-in on the Western Bypass near the graveyard and blocked the road for some time.