In a powerful statement of grief, rage and protest, demonstrators, including women and children are sitting in the freezing cold and rain holding vigil over 86 shrouded bodies at Alamdar Road, the site of the bomb blasts in Quetta. No one from the government has yet met the mourners who are refusing to bury their dead until the army promises them protection. See video footage of the dharna, ongoing for 15 hours now, broadcast online by Such TV. In solidarity, protestors began gathering at the Karachi Press Club starting at about 3.00 am, galvanised into action by Syed Ali Raza Abidi‘s tweets. By 5 am , some protestors also started gathering in Islamabad. A protest called by the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies is already scheduled from 5-7 pm at the Liberty Roundabout in Lahore today, Jan 12. (UPDATE: Karachi protest Sat, Jan 12, 2.30 pm at Karachi Press Club)
“In a rare challenge, a Shi’ite Muslim leader publicly criticized Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Kayani over security in the country on Friday after bombings targeting the minority sect killed 93 people,” commented Reuters (Shi’ite leader challenges Pakistan army chief over attacks).
“The criticism of Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the South Asian state, highlighted Shi’ite frustrations with Pakistan’s failure to contain Sunni Muslim militant groups who have vowed to wipe out Shi’ites. The burials had been scheduled to take place after Friday prayers but the bodies would remain unburied until Shi’ites had received promises of protection, they said.”
Violence against Pakistani Shi’ites is rising and some communities are living in a state of siege, says Human Rights Watch. ”Last year was the bloodiest year for Shias in living memory,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of HRW. “More than 400 were killed and if yesterday’s attack is any indication, it’s just going to get worse.”
The banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack in a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood where the residents are Hazaras, Shi’ites who first migrated from Afghanistan in the 19th century.
“While U.S. intelligence agencies have focused on al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pakistani intelligence officials say LeJ is emerging as a graver threat to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, strategic ally of the United States,” comments the Reuters report. “It has stepped up attacks against Shi’ites across the country but has zeroed in on members of the sect who live in resource-rich Baluchistan.”