Stop the violence, Pakistani Shias say

Pakistani Shia Muslims marching during a demo in Lahore on January 11, 2013.

Tens of thousands of Pakistani Shia Muslims have staged demonstrations across the country to condemn Thursday’s massacre in the southwestern city of Quetta.

More than 90 Pakistanis lost their lives in twin bomb attacks that targeted Shia Muslims in a crowded billiard hall in Quetta.

Two other bomb attacks were carried out in Pakistan on Thursday — one in the Swat Valley and one more in Quetta – that left a total of 130 people dead and nearly 300 injured. The outlawed terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the billiard hall attack.

On Saturday and Friday, demonstrations were held in the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Khairpur, Multan, Muzaffarabad, and many other cities and towns across the country.

The gatherings were organized by the Imamia Student Organization (ISO), the All Pakistan Shia Action Committee (APSAC), and Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan (MWMP).

The demonstrators shouted slogans against the government and criticized Pakistan’s security forces for failing to provide security to the country’s Shia Muslims.

They also denounced the Saudi Arabian policy of funding extremist groups that commit acts of violence against Muslims in Pakistan.

In addition, the protesters called on the government to take immediate action against the forces involved in the sectarian killings and said more demonstrations would be staged if justice is not served.

A demonstration was also held outside the High Commission for Pakistan in London, where protesters chanted slogans condemning the Shia killings in the South Asian country.

In Quetta, Shia leaders and the relatives of the billiard hall attack victims demanded that the military take control of the city to protect them and said they would not allow the victims to be buried until their demands are met.

Human rights groups have vehemently criticized the Pakistani government for its failure to stem the rising tide of violence against the country’s Shia Muslims.

On Friday, the Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch also commented the issue.

“2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note,” Ali Dayan Hasan said.

“As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military, and security agencies,” Hasan said.

“Pakistan’s tolerance for religious extremists is not just destroying lives and alienating entire communities, it is destroying Pakistani society across the board,” he added.

GJH/HGL