Shia Hazara Protesters, including women and children, were holding sit-ins across the country Thursday, including Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Hyderabad to voice anguish at the deadly suicide attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims in Mastung that claimed more than 25 lives.
The people of the Hazara Shia community carried the coffins of the pilgrims killed in the Mastung bomb attack and continued their sit-in on Alamdar road in Quetta on the second consecutive day.
“Our sit-in on Shuhadaa Chowk Alamdar Road will continue and we will not bury the dead until an operation is launched against the culprits who attacked and killed the pilgrims in the Dringer area of Mastung district,” said Agha Raza, the member of Balochistan Assembly of Majlis-e-Wehdatul Muslimeen.
Meanwhile, official sources told APP that high profile personalities, including federal ministers, were due to arrive in Quetta on Thursday or Friday to meet with the protesters whereby they would offer them condolences on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the federal government.
They said that Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had instructed the concerned authorities to plan an alternative and safe route for the pilgrims to visit Iran from Balochistan.
“The senior officials have been asked to review the options whether Shia pilgrims of Balochistan be taken to Iran through the Karachi-Gwadar route or ferry service from Karachi and Gwadar ports to Bandar Abbas Port of Iran be started,” they said, adding that “the Quetta-Taftan route might be closed for the pilgrims” travelling due to high security risk.
In Lahore, the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) protesters were holding a sit-in on Mall Road. Following consultations between the MWM and the administration, one track of Lahore’s Mall Road was opened for traffic whereas protests were underway on the other track. In view of the prevailing situation, security has been beefed up and additional police personnel have been deployed.
MWM protesters have refused to end the protests and said the decision to call it off rested in the hands of Quetta demonstrators.
The protesters furthermore said they did not want to cause any trouble to the general public but at the same time demanded that the federal government should ensure security of civilians.
Meanwhile, large numbers of demonstrators were protesting against the Mastung attack in the Faizabad area of the federal capital and have also demanded a quick operation against terrorists.
Members of civil society also staged a vigil outside the Press Club in Islamabad earlier on Wednesday night.
Shia organisations also arranged protests at several locations of Karachi whereas the flow of traffic was blocked in Ancholi, Malir, Shah Faisal, Qayyumabad, Hino Chowk Flyover and Numaish Chowrangi areas.
Karachi’s chairman of the Private Schools Management Association, Sharafuz Zaman, said that schools would remain closed today in those areas where roads were blocked.
Sit-ins staged on different patches of the metropolis’ major artery Shahrah-e-Faisal had left residents of localities beyond the city’s airport almost stranded.
Shahrah-e-Pakistan that connects Karachi with other parts of the province through Super Highway was another affected area, compelling people from parts of the Federal B Area and Abul Ispahani Road to remain indoor, with all businesses almost closed.
Due to the closure of main roads, traffic was suspended and flight schedules were affected.
Hundreds of people were also taking part in a solidarity sit-in organised in Multan. Security was tightened up in view of the protest.
Earlier on Tuesday, over 25 people were killed and dozens injured when a powerful explosion ripped through a bus carrying Shia pilgrims in Balochistan’s militancy-hit Mastung district.
The banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which it described as a suicide bombing, and warned of more such attacks.
Last year, thousands of mourners staged a three-day sit-in from Jan 10 to 13 in the aftermath of twin-bombings that had left over 100 people dead.