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Shias demonstrate to protest the bomb attack in Quetta yesterday.
QUETTA: A provincial official criticised Pakistani security forces yesterday after a bombing targeting the Shia Hazara community killed 81 people in the northwestern city of Quetta.
“The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces,” Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, Governor of Baluchistan province, said while touring a hospital.
“We had given a free hand to security (forces) to take action against terrorist and extremist groups, but despite that the Quetta incident took place.”
Shia political organisations have called for a strike in Quetta to protest against the latest carnage. Many shops and bazaars are closed. Relatives of the wounded responded for an appeal for blood made by hospitals.
Pakistani intelligence officials say extremist groups, led by LeJ, have escalated their bombings and shootings of Shias to trigger violence that would pave the way for a Sunni theocracy in US-allied Pakistan.
Protests erupted across the country yesterday to demand protection for Shias.
Mourners gathered yesterday as people sifted through the rubble of the explosion, many weeping as they discovered limbs and pieces of flesh torn apart by the blast, which wounded 178 people.
Witness Zainab Bibi, 38, said the carnage was “like the day of judgment had come”.
“Initially I could not see anything because of a thick cloud of dust but I could hear loud screaming,” she said.
“As the dust settled, I saw blood everywhere, torn bodies were lying everywhere with no clothes on.”
Baluchistan has increasingly become a flashpoint for surging sectarian violence between majority Sunnis and Shias, who account for around a fifth of the country’s 180 million people.
Saturday’s attack takes the death toll in sectarian attacks in Pakistan this year to almost 200, compared with more than 400 in the whole of 2012 — a year which Human Rights Watch described as the deadliest on record for the country’s Shiites.
More than 1,500 Shias took to the streets of the eastern city of Lahore to demand action against the extremists, and there were smaller demonstrations in the central city of Multan and Muzaffarabad, the main city of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Protests in the wake of the snooker hall attack prompted Islamabad to sack the provincial government and Azizullah Hazara, Chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, yesterday gave a 48-hour deadline to the provincial government to launch operations against the killers.
Sayed Qamar Haider Zaidi, a spokesman for Shia groups in the area, condemned the Pakistani government for not providing protection to the community and announced three days of mourning and protest over the attack.
Pakistani intelligence officials say extremist groups, led by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, want to destabilise the nation through sectarian violence and pave the way for a Sunni theocracy. Pakistan’s national flag was flying at half mast after the provincial government declared a day of mourning over the killings and markets were closed.
Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, also suffers Islamist militancy and a regional insurgency which began in 2004, with rebels demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s natural resources.