On Thursday January 10th two bombs were exploded in a crowded area on Alamdar Road, Quetta, an area where most of Hazara and other Shias reside, killing 92 Hazara Shias and injuring more than 200. Earlier in the day, a bomb blast occurred in Meezan Choke close to a security check point manned by Frontier Corp (FC) personnel. Twelve people were killed in this blast, including bystanders.
Although the first blast was claimed to have been carried out by Baloch rebels, it appears that it was a strategy to engage and divert attention of the Pakistan Frontier Corps (FC) and other security personnel and carry out the other two well-planned blasts in Hazara area with devastating effects.
The two blasts in Hazara areas of Quetta took place within 10 minutes of each other: the first one was carried out by a suicide bomber who exploded himself in the basement of a crowded sports club on Alamdar Road. About 4 people were killed in that blast and same number injured. With the sound of the first blast, a large number of people rushed to the scene including police officers and medics to provide assistance to people trapped in the basement of the sports club. As the crowd got larger, the second blast occurred from a small minivan parked next to the club. This was a very powerful blast and caused an even larger number of fatalities. Based on reports, about 120 people were killed and more than 200 injured. The majority (about 92) of the deceased belonged to Hazara Shia community of Quetta. This was the biggest one day loss of life in the history of this genocide, with the majority victims between the ages of 15 and 30 years old. The same day, the Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangavi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the blasts and promised more attacks and the full extermination of Hazara Shias in Quetta in 2013. This is the same group that has been openly professing and committing violence against Hazara Shias in Quetta and other Shias across Pakistan for the past 12 years. The most disturbing aspect of all of this is that the provincial government has not been able to bring an end to this genocidal behavior or even prosecute a single perpetrator. Credible sources have over and again indicated that these extremist groups have support and patronage from elements in the government and military establishment.
The grief from such large-scale killing of innocent people was so overwhelming that the whole Hazara Shia community decided not to bury the bodies of their loved ones immediately as is custom, but instead announced three days of mourning and protest sit-ins alongside the shrouded bodies at Alamdar Road in Quetta. The community has been under siege for the last few years and members of the community are being killed on a daily basis by the same Sunni extremist groups, Lashkar-e-Jhangavi (LeJ) and Sippah-e-Sahaba.
On day one of the sit-ins, there was hardly any national media coverage but the Hazara people braved the sub-freezing temperatures and continued with their peaceful protest, promising not to bury the dead until the government met their demands for providing protection for the community. Two key demands made by the community leaders from Hazara Yakjehti Council (Hazara United Council) were the immediate removal of the provincial government and for the federal military to take the charge of providing security for the population of Quetta. The reason behind the demand for the removal of the provincial government was that for the past four and half years, provincial government headed by Chief Minister Aslam Raisani has been a complete failure with regards to providing security for the Hazara Shia against targeted killing and ethnic cleansing of this minority population. With more than 1200 Hazaras killed during the past few years, not a single culprit has been brought to justice. With this lack of interest and apathy towards plight of Hazara people, the community had no choice but to carry out this rather extreme protest measure and symbolic resistance. The whole community joined the protest including women and children. On day two, media started to provide coverage of the hapless conditions of the bereaved family members sitting next to the dead bodies of their loved ones.
Shias from other parts of Pakistan started to hold sit in protests and within hours tens of thousands of both Shia and Sunnis had joined the protests in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan, Hyderabad and other cities across Pakistan.
During this time of mourning and protest, not a single provincial minister cared to visit the grieving Hazaras, and the Chief Minister was en route to Dubai. Not a single word of condemnation offered by leaders of major political parties. However, as the protest got larger and Hazaras continued to sit outside on Alamdar road with their dead, a few political leaders started to come to Quetta for condolence and share the grief of the Hazaras. Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) was the first one to visit followed by MQM delegation and Governor of Balochistan.
For three days the Hazaras including women and children sat on Alamdar Road under freezing cold conditions and rain while prime minster, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and President Zardari were sitting in their mansions contemplating how to tackle the issue. Finally, when they saw the strength of the Shia as well as other Pakistanis across Pakistan, they decided to sack the provincial government and install governor's rule (federal control) for a minimum of 2 months.
The same day, Prime Minister along with the Governor of Balochistan, Zulfiqar Magasi, visited the Hazara community and met with the leaders. After listening to the demands of the community leaders, the prime minister made the announcement of dissolution of provincial government and imposition of Governor rule. On the demand for military takeover of the city, they indicated that constitution doesn’t allow such a provision, but that the army and other paramilitary forces will be ready to assist the Governor whenever he wants to conduct targeted operations against the Sunni extremists groups.
Following the formal declaration of the provincial government dissolution and imposition of governor rule, the Hazara community leaders on Monday stopped the protest and on the same day started to bury the dead.
Hazara shias are going through their most difficult times yet; however they are hopeful that with the removal of the inept and complicit former chief minister Raisani, they may soon get a reprieve from the continuous violence which has been perpetrated against them for the past 12 years.