The death toll in Saturday’s bomb blast near Hazara Town in Quetta climbed to 84 and triggered another wave of protest across the country against sectarian violence and the inability of the powers that be to round up the terrorists unleashing such carnage with regular impunity.
Most of the dead were Hazara Shias; a community that has been repeatedly targeted over the past couple of years. The dead included many women and children; some of whom were charred beyond recognition because of the fire that followed the massive explosion heard all over Quetta.
The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack and said the target was the Shia community of Hazara Town. Along with their dead, members of the Hazara Shia community picketed a thoroughfare of Quetta on Sunday demanding action against LeJ and refusing to bury those killed until those responsible were rounded up.
A similar protest in January – following serial blasts in Quetta targeting the Hazara Shias – saw the federal government dismiss the provincial government and declare Governor’s Rule in Balochistan. Since Governor’s Rule and more powers to the security forces in the province has had little impact on sectarian violence, the Hazara Shias this time round have become more vocal in demanding action against LeJ despite the inherent risks in naming the organisation that wants Shias to be declared infidels in Pakistan.
Even as protests spread to different parts of the country – including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi – mass graves were dug up in Quetta for the burial of those killed in the blast. Emotionally drained by the unrelenting attack on their community, the Hazara Shias lamented that they now had no burial space for their dead; such is the rate at which they are being killed.