Pakistani Shia Muslims protesting against sectarian violence have agreed to stop their sit-in and bury the bodies of their relatives killed in Thursday’s twin bombings in Baluchistan Province, after PM Raja Pervez Asharaf sacked local officials.
The prime minister met leaders of the Shia Hazara community in a mosque in the provincial capital of Quetta, near the site where the explosions killed 96 people on January 10.
Ashraf voiced his deep sorrow over the killings and said he would impose “governor rule,” which allows him to replace local authorities, Reuters reports.
The visit comes after thousands of protesters who were holding holding vigils at the site of the deadliest of Thursday bombings refused to talk with a delegation led by the minister for religious affairs, who arrived Saturday.
The protesters come from the community of the Hazara people and other Shiites, who were the prime target of the bombings at a local billiard hall. They are taking part in a sit-in beside the shrouded bodies of 96 people, who were killed by the terrorist attack.
Muslim tradition requires that a funeral takes place as quickly after the death as possible. Protesters’ willingness to go against it and keep their perished family and friends unburied for more than two days after their deaths shows the degree of their anxiety.
The leaders of the community demand that the provincial government be dismissed and that the army be deployed in Quetta to guarantee their safety. They also want the people behind the bombings to be brought to justice.
As the protest continues, a new bombing attack in the city killed a six-year-old boy, when an explosive device went off on Saturday night outside of an internet café.
The militant Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the twin blasts at the billiard hall, which killed patrons and later those who rushed for rescue after the first explosion was set off. A total of 125 people died in those blasts and two others that happened in Quetta on Thursday.
The Hazara are an ethnic group including more than 5 million people, mostly living in neighboring Afghanistan. But over the decades of persecution many of them moved to other places, with major communities living in Iran, Pakistan and Europe.
They have been living in Pakistan since the 19th century, with most settling in Quetta. Hazara are the largest group of Shiites living in the predominantly Sunni province and many of the victims of sectarian violence there targeting Shiites are Hazara.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is determined to expel Hazara along with other Shiites from Pakistan.