Islamabad: The death toll in a string of devastating terrorist attacks in two restive Pakistani provinces rose to 126 on Friday as residents of Quetta city observed a strike to protest the killings.
A total of 92 people were killed in explosions that targeted a snooker club in a Shia-dominated neighbourhood of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, last night.
Dozens of people were killed instantly and at least eight injured persons died later.
Twelve people were killed in another blast that targeted a security forces vehicle at a busy roundabout in Quetta yesterday afternoon.
Twenty-two more people died in an explosion at a religious seminary in the former Taliban stronghold of Swat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province last evening.
Nearly 300 people were injured in all the attacks and officials said special arrangements were being made to airlift critically injured persons from Quetta to Karachi so that they could be provided better treatment.
Life in Quetta came to a standstill as a traders' association called for a strike to protest the bombings.
Shops and markets across the city remained closed and traffic on the roads was thin.
Interacting with the media after visiting victims at a hospital, Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi said the provincial government had failed to deliver.
The Hazara Democratic Party demanded that the Pakistan People's Party-led government in Balochistan should be dismissed and a caretaker set-up formed after consultations with all political parties.
The HDP further demanded that security forces should carry out targeted operations against militants targeting Hazara Shias.
The notorious sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack on the snooker club at Alamdar Road, a Shia-majority area of Quetta.
In calls made to local journalists, LeJ spokesmen Bakar Saddiq said the first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and the second was a bomb planted in a car that was triggered by remote control.
The United Baluch Army, a separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack on security forces at Bacha Khan Chowk in Quetta.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack on the centre of the Tablighi Jamaat at Takhta Band Road in Swat.
Reporter Saifur Rehman and cameraman Imran Shaikh of Samaa TV channel, reporter Muhammad Iqbal of NNI news agency, nine policemen, including a DSP, and three rescue workers were among those killed in the attack on the snooker club in Quetta.
A majority of victims in that attack were Hazara Shias and a pall of gloom descended on the minority community as they buried their dead.
Hazara leaders said over 50 members of the community were killed by the blasts the highest death toll in a single day since militant groups began targeting the Hazaras over a decade ago.
Human Rights Watch said the Pakistan government's "persistent failure" to protect the minority Shia community from sectarian attacks by Sunni militant groups was "reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens".
"The government should immediately hold accountable those responsible for ordering and participating in deadly attacks targeting the Shia across Pakistan and particularly the Hazara Shia in Quetta," HRW said in a statement.
Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of HRW, said that "2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan?s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note".
HRW said over 400 Shias were killed in targeted attacks last year.
"Over 120 of these were killed in Balochistan province, the vast majority from the Hazara Shia community," it said.
Attacks targeting Shias took place repeatedly last year in Balochistan, Karachi, Shia populated areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and in the tribal areas.
First Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013, 23:51