Quetta blast: Shiite leaders in Pak call off protest; 170 detained

Pakistan`s minority Shia Hazara community on Tuesday put an end to a four-day-long protest by agreeing to bury those killed in Quetta blast on Saturday.

Zeenews Bureau

Islamabad: Pakistan`s minority Shia Hazara community on Tuesday put an end to a four-day-long protest by agreeing to bury those killed in Quetta blast on Saturday.

The development came after Pakistan government announced arrest of 170 blast suspects.

Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen deputy chief Allama Amin Shaheedi, a top Shia leader, announced the end of the protest in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, this evening after talks with a parliamentary delegation led by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.

"I appeal to my friends to peacefully disperse. God forbid, if such a tragedy befalls us again, we will go for countrywide sit-ins again," Shaheedi told reporters.

Shia leaders said they would begin burying their dead this evening.

The government had accepted all "valid demands" of the Hazara community and protesters, Kaira said.

"Targeted operation" against militants had begun in Quetta last night. Four wanted men had been killed and 170 others arrested," Kaira added.

A bomb containing hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives had ripped through a crowded market in Hazara Town in Quetta while killing 89 people.

However, Pakistan`s minority Shia Hazara community had yesterday refused to bury bodies of victims killed in the devastating bombing in Quetta till the Army takes control of the southwestern city to prevent such terror attacks.

Thousands of Shias including women and children had also joined the protest.

Latter, the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Leaders of the Shia Hazara community, which has been repeatedly targeted by sectarian groups like the LeJ, had also given the government a 48-hour ultimatum to launch an Army operation against terrorists.

They had accused elements of the security establishment of sheltering the militants. Quetta police chief Wazir Khan Nasir had also said officials were engaged in negotiations with the Shia leaders to convince them to bury the dead bodies.

However, the Information Minister said the government had resolved to learn from its past mistakes and greater attention would be paid to providing security to the Shias.

He said a three-member committee will be formed to oversee efforts to secure the Hazaras.

Balochistan`s Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, said paramilitary troops had killed four members of the LeJ, including a senior commander, late last night.

Durrani and Col Maqbool Ahmed of the paramilitary Frontier Corps said the militants were killed in an exchange of fire with security personnel at Killi Qambrani on the outskirts of Quetta.

The Frontier Corps conducted raids after getting a tip-off about the presence of LeJ members in Killi Qambrani.

Two security personnel were injured in the shootout.

The dead militants were involved in the killing of a Shia judge and senior police officers, Durrani said.

Among the arrested militants was one of the masterminds of Saturday`s bombing in the Quetta suburb of Hazara Town, Durrani added.

Officials said they had seized bomb-making materials, suicide vests, arms and ammunition.

Media reports said the provincial chief of the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a front for the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, had also been detained.

Following the agreement between the government and Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen, Shia groups and parties also called off their protests in cities across Pakistan, including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Life in several cities was hit by the protests as demonstrators blocked roads and railway lines.

At most places, protesters demanded that security in Quetta should be handed over to the army and immediate action taken against the LeJ, which has repeatedly targeted Shias across Balochistan since last year.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sent the parliamentary delegation to Quetta to negotiate with Shia leaders after ordering a "targeted operation" against militants.

Shia leaders had warned that the situation in the country would further deteriorate if the government did not act on their demands.

With PTI inputs