Pak's Shiite Leaders Call End to Protests Against Attacks
Shiite leaders today called for an end to countrywide protests after Pakistani security forces launched an operation against extremists responsible for targeting the minority sect and detained 170 suspects, even as Shia groups in Quetta refused to end their agitation.
Thousands of Shias, including women and children, began their protest on Saturday after a bomb attack in Quetta killed 89 people, a majority of them Shia Hazaras.
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.
"The parliamentary committee has accepted all our demands and after their assurance that the army will carry out a targeted operation against banned groups in Quetta, we announce the end of our sit-in and the burial of the dead will begin soon," Shaheedi told reporters.
Kaira said the government had accepted all "valid demands" of the protesters but did not give details.
A "targeted operation" against militants had begun in Quetta last night.
Four wanted men were killed and 170 others arrested.
A large quantity of arms and ammunition were seized and the operation will "continue till its logical conclusion", he said.
However, Shia groups said they would continue their protest till the security of Quetta is handed over to the army, a demand the federal government is not willing to concede.
The families of victims of Saturday's bombing at Hazara Town said they would not bury their dead until the army takes control of Quetta.
Thousands of Shia Hazaras, including women and children, have joined a sit-in protest with bodies of the victims that began three days ago.
"We want the military to take control of Quetta and carry out a targeted operation against the culprits, who should be hanged in public," one protester told a TV news channel.
Despite calls from leaders of Shia groups like
Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslameen, Shia Ulema Council and All Pakistan Shia Action Committee, protests and sit-ins continued in several cities, including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
In Lahore, protesters refused to call off a sit-in outside Allama International Airport, leading to clashes with passengers coming out of the terminal.
In Karachi, protests caused traffic jams and blocked key roads.
Shia groups had organised a similar protest after twin suicide bombings in Quetta killed 92 Hazaras in January.
The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Kaira 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 died 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.
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.
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