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Pakistan's Hazara Shias Demand Arrests, Protection After Deadly Bombing

In the latest attack against Pakistan's Hazara Shia minority, a bomb ripped through a busy market in the southwestern city of Quetta in Pakistan on February 16, claiming as many as 63 lives and injuring at least 180 others, including many women and children.

The bombing occurred in Hazara Town, a territory home to the Hazara community of Shia Muslims, who were also the target of an attack last month that left 96 people dead. In that incident, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a billiard parlor, killing several people. Shortly afterward, as people rushed to help the victims, a car bomb outside the parlor went off.

The banned militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which allegedly has ties to Pakistan's intelligence agency, has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

As the sectarian violence against Pakistan's Hazaras continue unabated, many across the country have accused the government of deadly inaction, demanding that authorities move off the sidelines and step in to halt the mass killings.

Screenshot of video recorded and published by a witness at the blast scene.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Human Rights Watch director for Pakistan, criticized the government's absence on Twitter:

@AliDayan: What action has been taken since the last massacre of the #Hazara in January to hold the LeJ accountable? Nothing. #Balochistan

Human Rights Watch noted in its World Report 2013 that the LeJ has ties to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other intelligence services, writing that ”Pakistan’s government has failed to act against abuses by the security and intelligence agencies, which continued to allow extremist groups to attack religious minorities.” Hasan also asked:

If #Pakistan‘s security agencies are neither incompetent nor complicit in the killing of #Hazara Shias, why do they continue to die.

Arif Hussain Hazara warned that inaction would have tragic consequences:

@Arif_Hazara: #HazaraTownBalst not the first, will not be the last unless#ActionAgainstLeJ is being taken, they r strategic poison not asset. 

People gather near the dead bodies of victims, who were gunned down by unidentified armed men at the Scrap Market on Sarki Road in a target killing. Quetta, Pakistan. 16th October 2012  Image by PPPIimages. Copyright Demotix

People gather near the bodies of Hazara victims, who were gunned down by unidentified armed men at the Scrap Market on Sarki Road in a targeted killing in Quetta, Pakistan late last year. Image by PPPIimages. Copyright Demotix

Similarly, columnist Mehr Tarar accused the ruling party, Pakistan People's Party (PPP), of doing nothing to protect the Hazaras:

@MehrTarar: #PPP-led govt was asked last month by the slain #Hazaras‘ families to STOP (whatever that takes) the #LeJ. And what happened? N.O.T.H.I.N.G

Haider Changezi, a Hazara Twitterati, suggested on the same day as the market bombing that Pakistani Twitter users unite against the violence under the hashtag #ActionAgainstLeJ:

@Aushpaz: Dear #Pakistan – can we for once agree on #ActionAgainstLeJ – Pls RT if you agree with the hashtag so #PPP gov knows consensus is there!

Following the attack on Hazara Shias in early January, thousands of Pakistani protesters attended a four-day vigil, demanding an “operation cleanup in Balochistan against serial killings of Hazara people.” They also called for the removal of provincial government officials and a handover of the city to the army. Although the army has not yet been called in, a state of emergency was declared in the province.

Imran Ali of the BBC noted that the government has yet to arrest those responsible for the bombings:

After the last bomb attack in Quetta, and the ensuing protests by the Hazara community, the Pakistan government sacked Baluchistan's chief minister, Nawab Aslam Raisani, but has yet to arrest the culprits behind the attack. This came as no surprise to the Hazara community, who have yet to see the Pakistan government take action against the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Yousuf Nazar, a Pakistani author, wrote that joint action by security forces would be the only way to put an end to the violence:

@YousufNazar: A joint army/commando/police operation against TTP/LeJ is the only solution. They don't even spare women & children; U can't talk to animals

Aziz Ali, a Hazara Twitter user, asked why the government hasn't moved against the authors of the killings:

@azizhazara: Why no one come forward from government and announce targetted action [against] the killer and murderer. #ActionAgainstLeJ

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