Following the devastation in Quetta that killed more than 116 people, the Shia community of the country has taken to roads to protest the constant victimisation of their community at the hands of sectarian terrorists. Thousands of protestors had jammed the roads of Balochistan’s capital on Friday and refused to bury their loved ones until the government met their demands that included removal of Chief Minister Aslam Raisani and army deployment in the city. Almost two days have gone by since then, without any action from the government’s side while the protesters continue their sit-in protests along with dead bodies of their loved ones.
On Saturday, in a show of solidarity with the Quetta protestors, the Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) took out a peaceful sit-in protest outside the Punjab Governor’s House around 6 pm, blocking The Mall for traffic. As if by coincidence, the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) shut down power supply to the area for almost two hours. No reason was given for the unscheduled power outage. All lights outside the Governor House went out, leaving the hapless protesters to register their grievances in the dark.
Ironically, there was hardly any media presence to cover the protest which reflected the apathy of the country’s mainstream media towards the cause of the oppressed Shia minority.
Talking to Pakistan Today, MWM Punjab President Abdul Khaliq Asadi strongly condemned the Quetta massacre for which the banned Sunni extremist outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has taken responsibility. He said the protest would continue till their demands are met.
“We demand immediate removal of the Balochistan chief minister and want the army to take over responsibility of Quetta’s security,” he said. “We want the chief justice to take notice of the Quetta tragedy and root out terrorism from the country…more than 1,000 Shias have been killed in incidents of targeted killings but his lordship has yet to notice the genocide,” he said.
Talking to Pakistan Today, MWM Punjab Deputy Secretary Hassan Naqvi said, “Leaders who are responsible for the security of our lives have become our enemies. They are not fulfilling their duties as part of the government which has led to the devastation of our community in the country.”
He said more than 36 hours have gone by since the protest in Quetta had started but not even a single government functionary or organisation has visited them, not even for condolence. They continue sitting in the battering cold with bodies of their loved ones but the government has shown sheer apathy towards their protest, he said.
He reiterated the MWM’s demands saying, “We demand removal of the corrupt and alcoholic chief minister of Balochistan and want the army to immediately take over Quetta.”
He clarified that they do not want martial law in the country but want the army to be responsible for security because the current government had failed miserably in that regard. “Until our demands are met, we will continue sitting outside Governor House,” he said.
A protester, Khalid Asadi echoed the demand to oust Chief Minister Raisani and army to take control over Quetta. “The Punjab and federal governments must know that we will not leave Governor House as long as our demands are met,” he said.
Another protester, Mudassar said the government has shown no regard for those battling the cold weather in Quetta with bodies of their loved ones.
“One bullet in the head of Malala Yousafzai saw media highlighting her cause and raising hue and cry in the corridors of power but thousands of Shia deaths, the Quetta massacre and our peaceful sit-ins have been ignored by the government high ups and the media,” he lamented.
The protesting Shias, including women, children and the elderly, held banners and placards asking the government to provide security to their community “which was being subjected to state-sanctioned terrorism”.