Hazaras urge PM to visit Quetta as sit-in enters third day


–Investigation team comprising CTD officials formed to probe the suicide attack

–Forensic evidence sent to PFSA, further action to follow issuance of report

QUETTA: The Hazara community on Sunday urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Quetta to address their grievances as their sit-in protest against Friday’s suicide attack at a vegetable market continued on the third day.

On the third day, the protesters remained steadfast in their demands – immediate action against the perpetrators of attack; implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) and an earnest effort by the state authorities to fulfil their responsibility of providing security to its people.

Meanwhile, an investigation team comprising senior officials of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) was also set up to probe the attack. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema said that the team had visited the site of the attack to collect evidence for the investigation.

“The body parts of the suspected attacker have been sent to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency for DNA testing. One the test reports are issued, they will be handed over to Balochistan chief minister,” he said.

20 people, including eight members of the Hazara community, were killed and 48 others were wounded in a suicide blast on Friday whose responsibility was claimed by the Qari Husain faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as the militant Islamic State (IS) group. After the blast, members of the beleaguered Hazara community gathered at Quetta’s Western Bypass to protest against what they term the “persistent failure” of law enforcers to provide them security in Balochistan and across Pakistan.

According to police and Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove, the vegetable vendors belonging to the ethnic Hazara community were the target of the attack in which 48 people also suffered injuries.

“A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest inside the vegetable market,” Langove said.

The Amnesty International, in its statement on Friday, had said the blast was a ‘painful reminder’ of the many attacks suffered by the Hazara community in Quetta over the years. It had also called for the government to give them better protection.

“Each time, there are promises that more will be done to protect them, and each time those promises have failed to materialise,” wrote Omar Waraich, Amnesty’s deputy director for South Asia.

On Saturday, the protesters, comprising hundreds of people, including women and children, set tyres on fire and blocked the bypass for traffic. A protest was also staged in front of the Quetta Press Club. The Islamic State group, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, claimed the responsibility. The group released a photograph of the bomber along with his name.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan visited the Hazara Town on Saturday. He expressed his condolences over the lives lost in the suicide attack, vowing to end the menace of terrorism.

The Hazara community has been disproportionately targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance. Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled here since fleeing Afghanistan to escape violence in their homeland during the past four decades.

A report released by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) last year stated that 509 members of Hazara community were killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta from January 2012 to Dec 2017.