Pakistani Shiites demand army protection after bombing

Source: Toronto Star

ISLAMABAD—Thousands of Shiite Muslims staged protests across Pakistan on Monday, demanding that the government and military protect them from Sunni extremists after a bombing that killed 89 people Saturday in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Shiites, a religious minority in Pakistan, pointed to the attack, which followed a similar devastating bombing in January, as further evidence of Islamabad’s indifference to what many describe as a pogrom against Shiites in Balochistan province.

The bombings have been aimed in particular at ethnically Hazara Shiites whose distinctive features also have made them easy, frequent targets of gun-wielding assassins in recent months. Sunni militant groups do not consider Shiites to be Muslims.

Many families of Saturday’s bombing victims are refusing to bury their dead until the Pakistani army takes action against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militia that asserted responsibility for Saturday’s bombing and also for a January blast that killed more than 90 people.

The sectarian killings and subsequent unrest present yet another challenge to the strategically vital, nuclear-armed nation, already embroiled in a war against an indigenous Taliban insurgency.

“The government has failed to protect the lives of people and maintain peace,” Maulana Amin Shaheedi, deputy secretary of the main political organization representing different Shiite groups in Pakistan, said at a news conference in Quetta, the provincial capital. “We will not bury the victims until the army is deployed in Quetta.”

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