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Shiites lash out after Pakistan bombing kills 81

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm •  Published: February 17, 2013
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At the blast site, members of the Hazara community helped authorities dig through rubble to find the dead or survivors. Most of their efforts were focused on a two-story building that was completely destroyed. More than 20 shops nearby were also demolished.

Clothing and shoes were scattered through the concrete rubble, broken steel bars and shattered wooden window frames littering the streets.

One of those helping, 40-year-old Qurban Ali, was instructing young people to be patient and careful while removing the rubble, lest they hurt themselves or survivors still buried in the debris. His cousin Abbas was still missing after the blast.

"Not one month or week passes here without the killing of a member of the Hazara community," he said. "Why is the government — both central and provincial — so lethargic in protecting Shiites?"

Near the rubble, a group of more than 50 women were wailing and beating their heads in mourning.

On a nearby road Hazara youth burned tires and chanted for the arrests of the killers. A number of Shiite groups also staged a sit-in and were demanding the immediate removal of the chief secretary of Baluchistan and the top police official, said Rahim Jaffery, who heads a Shiite organization called the Council for the Protection of Mourning.

"We are demanding the city (protection) be handed over to the army so that the killing of Hazara Shiites can be stopped," he said.

After the attack in January, the prime minister put Governor Zulfiqar Magsi directly in charge of the region — a move that many Shiites thought would help protect their community. But he has made comments that reveal frustration at the job, saying the blast was the result of a failure of the provincial security and intelligence agencies.

"Officials and personnel of these institutions are scared (of the terrorists). Therefore they don't take action against them," he said in comments that were broadcast on local television.

Pakistan's intelligence agencies helped nurture Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Iran, which is mostly Shiite. Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to operate fairly freely in their war against Shiites.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 Shiites were killed in 2012 in targeted attacks across the country, the worse year on record for anti-Shiite violence. The human rights group said more than 125 were killed in Baluchistan province. Most of them belonged to the Hazara community. With two attacks in two months in Baluchistan, that number has already been eclipsed.

Human rights groups have accused the government of not doing enough to protect Shiites.

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Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.