QUETTA: At a late-night press conference, leaders of Shia organisations and Hazara community announced that relatives of the people who had died in Saturday’s terrorist attack had agreed to start burying the dead at 9 on Wednesday morning and end their sit-in.
The leaders included Allama Amin Shaheedi of Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen; Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara, chief of the Hazara tribe; and Qayyum Changezi of the Quetta Yekjehati Council. They are accompanied by Agha Ghulam Abbas and Ghulam Raza who have lost several dear ones in the attack. They said there were 113 bodies in the camp which would be kept overnight.
Earlier in the evening, the protesters holding the sit-in with the bodies of the dead had insisted on continuing their sit-in after what was described as success of negotiations with a parliamentary delegation from Islamabad. The Shia leaders had announced their decision to end the sit-in and start burying the bodies. Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi had attended the talks.
The protesters said they would not bury the dead till their main demand of handing over Quetta to army had been met.
Till late in the evening there were reports of protesters in some other cities of the country taking the same position. They said they would end their protest only if the sit-in was ended in Quetta.
After negotiations with the parliamentary delegation, the leaders said they had been assured that a targeted operation would be launched against banned extremist organisations involved in attacks on the Hazaras.
They also said the bodies of the victims of the Karani Road carnage would be buried soon.
But Ghulam Ali Hazara told reporters in Hazara Town that the heirs had refused to burry the dead till the handing over of Quetta’s control to the army.
Hundreds of relatives of the victims remained sitting with the coffins at Imambargah in Hazara Town despite heavy rain and cold weather. “We will end our protest only when the army takes over security of Quetta and launches a targeted operation against banned organisations.”
After the negotiations, the Shia leaders had left the Hazara Town area. “The government has accepted all our demands,” they told reporters.
The parliamentary delegation comprised Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira, Maula Bakhsh Chandio, Afzal Nadeem Chan, Hazar Khan Bijarani, Sughra Imam and Yasmeen Rehman. After arriving in Quetta, they held a meeting with Governor Magsi, Frontier Corps IG Major General Obaidullah Khattak, IG Police Tariq Omar Khitab, Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, Home Secretary Capt (retd) Akbar Hussain Durrani and other senior officials of the army and intelligence agencies at the Governor’s House. The meeting discussed the protesters’ demand of handing over Quetta to the army and launching a targeted operation.
In the afternoon, the delegation went to Hazara Town and met leaders of Shia organisations.
After about two hours, the two sides announced success of the talks.
Allama Shaheedi, Sardar Saadat Ali and Qayyum Changezi announced that they would end their sit-in and bury the dead because the government had assured them that the army would carry out an operation.
“We are going to end our sit-in and protest and ask the protesters across the country to end their sit-in and disperse peacefully,” Allama Shaheedi said.
He said that after successful talks with the government, burial of victims would take place.
“We have formed a three-member committee to monitor the fulfilment of the federal and the provincial governments about the army operation and we will launch sit-ins and protest again if another act of terrorism takes place again.”
Mr Kaira told newsmen that the FC and other law enforcement agencies had already launched an operation against the groups involved in sectarian killings. Four terrorists had been killed and dozens of other suspects had been arrested so far, he added.“The army will also carry out the operation which will continue till all suspects wanted in cases of sectarian attacks are apprehended,” he said.
Mr Kaira said the government had accepted all demands of the Hazara leaders.
Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara said they would try to complete burial on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who returned here after an official visit to Iran, joined the parliamentary delegation at the Governor’s House.
He told reporters that the government would declare the Shia-Hazara areas of Quetta as a red zone.
He said the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jaish-i-Mohammad and Sipah-i-Sahaba were working as a syndicate and carrying out bomb attacks against the Shia community.
The syndicate of three banned outfits, he said, had stopped target killings and were now carrying out bomb blasts like the one on Karani road in which potassium and sulphuric acid had been used.