Pakistan’s Hazara Shias have refused to end protests and bury their dead after a series of car bombings rocked Quetta and left 85 people dead.
Community leaders called off the protest after the government arrested 170 suspects linked to the deadly attack. The community has protested for five days, staging a sit-in next to the bodies of their loved ones.
Relatives refused to bury their dead, saying that the government has repeatedly refused to protect them from tragedy. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira reported four suspects were killed and 170 people arrested, reports Reuters.
The arrests came just hours after the government launched an operation to capture the militants responsible. It is not yet clear how the government was able to make so many arrests so quickly.
Still, Shi’ite leader Amin Shaheedi stated:
“All our demands have been met. The government has assured us that Quetta will be protected now and such incidents will not be repeated.”
Despite community leaders calling off the protest, Al Jazeera notes that the Hazara Shias continued their sit-in protest. Protests continued in Pakistan’s Karachi, Lahore, and other areas. Demonstrators have announced that they will not end their sit-ins until the people in Quetta bury all their dead.
Along with their operation against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the group responsible for the bombings, the government also replaced Balochistan’s top police officer. Sumbai will also replace the chief of police operations in Quetta.
While some agreed with Shaheedi, Agha Hamid Musvi, a prominent leader in the region, called on the protest to continue until the army takes control of Quetta. There were 15,000 people protesting in Quetta’s streets at the height of the demonstration. Several thousand still remained in the streets despite the rain and cold.
The victims of the bombing remained inside a mosque where they have been housed for the past three days. Pakistan’s Shia Muslims account for about 20 percent of the population. More than 400 were killed in targeted attacks last year.
Two mass casualty attacks have also been carried out in Quetta so far this year including Saturday’s. More than 90 people were killed in January when twin explosions hit a Shia area of the city.