Shi'ite leader challenges Pakistan army chief over attacks

Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:17pm EST
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By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - In a rare challenge, a Shi'ite Muslim leader publicly criticized Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Kayani over security in the country on Friday after bombings targeting the minority sect killed 93 people.

The criticism of Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the South Asian state, highlighted Shi'ite frustrations with Pakistan's failure to contain Sunni Muslim militant groups who have vowed to wipe out Shi'ites.

"I ask the army chief: what have you done with these extra three years you got (in office)? What did you give us except more death?" Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads a national council of Shi'ite organisations, told a news conference.

Most of Thursday's deaths were caused by twin attacks aimed Shi'ites in the southwestern city of Quetta, near the Afghan border, where members of the minority group have long accused the state of turning a blind eye to Sunni death squads.

Shi'ite leaders were so outraged at the latest bloodshed that they called for the military to take control of Quetta to shield them and said they would not allow the 93 victims of twin bomb attacks to be buried until their demands were met.

The burials had been scheduled to take place after Friday prayers but the bodies would remain unburied until Shi'ites had received promises of protection, they said.

"They will not be buried until the army comes into Quetta," Shaheedi said.

Akbar Durrani, home secretary of Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital Durrani said scores of bodies had been brought out into the road by the bomb site as a protest.   Continued...

Pakistani journalists chant slogans during a protest against bomb blasts in Quetta and condemn killings of members of the media, outside the press club in Karachi January 11, 2013. The banner reads in Urdu "we wholeheartedly salute our martyr brothers". REUTERS/Athar Hussain