Pakistan Shi'ites to bury bomb victims after meeting PM

Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:56am EST
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By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Pakistani Shi'ite Muslims began burying their dead in a mass grave Monday amid tears and pictures of the fallen, ending a three-day protest over one of the worst sectarian attacks in the country's history.

Thousands of people from Shi'ite Hazara community had been holding vigil next to the bodies of the 96 people killed in Thursday's bombings to demand better protection from a rising tide of sectarian attacks.

Defying Muslim tradition and leaving the bodies unburied was a powerful rebuke to the government that inspired other protests in solidarity around the country.

The Shi'ite leaders only agreed to hold the burials after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf travelled to the provincial capital of Quetta and agreed to some of their demands.

On Monday, he met the protest leaders and agreed to sack the entire provincial government. Shi'ite leaders said many of the officials were implicated in the violence.

As the white shrouded bodies were laid to rest in a long trench, men, women and children wept in the cold air, huddled together for warmth and comfort.

The trees of the graveyard and the electricity poles outside were papered with pictures of the victims. As the bodies were being lowered, some women screamed their grief beside the graves of relatives killed in previous attacks.

"We are tired of burying our dear ones," said Dr. Zulfiqar Jaffery, 50, who lost his two brothers-in-law in the bombing. He cried as he tried to comfort another grieving relative.   Continued...

A girl from the Shi'ite Hazara community gestures as she attends a funeral ceremony of the victims who were killed three days ago by a bomb blast in Quetta January 14, 2013. Shi'ite Muslims agreed on Monday to begin burying nearly 100 of their people killed in one of Pakistan's deadliest sectarian attacks after Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said he would comply with their demands to sack the local government. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed