Pakistan Shi'ites demand protection from militants

Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:58am EST
 

By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Thousands of Pakistani Shi'ites furious over a sectarian bombing that killed 89 people protested on Monday, demanding that security forces protect them from hardline Sunni groups.

The attack, near a street market in the southwestern city of Quetta on Saturday, highlighted the government's failure to crack down on militancy in nuclear-armed Pakistan just a few months before a general election is due.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), seen as the most ruthless Sunni sectarian group, claimed responsibility for the latest bombing, just as they did for another bombing that killed nearly 100 people in the same city last month.

While the Taliban and al Qaeda remain a major source of instability, Sunni sectarian militants, who regard Shi'ites as non-Muslims, have emerged as another significant security threat.

Shi'ite frustrations with waves of attacks on them have reached boiling point, piling pressure on Pakistani leaders ahead of elections expected within a few months.

The government is already under fire for failing to tackle a host of other problems, from power cuts and corruption to poverty.

In Quetta, some ethnic Shi'ite Hazaras are refusing to bury their dead until the army goes after the LeJ.

Around 4,000 men, women and children placed 71 bodies beside a Shi'ite place of worship. Muslim tradition requires that bodies are buried as soon as possible, and leaving them above ground is a potent expression of grief and pain.   Continued...

 
Shi'ite Muslims shout slogans as they protest near the covered bodies (not in picture) of Saturday's bomb attack victims during a sit-in in Quetta February 18, 2013. Pakistani Shi'ites furious over a sectarian bombing that killed 85 people protested on Monday, demanding that security forces protect them from hardline Sunni groups. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed