Islamabad: Hundreds of minority Shia Hazaras continued their sit-in protest for a second day on Saturday in southwest Pakistan's terror-hit Quetta, refusing to bury the over 80 victims of bomb attacks till the army takes control of the city to improve security.
    
Protesters from the vulnerable community, including women, children and the elderly, joined a sit-in at Alamdar Road, a Shia-dominated neighbourhood where 92 people were killed in bomb blasts on Thursday.
    
They huddled around more than 80 bodies, most of them wrapped in white shrouds and covered with plastic sheets to protect them from the rain.
    
Though the protest began over 20 hours ago, Hazara Shia leaders complained that no ministers of the Balochistan government or elected representatives had met them to express solidarity or to discuss their demands.
    
Many protesters shouted slogans against the government and the militant groups that have been targeting the Shias.
    
The protesters were wrapped in shawls as they sat through the night in the biting cold and rain. Many woman clad in black broke down and wept while children and youth lit candles to pay tributes to the victims of the bombings.
    
Shia leaders have demanded that control of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, should be handed over to the army as the provincial government had failed to stop attacks by notorious sectarian groups like the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for Thursday's attacks.
    
A spokesman of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, a leading Shia group, told the media that the dead would not be buried till the community's demands are accepted.
    
The protesters said they were determined to continue the sit-in indefinitely and would not accept any verbal promises from authorities.
    
Roads around the Shia-majority neighbourhood were blocked with barricades and trucks and people were barred from entering the area.
    
Large contingents of security forces were deployed in the area and Shia groups mobilised their volunteers to ensure security for the gathering.
    
In a related development, Hazara Democratic Party chief Abdul Khaliq Hazara and his supporters began a three-day fast outside a police complex in Quetta to protest the attacks and to demand security for the community.
    
They said the provincial government had completely failed to protect the Hazara Shias.
    
During a news conference on Friday, top Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen leader Maulana Amin Shaheedi openly criticized powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani over the lack of security for Shias and other communities.
    
Referring to an unprecedented three-year extension given to Kayani by the civilian government, Shaheedi said. "I ask the army chief: what have you done with these extra three years you got? What did you give us except more death?" Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi too acknowledged that the provincial government had completely failed to protect citizens.
    
"It seems we have failed in governing. There is no need for us. It is better to have polls so that better people can come in and take care of this country," he told the media after meeting victims of the bomb blasts.
    
A string of bombings at Alamdar Road left 92 dead and over 160 injured in one of the bloodiest days of violence that Balochistan has witnessed for years.
    
A suicide bomber targeted a crowded snooker club. As soon as journalists, police and rescue officials reached the site, a car bomb went off.
    
Most of the casualties were caused by the second blast.
    
In a related development, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf telephoned Governor Magsi and discussed the situation in Quetta in the wake of the bombings. The premier directed the Governor to take all necessary steps to protect the lives and properties of citizens.
    
Ashraf said the federal government was ready to assist the province in ensuring security for the people.

(Agencies)

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