Shias refuse to bury deads despite PM’s intervention

Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Sunday failed to convince Shia leaders to end a protest over the killing of nearly 100 members of the vulnerable community in bomb attacks in Quetta, with Shia leaders saying their dead would not be buried till their demands are met.

A protest by thousands of Hazara Shias who have refused to bury over 80 people killed in bombings on Thursday till the army takes control of Quetta entered its third day on Sunday as the premier flew to the capital of Balochistan province to assess the security situation.

Sources said a delegation of leaders of the Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen, a leading Shia body, met the premier and reiterated its demand for the dismissal of the Balochistan Chief Minister and his government and for the army to be given control of Quetta.

The premier said he could not dismiss the Chief Minister as he was constitutionally elected.

The sources quoted Ashraf as saying that the army could not be called out as the "situation was not so bad".

He asked the Shia leaders to call off their protest and bury their dead, but the request was turned down by the MWM delegation.

The Shia leaders made it clear that their protest would continue till their demands are met.

"The government is only resorting to delaying tactics. It is just testing our patience," Maulana Amin Shaheedi, the deputy chief of the MWM, told PTI.

Sources said MWM chief Allama Nasir Abbas refused to meet the premier as a mark of protest over the governments failure to stop attacks on Shias.

The sources further dismissed the impression being given by government officials that talks were continuing with Shia leaders to end the stalemate in Quetta.

In Karachi, a large number of Shias and civil society activists gathered outside Bilawal House in Clifton, the residence of President Asif Ali Zardari.

They carried posters that read "All we demand is peace" and "Why Shia killing is not stopped".

In Lahore, a sizeable number of Shias joined a sit-in that began outside the Governor's House on Saturday.

They demanded the dismissal of the Balochistan government as it had failed to protect the lives of minorities.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan joined the protesters on Saturday and expressed solidarity with the Hazara Shias.

He demanded the imposition of Governor's Rule in Balochistan. "The people of the Hazara community are being killed in Quetta's streets and after being dragged out of buses," he said.

The federal and Balochistan governments had failed to deliver and should resign immediately, he said.