Pakistan close to boiling point after slaughter of Shia minority

Balochistan governor vents fury at 'scared' intelligence services after latest terror attack

The governor of Pakistan's Balochistan province has launched a blistering attack on the military for failing to protect the local Hazara Shia community as the death toll from a bomb attack by Sunni militants continued to rise today.

“[The intelligence services] are either too scared to go after the terror-mongers or too clueless to even know who they are dealing with,” said Zulfiqar Ali Magsi.

“The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces.” Mr Magsi, who took direct control of Balochistan last month after the provincial civilian government was fired following another Sunni strike, added that he had given the military a “free hand” to deal with the militants but they had failed to do their job and “pre-empt such attacks”.

The death toll from Saturday's attack, which struck near the main bazaar in Quetta city, has risen to 84 people. More than 20 shops in the area have been destroyed and rescuers were yesterday searching for survivors amid the rubble of a two-storey building that had collapsed.

Most of those killed belong to Quetta's long-suffering Hazara community, adherents of Shia Islam who migrated to the area from Afghanistan over a century ago. Saturday's assault is the second deadly attack the Hazara community has faced in a matter of weeks after nearly 100 people perished in twin suicide bombings at a billiards hall in January.

After that attack federal rule was imposed in Balochistan after days of countrywide protests. Control of security in the province was handed over to the army-controlled paramilitary Frontier Corps, who were ordered to take action against anti-Shia militant groups operating in the area.

Mr Magsi's condemnation of the intelligence and security forces, however, is being seen by some as a shifting of blame. Saturday's bombing has heightened denunciations of Pakistan's collective power elites, including politicians and the judicial system.

“The government is responsible for terrorist attacks and killings in the Hazara community because its security forces have not conducted operations against extremist groups,” Aziz Hazara, vice-president of the local Hazara Democratic Party, told Reuters.

In 2012, an estimated 100 members of the Hazara community were killed in various attacks. They are easily identifiable because of their distinct central Asian features. The killings are one element in a broader campaign of violence against Shias across Pakistan, with some 400 slain last year in total.

Pakistan is home to the second largest Shia population in the world. Shia Muslims represent about a fifth of the country's 180 million population.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a notorious anti-Shia group that has cells based in Balochistan, has taken responsibility for the two bombings. The group, considered close to al-Qaida, continues to operate with impunity despite the huge death toll of recent attacks.

As mourners continued to search through the devastation wrought by the bombing yesterday, members of the Hazara community vowed to return to the streets if real action wasn't taken soon against their attackers. “We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of our people,” said Mr Aziz of the Hazara Democratic Party, “and after that we will launch strong protests”. Following the suicide attacks in January, victims' families refused to bury the dead until they were promised greater protection from the government in Islamabad. Muslim doctrine dictates that bodies must be buried by sunset the day after death, and the symbolism of the Hazaras' protest sparked outpourings of support across the country.

The attacks do not augur well for the security of Pakistan just months ahead of this year's general elections. A further slide into violence may make it difficult for voters to go to the polls safely.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created