The government announced a security operation against sectarian death squads in the western city of Quetta on Tuesday, four days after a sectarian bombing killed at least 89 people and led to unusually sharp criticism of the powerful military and its intelligence agencies.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf vowed to target the extremists behind Saturday’s bombing.....
On Tuesday evening, following talks with government officials, Hazara leaders called off countrywide protests that highlighted the failure of Pakistan’s civilian and military authorities to stem the rising tide of sectarian bloodshed.
Grieving Hazaras, who had demonstrated in the streets of Quetta beside the coffins of bombing victims, agreed to abandon the symbolically powerful protest and bury their dead.
But participants in the Quetta sit-in and other cities refused to end their protest, continuing to demand that soldiers be deployed in the city to provide protection to the Hazaras.
Lashkar militants bomb and shoot Shiites, whom they believe to be Muslim heretics, across Pakistan, although in Baluchistan Province, which includes Quetta, they concentrate on Hazaras, who immigrated from Afghanistan over a century ago and whose members have distinctive Central Asian physical features.
Mr. Ashraf fired the police chief of Baluchistan Province and replaced him with Mushtaq Sukhera, the former head of counterterrorism operations in Punjab Province. Unusually, though, the brunt of the criticism has focused on role of the military and its powerful intelligence agencies.
Mr. Ashraf, meanwhile, sent a six-member delegation of lawmakers, led by Mr. Kaira, to hold talks with Hazara leaders in Quetta.
In Lahore, a spokesman for the Majlis-e-Wahdat ul Muslimeen, a Shiite lobbying group, said the hand-over of Quetta from civilian to military control was a central demand of the protesters. “We want the army to maintain peace and stop the massacre of Shiites,” said the spokesman, Mazahar Shigri.