Shias call off sit-in following deadly blast in Pakistan
Government pledges to bring bombers to justice
Pakistan's minority Shi'ite community called off nationwide protests after the government pledged to bring to justice those responsible for recent bomb attacks.
Pakistan's minority Shi'ite groups called off nationwide protests on Thursday after being assured by the federal government that the perpetrators of a deadly bomb attack on a pilgrim bus in southwestern Balochistan province on Tuesday would be brought to justice.
The attack targeted a bus carrying Shia back to Pakistan from a pilgrimage in Iran.
Hours after the bombing, which killed 24 ethnic Hazra Shias, families of the victims refused to bury their dead and began a sit-in on Alamdar Road in Quetta. The demonstrators called for an immediate crackdown on the Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
Shortly after, protests broke out across Pakistan, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.
In Karachi, Shia demonstrators set up at least a dozen protest camps in the city, paralyzing routine life.
In Lahore, members of the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, a Shia political party, staged a sit-in outside the Governor's House and demanded a decisive operation against the Taliban and Sunni extremist groups.
Taking notice of the protests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid to fly to Quetta and meet with the protesters' representatives.
"I assure you that terrorists will not be allowed to carry on attacks like this on the peaceful Hazara community…. We will bring the perpetrators of the Mastung blasts to justice," Nisar pledged while speaking to protesters in Quetta.
"The whole country shares the grief of the Hazara community, which has been frequently attacked by militants," he said.
Later, Hazara community leader Abdul Khaliq Hazara called off the protest and announced the burial of bomb victims for Friday morning.
Meanwhile, a separate strike was announced in Karachi by both Shia and Sunni groups against the spate of sectarian attacks.
In separate statements, the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen and Sunni groups appealed to the public to observe the strike on Friday.
Private transport operators have announced that buses would remain off roads in Karachi due to the strike.
In a statement on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over Wednesday's bus attack and the bombing at Rawalpindi’s R.A. Bazar on January 20 that left at least 13 dead.
The secretary-general also condemned recent attacks on polio workers that have resulted in several deaths.
"These unacceptable attacks are hampering efforts to eradicate the disease in Pakistan, one of the last three countries where polio remains endemic."
The number of polio cases in Pakistan increased by 57 percent last year, from 58 cases in 2012 to 91 in 2013, the statement read.
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