Pakistan: Police detain 170 suspects as Shiites end Quetta protest


Ethnic Hazara Afghan Shiite Muslim women participate in a hunger strike, in protest against the February 16 bombing in Pakistan targeting Shiites that killed 89 people, in Kabul on February 19, 2013. The hunger strikers began their fast in front of the UN office in the Afghan capital in reaction to the attack on the outskirts of the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, where thousands of Shiites are demanding army protection and refusing to bury the victims of Saturday's bomb attack on their ethnic Hazara community.



KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani police said on Tuesday that they had arrested 170 suspects after a weekend bombing in Quetta that targeted a Shiite Muslim area.

According to security sources, four people, including a bomb-maker, were killed by police during the round-up earlier in the day, the BBC reported.

Local media reported that the four men killed were assassins who had been operating in Quetta against the Hazara community.

The round-up occurred after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered a security operation in the southwestern city in the wake of the Saturday bombing, which killed at least 84 Shiites. According to television reports in Pakistan, the number of dead from the blast is currently 90.

The operation is "aimed at eliminating those responsible for playing with lives of innocent civilians and restoring peace and security in Quetta," said the prime minister's press secretary, Shafqat Jalil.

More from GlobalPost: Pakistan's Shiites refuse to bury dead to protest deadly Quetta bombings

In recent weeks, in response to the attacks, Hazara families have refused to bury their dead and instead waged a sit-in — a poignant form of protest meant to pressure the government to increase security.

One of the demands of the protesters was a targeted operation with Army involvement, Dawn reported. Protesters across the country called for immediate action against the militant group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which has targeted the Hazara community.

With the operation underway, grieving relatives and other Shiite Hazara protesters reportedly reached an agreement with a parliamentary delegation on Tuesday to end their protest, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn News.

Thousands of Hazara men, women and children participated in the sit-in, refusing to bury those who were killed in the bombing until action was taken.

But despite Tuesday's detentions, many in Pakistan worry that the government isn't going to crack down on militants in earnest. The newly appointed Baluchistan governor, Nawab Ali Magsi, told reporters during a television broadcast earlier in the week that the government was "either too scared to go after the terror-mongers or too clueless to even know who they are dealing with."

After a similar attack killed 96 Shiite Hazaras in January, Baluchistan's civilian government was dissolved and Ashraf appointed governor's rule in the province. The measure was a response to the Shiite Hazaras' claims that the Baluchi government at the time was ineffective against the perpetrators of sectarian violence.