Pakistani PM sacks Baluchistan government over massive bombing

QUETTA (AFP) - Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sacked the provincial government in Baluchistan on Monday after meeting Shiite Muslim protesters demanding protection after a massive bomb attack.

Members of the minority community have refused to bury those killed on Thursday in Pakistan's worst sectarian bombings when suicide attackers killed 92 people at a crowded snooker hall in the provincial capital Quetta.

More than 120 were wounded in the attacks claimed by Sunni Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in an area dominated by Shiites from the Hazara ethnic minority.

Shiite leaders said protesters would not call off their sit-in and bury their dead until they see official notification about steps announced by Mr Ashraf after day break. Local TV stations showed footage of them still protesting.

"We will not end the protest until we see the notification," Mr Daud Agha, president of Baluchistan Shia Conference, said.

The families have refused to bury loved ones until the authorities agree to put the security and administration of the city under army control.

The prime minister flew to Quetta on Sunday to listen to their grievances and announced live on television that he had accepted all their demands, including the sacking of the provincial government and the suspension of its legislature.

"We have decided to impose governor's rule in Baluchistan for two months, the provincial government will be sacked," Mr Ashraf said after offering his condolences to grieved families.

"It is a national tragedy and the entire nation is saddened over it." The governor can call on the army to help control the law and order situation whenever needed, the prime minister said.

He also directed the authorities to arrest the culprits behind attacks against the Shiite community and urged families to bury their dead.

Refusing to bury the dead is an extreme protest in Islamic society, where the deceased are normally buried the same or next day.

The provincial government has been widely criticised in Baluchistan for being unable to control not just sectarian violence, but other attacks linked to a nearly nine-year separatist insurgency and to Islamist militants.

The sacked chief minister, Mr Aslam Raisani, was criticised for making a trip to London while security deteriorated.

Shiites, who account for around 20 per cent of Pakistan's 180 million people, last year suffered record levels of violence according to Human Rights Watch.

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