01/14/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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As Islamabad sacks Baluchistan govt because of anti-Shia violence in Quetta, Christians express solidarity

by Jibran Khan
The central government dismisses provincial cabinet, incapable of stopping anti-Hazara attacks. Paramilitary forces are given police powers to enforce security. Lahore priest expresses solidarity towards Hazara. Last year was the worst for Pakistani minorities.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's central government has dismissed the Baluchistan cabinet for failing to stop the wave of violence that hit the provincial capital of Quetta. To boost security, Islamabad has deployed military forces. Meanwhile, Pakistani Christians have expressed their solidarity towards Pakistani Shias in the predominantly Sunni nation. The latter have called on the authorities to provide greater protection and security to all Pakistanis.

Last Saturday, three blasts hit Quetta, killing more than a hundred people, many from the minority Hazara community. A Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

For many Pakistan experts, the attacks were sectarian in nature, with the Shia community as their main target, a problem that has been growing recently. Last year alone, 400 people were killed in similar attacks.

In view of the situation, the central government in Islamabad has decided to sack the government of the south-western province as its first action in response to angry residents, outraged by the incompetence of provincial authorities.

During a visit to Quetta, scene of numerous street protests, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that the governor would replace the chief minister as head of Baluchistan province.

At the same time, paramilitary forces would receive police powers and launch an operation against militants behind the billiards hall attack.

For its part, Pakistan's Christian community expressed its solidarity towards the Shia community. Christians too have been the victims of violence and targeted attacks.

Fr George John, from the Lahore Diocese, was one of the many people who spoke to AsiaNews about the violence. "We condemn the Quetta bloodbath," he said. "The members of the Catholic Church are one with the Hazara, victims of sectarian violence."

"It is about time," he added, "that concrete steps are taken to ensure that the growing religious intolerance is checked and stopped. The past year was the worst one for the minorities in Pakistan."

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