Pakistani leader meets protesting families of bombing victims

Pakistani Shiite Muslims demonstrate and sit between the coffins of bomb blast victims in Quetta on January 12, 2013.

Story highlights

  • Prime minister meets with demonstrators protesting bombing deaths
  • He agrees to toss out local government but rules out military intervention
  • Two suicide bombings in a Shiite neighborhood in Quetta killed 85 on Thursday
  • A third attack in Quetta killed 12; police blame Baloch insurgents

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Sunday met with Shiites in Quetta who are protesting the bombing deaths of 97 people last week, Pakistani media reported.

Ashraf addressed protestors who are taking part in a sit-in and have lined up the bodies of bombing victims at major intersections. He said he would meet one of the two major demands of the group, tossing out the provincial government and putting a governor in charge.

However, Ashraf said he wouldn't implement military rule in the city but would leave it up to the governor to ask for more help -- if needed -- from paramilitary forces to try to quell the violence.

It was unclear when the sit-in would end, as leaders of the protest said they will take a wait-and-see approach to the change in government.

Local Shiites have also refused to bury most of the victims after a series of bombings rocked Quetta on Thursday, police official Wazir Khan Nasir said.

Relatives of the deceased have sat beside the bodies in freezing temperatures over the past three days. Symbolic protests occurred in other cities, including Islamabad.

The history of the Pakistani Taliban
The history of the Pakistani Taliban


    The history of the Pakistani Taliban


The history of the Pakistani Taliban 02:32
Pakistan: Give us the drone technology
Pakistan: Give us the drone technology


    Pakistan: Give us the drone technology


Pakistan: Give us the drone technology 04:32
Pakistan Taliban militant killed
Pakistan Taliban militant killed


    Pakistan Taliban militant killed


Pakistan Taliban militant killed 00:59
Bhutto's son makes political debut
Bhutto's son makes political debut


    Bhutto's son makes political debut


Bhutto's son makes political debut 01:42

Earlier, Ashraf also condemned the blasts in Quetta.

"The prime minister, while expressing his heartfelt condolences and sympathies with the bereaved families, reiterated the government's resolve to stamp out the menace of militancy and terrorism from the country in its all shapes and manifestations," said a statement from his office.

Not burying dead bodies immediately after death is taboo in Islam. The soul of the body is not considered to be at rest until the body is in the ground.

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan province, an area regularly plagued by violence. In addition to sectarian attacks on Shiites, unrest in the province is believed to be fomented by several insurgent groups, including the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army and the Pakistani Taliban.

Read more: What's working in Pakistan

Although Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan geographically, analysts and some locals have criticized the federal government for neglecting it, leading to instability.

The Shiite community has repeatedly asked for more protection but to no avail.

Last week's string of attacks was the deadliest so far against the minority Shiite community, which has been targeted repeatedly in the past by groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni militant group.

The deadliest explosions were two suicide bombings in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood known as Alamdar Road.

One blast brought police, rescue workers and journalists rushing to the scene. It was swiftly followed by another explosion -- set off by a man sitting in a car with more than 100 kilograms of explosives -- that hit many of those responding to the initial attack.

The double bombing, described by police as one of the worst attacks on the Shiite minority, killed 85 people and wounded about 150.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Alamdar Road attacks.

More on Pakistan: India and Pakistan trade accusations over Kashmir violence

Shiites, a minority sect in mainly Sunni Muslim Pakistan, face persecution from extremists. Last month, more than 20 Shiite pilgrims were killed when a car bomb detonated near the buses they were traveling in.

Mir Zubair Mehmood, a Quetta police official, said the Alamdar attacks were motivated by Sunni and Shiite sectarian differences.

Another blast in Quetta on Thursday struck a security checkpoint in a busy market, authorities said. A bomb planted in a car detonated as security forces entered the area, killing 12 people and wounding 45, according Nasir, the police spokesman. Nasir blamed the attack on Baloch insurgents.

A fourth bomb went off by the side of the road leading to the city's airport, wounding three.

Read more: Malala, others on front lines in fight for women

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.