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Protests spread in Pakistan over Shiite killings

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“Military dictator Zia [ul-Haq] created Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the '80s to counter the rising influence of Shiites in Pakistan and the group continues to enjoy that support," says Ayesha Siddiqa, who has authored two books on the Pakistani military. "Now the military is backing them in Balochistan so that it can weaken the Baloch nationalist movement and create differences among local communities like the Hazaras and the Baloch to suppress the insurgency.” 

Ms. Siddiqa says the fact that Malik Ishaq, one of the leaders of the Jhangvi group named by the Hazara community to be arrested, held a public gathering in Karachi following the Thursday attack where he spoke against Shiites proves how the militant group operates freely in the country.

The military has denied ongoing support for the group. But Pakistani leaders are growing more bold in challenging that narrative.

Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads a national council of Shiite organizations, told a news conference in Quetta on Friday, "I ask the Army chief: What have you done with these extra three years you got [in office]? What did you give us except more death?" 

Hazara protesters are now demanding that the Army formally take charge of Balochistan province, so that the military can formally be blamed when Hazaras are not protected. The confrontation has emerged after the deadliest year on record for Shiites in Pakistan, with more than 400 killed in attacks in 2012, according to Human Rights Watch

According to local media, the Prime Minister is considering different options to diffuse the situation, including dismissing the provincial government and imposing a state of emergency in the province. 

At a protest in Islamabad, slogans against the Army like "Behind this terrorism is the uniform" could be heard.

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