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Pakistan Feature: A Tribute to Activist Irfan Ali, Killed by Thursday's Bombs (Mackey)

Irfan Ali, in glasses, taking part in a demonstration in Islamabad in September

See also Pakistan News: 114 Killed in Thursday Bombings

On Thursday bomb attacks by insurgent and separatist Baluch groups in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Mingora killed at least 115 people. Among the dead in Quetta was Irfan Ali, a prominent human rights activist.

Shortly after the first bomb struck a local snooker hall, Ali tweeted that he had narrowly escaped harm. When the second bomb exploded, timed to hit rescue workers who had arrived on the scene, Ali was killed as he helped those injured by the first blast.

Robert Mackey reports for the New York Times that Ali’s death sparked an outpouring of grief and anger, as well as tributes to a life supporting human rights causes, across Twitter and the Internet:

Among those killed by the second blast was a rights activist, Irfan Ali, 33, who was helping the injured. Just before his death, he noted on his @khudialiTwitter feed that he had narrowly escaped the fist blast. Then he postedanother message, registering his dismay that the group behind the attack had also succeeded in driving some Hazara families out of their homes. The families who moved out, he wrote in his final words on Twitter, had “finally succumbed to the genocidal pressure,” from the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. It was, he noted, a “sad day for diversity in Baluchistan,” the northwestern province that has Quetta as its capital.

As my colleague in Islamabad explained in a telephone interview with the PBS Newshour, the Persian-speaking, Shiite Muslim Hazara community “immigrated from Afghanistan about a century ago” and “has suffered a series of attacks at the hands of Sunni death squads over the last couple of years.” More than 100 Hazaras were killed last year, and some of the killers are from militant groups believed to have links to the country’s security services.

As news of Mr. Ali’s death spread, he was mourned by fellow activists, bloggers and journalists online. Dozens of tributes to him were posted on Twitter; his Facebook page filled with words of sympathy and respect for his battles for peace and against sectarianism.

The journalist and blogger Shiraz Hassan uploaded an image of Mr. Ali wearing a T-shirt that spelled out the word “Coexist” in symbols from different religions, and quoted the dead man’s Twitter biography:

His colleagues at the Youth Peer Education Network, a United Nations affiliate, wrote on Facebook:

Today, is a day of great loss for all of us, the entire Y-Peer family, and the whole Pakistani nation. 103 people lost their lives today in different attacks in Quetta and Swat, but out of 69 who died in a sectarian attack on a bustling billiard hall in the southwest city of Quetta, one is Irfan Ali — a great human rights activist, peace lover and a district focal point of Y-Peer Pakistan — who lost his life while taking the victims of the first blast to the hospital. And in the second blast, he become prey of those who want to divide the humanity on the basis of sects, religions, and who kill people for the sake of their own interest. But this shameful act will not let them achieve their objectives, as there are hundreds and thousands of young people like Irfan Ali, who are brave enough to take the lead, and work for peace and harmony in their communities. Let us pray for Irfan Ali and his brother-in-law who lost their lives. May their souls rest in peace. Amen.

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