LAHORE: There was a time when you could wander free in Quetta’s streets. Then killing of people started. Today we have two to four funerals every week, says Shazia Khan, a Hazara community member from Quetta.

She was speaking on Friday at the end of five-day programme organised by the Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) of the FC College and the Grief Directory, aimed at determining the issues faced by the sufferers and survivors of political violence and finding their solution.

Recounting the horrific day when about 120 people were killed in a terror incident, Shazia began to weep.

“We sat in the rain and snow with the dead bodies of our loved ones. It rained so hard we tried to cover them up with plastic but we kept sitting in the hope that we would at least get some media coverage if not justice. But despite there being DSNG vans, not a single news report was aired and we had to beg and plead with the BBC after which they gave a little ticker at the bottom of the screen.”

Shazia said it was a situation where the Hazaras could not study, work, or even marry because as girls sat on their wedding day waiting for the grooms, the marriage parties would be wiped out. They could not go shopping for groceries without paying extortion for their safety though the area was surrounded by the FC.

“It’s not just Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), as we are told. It is everyone’s fault because everyone kept silent when the first Baloch went missing and the first Hazara was killed,” she added.

Dr Fatima Ali Haider, the founder of The Grief Directory, a support network for survivors of political violence, also shared her ordeal when she woke up one morning to hear the news that her husband and 11-year-old son had been killed over their sect. After a couple of days, she realised her vulnerability and that how alone she was in her personal pain.

“Later, I realized that despite many problems, I was still more privileged than many other people whose family members were killed.”

After that Fatima set up The Grief Directory with the support of her friend Dr Naureen Hamid. According to the network, about 80,000 families were affected by such violence in Pakistan.

Dr Marie Breen Smith from Northern Ireland, who has worked in areas including Palestine, said the citizens would have to consciously resist a violent trajectory. They would have to establish their own responsibilities as citizens and not remain silent if the state became involved in such violent tendancies directly or indirectly.

“Data compilation is a huge way forward. With the names and addresses of the dead on a spreadsheet, a transformation can take place,” she said.

Mr Marie Smith added that there could be funds set up for welfare of the families, not just to give them money but also help them with services like care for children or elderly, temporary replacement or the things they could not afford.

“Psychologists could volunteer to give free counseling or refer another doctor for other health concerns.”

Rizwan Naseer, head of Rescue 1122, also spoke.

On Friday, a policy dialogue was held with parliamentarians, the Punjab Disaster Management authority (PDMA), P&D Departments, UN bodies, donor agencies, media and academia.

Published in Dawn January 28th, 2017