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Hazara killings

September 12, 2017

IN the violence against civilians in the country, the repeated targeting of Hazaras in Balochistan stands out as a particularly grim failure of the state. On Sunday, yet another family of the Shia community was targeted in Kuchlak as they were travelling to Quetta. Four individuals, including a child, were killed in the attack. What followed is also distressingly predictable: the assailants rode off on a motorcycle unimpeded; security forces arrived at the scene after the gunmen had fled; and hasty search operations in the immediate aftermath of the killing failed to lead to the attackers. Meanwhile, the Hazara people have been left to mourn more deaths in a seemingly never-ending descent into fear and terror. To be sure, the vast physical expanse of Balochistan and the sparse population of the province mean that protecting all the people all the time would challenge even the best-resourced, most-committed security forces in the world. But there have been several such incidents in Balochistan; they are clearly linked to a flawed security policy in the region and the failure of the political leadership. The Hazaras, as indeed the general population in Balochistan, will not be safe until the state changes its approach to security in the region.

Yet, delay in long-term changes should not stand in the way of short-term improvements where possible. The enemies of the Hazara people are a relatively narrow band of militants on the militancy spectrum. Among the groups likely to attack the Hazaras, active militants are estimated to be relatively small. So while there is no possibility of physically protecting every Hazara, the state can use its significant intelligence and security apparatuses to identify and progressively shut down groups targeting the community. Further, while the state has pointed repeatedly at external sponsors of militancy being responsible for terrorism in Balochistan, the networks used are invariably local. So is preventing violence against Hazaras not a priority for the state, or are lessons that ought to be learned not being learned because there is little accountability? Finally, the Balochistan government, weak and sidelined as it may be in security matters, needs to take a stand. When it comes to the Hazaras, there has long been a suspicion that the political class is indifferent to their plight. The provincial government needs to demonstrate empathy and concern for all its people.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2017