Hazara protests

Updated 02 May 2018

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SURELY there is no community more beleaguered in Pakistan than the Shia Hazaras.

Recent events in Quetta have once again underscored that grim reality.

Six Hazara men were shot dead and one injured in four separate attacks, all in the month of April.

Protesting community members have staged a sit-in outside the Balochistan Assembly building, while a group of Hazara women, led by young lawyer Jalila Haider, has gone on hunger strike outside the Quetta Press Club.

They are demanding that targeted killings of Hazaras end immediately, the perpetrators be arrested, and the army chief meet the protesters so they can personally apprise him of the community’s plight.

What the Hazaras have had to endure over the last several years in Balochistan is nothing less than a blot on this nation.

Hundreds of them have been murdered in sectarian attacks, largely in the form of targeted killings or devastating truck bombings.

They have been driven into enforced ghettoisation for the sake of safety, rendering their children’s education disrupted and thriving businesses abandoned.

Tens of thousands have chosen to risk the perils of illegal migration to Australia over their restricted existence and the dangers that lurk on the streets of the province’s heavily securitised capital.

Time and again the community has protested, demanding that the state ensure their right to life.

Who can forget the gut-wrenching sight of thousands of Hazaras in February 2013, following a massive bombing in Quetta that killed over 100 and wounded twice that many, refusing to bury their dead until the military took immediate action against sectarian terrorists?

The rest of the country too was vocal in its solidarity with them at the time.

Now however, that outrage is absent as is the demand for accountability.

The media is paying but perfunctory attention, instead of keeping the issue front and centre.

The slow yet steady decimation of the Hazara community has been relegated to a footnote, even as we congratulate ourselves for having triumphed over violent extremism.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018