NOT too long ago, the government of Pakistan and many of its citizens appeared enamoured of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose actions in the wake of an attack on Muslims in her country turned many here into admirers of her compassionate and determined style of leadership. But while our leaders heaped praise on her humanity, their response to the deadly attack on the Hazara community in Quetta on Friday, and its subsequent sit-in, has been inadequate. There appears to be a lacklustre effort by the government to reach out to and pacify the protesting members of the minority Shia group who continued their sit-in even amid heavy showers and cold weather before ending it on Monday night. The response from the government has included a visit by the maritime minister to Quetta, where he condoled with the families of the victims and gave assurances about investigating the incident. On the fourth day, other PTI leaders visited Quetta and gave similar assurances. The protesters, who set up their camps to condemn last week’s blast at the Hazarganji vegetable and fruit market, rightly demanded that elements involved in the suicide attack be arrested, steps be taken to ensure their protection and the implementation of NAP take place “without any discrimination”. Above all, their fresh demand was that the prime minister himself visit and engage with them to chalk out a future for a vulnerable community battered by violence and hate.
It is a pity that governments past and present have fallen short when it comes to standing by Pakistan’s minorities — especially the Hazara community, whose plight reflects an existential struggle. Token condemnations through tweets are a far cry from Ms Ardern’s gestures, which politicians here gushed about in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks. Instead of simply praising Ms Ardern, the government should strive to embody her qualities of empathy and courage. More leaders should aspire to be like her across the world — especially in Pakistan where she is hailed as a champion.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019