Shaken by the resolve shown by the Hazara Shia community of Quetta — who have been picketing out in sub-zero temperatures and rain for justice — Pakistan broke out in protests on Saturday evening against the state’s silence on unrelenting terrorism.
For over a day-and-a-half now, men, women and children of the Hazara Shia community have been sitting with the bodies of the 86 killed in the blasts on Quetta’s Alamdar Road on Friday demanding an end to the genocide. “Our graveyards have no space left as they have been filled up so very frequently by these terrorist attacks that target our community,” said a Hazara Shia student at a protest in the federal capital.
Besides an end to the genocide, the Hazara Shias want military operations against banned outfits like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Accusing the state of a policy of apartheid against the Hazara Shias — who have been victims of relentless sectarian attacks for several years now —some in the community are demanding Army takeover of the province while others are openly critical of the security establishment for allowing its proxies to carry out such a “genocide”.
What has angered the community the most is the apathetic attitude of not just the powers that be but also the media towards their plight. Even on the day of the blasts, the series of explosions — which left over 100 killed in the city in one day — remained a headline for only a short duration as domestic politics held sway.
The silence from the administration — local and federal, both of which are headed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — also came in for equal criticism as the security establishment. In fact, some diehard supporters of the PPP were also hugely disappointed with the party’s failure to reach out to the Hazara community in the face of such a tragedy.
Once again the social media displayed its usefulness in mobilising opinion as, barring a few exceptions, the mainstream news media of the country practically ignored the protest. In a show of solidarity, many on Facebook and Twitter had ‘We Are All Hazaras’ as their profile pictures and were animatedly posting and sharing any information or photographs they could get from Quetta.
Though nothing concrete had come out of their protest till late evening, the mobilisation of opinion has shaken the political leadership into action with the Prime Minister ordering the Chief Minister of Balochsitan to immediately return to the province from an overseas visit and several politicians lining up to condemn the targeted attacks on the Hazara Shia community. After efforts by the local administration to defuse the situation failed, the federal government sent minister Khurshid Shah to Quetta to speak to the Hazara Shia community.