The Hazaras Die Again

quettaattackprotestFrom Daily Times Lahore

In what may well be Pakistan’s darkest hour, another sectarian attack has taken place, turning the tide on any hopes there may have been for peace and coexistence. Some 80 people have been killed and scores more injured after a remote controlled bomb went off in Hazara Town, which is a Shia-dominated locality situated on the outskirts of Quetta. The attack was particularly deadly because a huge quantity of explosives were used — 800 kilogrammes packed inside a water tanker near a market place thronging with men, women and children. A building collapsed in the explosion, adding to the toll of people wounded and killed. The extremist sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has taken responsibility for this cold-blooded attack. This heinous act comes on the heels of the January 10, 2013 double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road in Quetta in which some 100 people were killed, most of them Hazaras.

To say that we are moving steadily and surely towards all out genocide would be a mere stating of the facts; the battle lines have clearly been drawn by fundamentalist militants who are hell-bent upon eliminating a minority group that consists of 20 percent of Pakistan’s population. In response to the attack in January, relatives of those Hazaras who had been brutally wiped out took to the streets with the dead bodies of their loved ones. Their heartbreaking protest was so profound that it resulted in changing the political structure in the province with the dismissal of the Balochistan government and imposition of Governor’s rule. On Sunday, the families of the victims of this latest massacre once again refused to bury their dead. What will the authorities do now? What protest can be bigger or more tragic than the one they have already staged and are again staging? Their lot has not changed and, hence, neither has that of the country.

There is dire need for change in the way our intelligence and security agencies are handling the situation. Sectarian war is being waged in the country and the intelligence network has proved itself as inefficient and incompetent when it comes to protecting the citizens, particularly the Hazara community, which has seen too much of its blood spilt recently — from deadly suicide and remote controlled bomb attacks to gunmen routinely gunning down busloads of Hazara passengers. The fact that these attacks continue unabated should have served as an eye-opener to our intelligence agencies a long time ago but we still see gruesome crimes like the one on Saturday. The ‘banned’ LeJ has proudly taken ‘credit’ for the attack, fully endorsing this bloodshed in the name of some warped religious ideology.

Then how is it that the leader of LeJ, Malik Ishaq, is still out there, a free man? Why has he not been hauled up when his organisation openly claims responsibility for these atrocities? This is the state of the country we live in. Extremist groups and radical individuals were already targeting the Ahmedi community, Hindus and Christians in Pakistan and now it is time for the Shias to bear the torture of what it means to be a minority in Pakistan. It is high time our security and intelligence agencies cut out the nonsense that disguises itself as strategy, planning and securing the citizens. It is time these agencies atarted working for the good of their people, particularly those who are in a minority in what is fast becoming an extremist society. How many more people have to die before a change is seen?

Republished in The Baloch Hal on February 17, 2013