Pakistan’s minority Shia Hazaras have been protesting in Quetta for the third consecutive day after 11 coal miners from the community were brutally killed. Since then, the community members have been sitting in protest with the dead bodies of the victims. The protesters have refused to bury the dead until PM Imran Khan visits Quetta to meet them and brings the killers to justice.
The ethnic Hazara community makes up most of the Shia population in Quetta, which is the capital of Pakistan’s largest and poorest province Balochistan. The city continues to face insurgency and violence on ethnic and sectarian grounds. The Shia majority Hazara community is persecuted due to its faith for a long time. Hundreds have been killed in targeted attacks and blasts in the last two decades by the extremists.
In a recent terrorist attack, unknown gunmen kidnapped and killed 11 coal miners in the town of Machh, 50kms away from Quetta. Killers blindfolded the Hazara miners, took them to the nearest mountain, and shot them dead. Reportedly, at least 4 of them were beheaded.
Shia Hazaras Demand PM Imran Khan to Visit Quetta and Assure Them Justice
The heinous attack outraged Hazaras who protested their way to block the main highway that linked Quetta with other cities.
The Hazara community wanted PM Imran Khan to face them and listen to their agony. After attacks on the Hazara community in February 2013, Imran Khan who was then campaigning for the upcoming elections tweeted to show solidarity to the community members. Even later he criticized the former government of PML-N for abandoning the minorities. Social media users were asking the same question from Khan as he asked the Nawaz government.
Instead of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis, Zulfi Bukhari visited the protesters in Quetta. He was unable to convince the Hazara community to end the protest. They kept on arguing how important it was for Khan to meet them in this critical situation. The public was extremely angry at how Zulfi Bukhari spoke to the victims of a terrorist attack. Moreover, Bukhari excused that Khan could not come due to the schedule.
Pakistani citizens from different walks of life have stood in solidarity with the Hazaras and insisted that Khan should have made a visit, especially after claiming empathy with Baluchistan in the past when he was not in the government. The city just went through a terrible terrorist attack, a conversation from PM could have boosted the sense of security.
Even celebrities have raised their voice against the persecution of the Shia minority in Pakistan. A few months ago, popular singer Asim Azhar called out Imran Khan to take notice of the matter.
Response From The Government?
PM Imran Khan expressed grievance on the horrible incident and reassured the Hazaras that he was with them in this time of pain. He also affirmed that he had learned about their demands as well. He gave insight that India might be involved in this attack and the government was trying to prevent such incidents from happening again. Khan claimed that he would never betray the Hazara community and will come to visit them soon. In the end, he urged the protestors to bury their dead as it has been too long.
But of course, a tweet is not enough. Social media users were not kind to the Prime Minister. Most of them just wanted him to be more intimate with the people who were going through an inhumane crisis.
Response From The Opposition?
Even the opposition did not try to console the families of the martyred. Pakistani people raised the question if the opposition only travels for their own rallies. Folks expected the opposition to hold a protest for demanding justice for killers like they do to criticize PTI’s government.
How Hazaras Are Suffering In Pakistan?
Acts of violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims have existed since the 1980s. Before the partition, Shia Hazaras have been living in Afghanistan since the 1880s. Over there, Emir Abdul Rahman Khan also persecuted them, due to which almost all of them migrated to Pakistan. In the 1990s, the Afghan Taliban started ethnic cleansing of Hazaras, which brought more of them to Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has also not been their home. Sunni terrorist organizations Lashkar-E-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-E-Sahaba have been accused of carrying out deadly attacks against the Hazara community. LeJ was probably more active in the region due to affiliation with Al-Qaeda.
They carried out massive bombings in three different months of 2013. In January, a twin suicide bomb attack in the crowded Quetta Snooker Club killed at least 90 Hazara people and injured more than 100 (not counting the scores killed in the marketplace). Next month, a big bomb blast in the predominant Shia part of Quetta killed at least 79 people and wounded 180. Then in June, another suicide attack in the Ali Abad area of Hazara town claimed 30 lives and wounded 70.
The Shia Hazaras are caged in their own city for ages and no government has been able to deal with the terrorists in Baluchistan.