Standing strong with our Hazara brothers

Quetta was still recovering from the heart wrenching January attacks when it suffered another tragedy last week. A Sunni militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, planned a horrific bomb blast which left at least 80 people dead and more than 200 people injured. Their targets were the Hazaras.

Sectarian violence against the Hazara community goes backs to the late 1970s and even today they continue to be victims of terrorism. Its people live in perpetual fear; staying in their homes would make them the target of bomb attacks and venturing out in the world means they can be taken hostage, dragged out of buses and shot dead.

More than 1000 Hazaras have died and an additional 3000 injured from attacks since 1999. Law enforcement agencies and courts have failed to bring the victims any justice. It is no surprise that around 55000 people have chosen to migrate abroad for their safety. Some say this aggression is the result of Zia’s Islamisation which was supported by Wahabi Muslims. Others believe it is the Hazaras’ superior economic wellbeing in comparison to their Pashtun counterparts that has instigated this violence. Hazaras are known to value education and over time have flourished in businesses and real estate.  Together these socio-economic and ethnic tensions have complicated the case against Hazaras.

It is natural to feel frustrated and angry at the government who can’t provide the fundamental right of security to its minority communities. But there is a silver lining in these gloomy days too. In the past two incidents of massacre in Quetta, we saw hundreds of people from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds all around the world stand up for the rights of the Hazaras. Demonstrations were seen in many countries including Canada, UK, and Australia appealing to their governments, human right organizations and the UN for affirmative action.

In Pakistan especially we saw an overwhelming support from non-Shias and the youth. Many included students who advocated for human rights. Others were young employees who chose to take a day off from work or devote their lunch break to help the protesters.  Some people chose to express their support in an unconventional yet peaceful way. They collected donations and used it to offer protesters food and refreshments. Police officers were even invited to lunch. One volunteer said he wanted to do this to keep the morale of the protesters high.  In Karachi, a group of boys offered to perform security checks of all people entering the protest. The level of commitment shown in ensuring peaceful protests was impressive and must be appreciated. Volunteers demonstrated great cooperation in organizing their efforts. The small difference that each individual made proved the sincerity of their feelings for their Hazara brothers.

News of this massacre spread through online media platforms which were also used to invite and organize people for protests. Information about the venue, time and even transport arrangements were provided. Twitter and Facebook were two common forums which people used to denounce the killings and discuss the media’s and government’s response. Live updates from participants in the rallies gave distant family members and friends a clear picture of the ground reality.

We may come from different backgrounds and follow different belief systems but we are all connected to each other through humanity. The extraordinary bravery that the Pakistani public has exhibited in these testing times should continue for not just the Hazaras but for all other minorities who have suffered injustices on the bases of their religion, race or ethnicity. A strong unity over human rights could be the hidden strength the country needs to take down extremism.

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