There aren’t enough bodies this time. That’s why Pakistan isn’t listening, said Jalila Haider, a Hazara lawyer in Quetta
The protest against the increasing number of targeted attacks in Quetta has entered its sixth day today. Jalila and her mother returned from the protest at 4am yesterday. They left home again at 10am today.
“Be it the government, media or organisations like MWM or Hazara Democratic Party, they are ignoring our protest simply because there are not enough bodies this time,” she said.
Yellow cab drivers have given the protest call. In Quetta, yellow cabs make it easier for assailants to attack Hazaras since most such taxis are owned by Hazaras. The killing of a Hazara man on March 31 sparked the protest. He was killed and another wounded when an unidentified man opened fire on their taxi in Kandahari Bazaar.
Jalila said 3,000 Hazaras from all walks of life have been killed. “We were murdered in cold blood and we are here to demand an end to it and the ‘politics of war’,” she said.
Around 500 people are protesting. “There are more women and children than men,” said Jalila. She said her sisters are organising protests in solidarity in Lahore. Similar protests are expected in Islamabad and Karachi.
Protesters say they have been on target for the past two decades because of their distinguished facial features. “We feel the government is responsible,” said one protester. “Christians were attacked on Easter. How can someone carry out these attacks in broad daylight when check-posts are at every nook and corner of Quetta?”
Protesters say they have been on target for the past two decades because of their distinguished facial features. “We feel the government is responsible,” said one protester. “How can someone attack us in broad daylight when check-posts are at every nook and corner of Quetta?”
‘Living in fear’
At the Lahore protest, Alia said that the Hazara live in fear for being targeted as a minority. “Is there anyone to ask us if we are human beings or if blood flows in our veins?” she asked the gathering.
Over 2,000 Hazaras have been killed in 15 years.
People are out on the streets without any food or water, just so that culprits can be held accountable, she said. “Let us live.”
At least 32 people have been killed during the past three months in different targeted attacks and bomb blasts in Quetta, say law enforcers. Community elders say 70,000 Hazaras have moved out of Quetta due to frequent targeted attacks.
Since 2008, several hundreds of Hazaras have been steadily killed. In Quetta, bombings killed at least 180 people in 2013 – 96 were killed in an attack on a snooker club frequented by young Hazara men in January while 84 others were killed a month later when a crowded vegetable market mostly used by ethnic Hazaras was bombed. SAMAA cameraman Imran Sheikh and reporter Saifur Rehman also died in the bombing.
Bereaved families refused to bury their dead, which sparked countrywide demonstrations. The protests led to the provincial government’s suspension.
Thousands of people have been killed in sectarian attacks in the Balochistan province. The outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and other sectarian outfits have claimed responsibility for most attacks.
The sit-in has attracted its own polarization within the Hazaras.
“Sit-ins should be the last resort,” argued Hazara Democratic Party chairperson Abdul Khaliq Hazara. According to him, 2013 was a terrible year, which is when a sit-in was considered ‘effective’. A year before 36 people had been killed. His party protested outside Governor House and even went to Islamabad. “But we never called out any state institution,” he said.
He is doubtful about this protest. No political party gave the call, he added.
“First, the taxi drivers staged a sit-in. Then, they left. Now some other people are sitting. They have their own vision. They did not get much support because the call was not given by any party representing the Hazaras.”
His party does not support it. “I will not be part of any sit-in where the state is criticised.”
According to him, protesters claim they have the support of former BNP MNA Syed Nasir Shah, Tahir Khan and Liaquat Hazara. “Nasir Shah left due to differences and Liaquat Hazara parted ways because he doesn’t want to participate in criticism of the state.”
However, the flip side of these arguments is that people have a right to protest. They do not necessarily need to be endorsed by any political party or politicians. And should protests only be organised when the death toll is extremely high? What should happen when two people have been killed?
As for criticism against the state, some people believed that the more organised political parties or groups are more susceptible to pressure.
Additional reporting by Zainuddin, Noorul Arifeen, Kokab Mirza and Minerwa Tahir
Story first published: 6th April 2018