There is no greater indicator of the strength of a state than the way it treats its minorities. A country that can successfully integrate religious and ethnic minorities is always prosperous and peaceful. By that metric, Pakistan is a failed state. On the night of April 9, six members of the Hazara Shia community were gunned down in Quetta city. Their unforgivable crime was simply having the audacity to stand outside a shop. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, but the most likely culprits would be the virulently sectarian Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The SSP is technically a banned group but judging from its murderous deeds it seems to operate with impunity. That this is the second such attack in two weeks, with the last being a drive-by shooting in Quetta that killed four Hazara men, shows just how vulnerable the community is and just how little will exists to protect its right to life and liberty.
This latest in the series of attacks against the Hazara community should serve as a reminder, not only of the war being carried out against them, but also the precarious state of all minorities in the country. Forgotten till a large attack forces our attention, the Ahmadi community continues to be discriminated against, both by a government that refuses to grant them their rights, and a society that treats them like lesser beings, who are liable to be killed for just about any trumped-up reason. Instead of pursuing the terrorist groups and individuals responsible for these wanton acts of violence, the state just turns a blind eye towards them. As unacceptable as this violence against minority communities is, what makes it even worse is that it empowers the hate-filled groups that are the perpetrators of such atrocities. Throughout the 1990s they were allowed to grow in strength and daring as they targeted Shia professionals. Now, they have turned their guns on a state that coddled them for over a decade. Such is the harvest you reap when cowardice trumps justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.
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