There has been no let up in the systematic killing of the Hazara community in Quetta. Three more were slain in separate incidents on April 12, as gunmen targeted them at roadside locations. Six others were gunned down as ruthlessly earlier in the week, and according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, some 275 Shias, most of them Hazaras, have been killed in Balochistan since 2008. The rate of deaths has accelerated rapidly. According to Hazara community leaders, 600 Hazaras have been killed since the year 2000. It is not hard to discern the acceleration in the rate. With some 6,000 to 7,000 Hazaras based in the country, the toll taken on the community is, in terms of percentages, quite enormous.
The latest wave of deaths has, unsurprisingly, triggered protests in Quetta, led by the Hazara Democratic Party. The slogans and banners spoke of mistrust for the government — and this too is a reaction we can well understand. It is clear that extremist, sectarian forces are behind the killings. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has been blamed again and again. The real question is that when we know who the culprits are, why there has been such a failure to take any kind of action against a banned group, which since the 1990s has wreaked havoc on the Shias of the country and played a huge role in building the hatred, which now exists on sectarian grounds in all kinds of places. We need to ask if there is a lack of will involved, and if so why this exists? Do the authorities not care about the killings of a largely peaceful community? Is there sympathy in high places at some level for the LeJ and its foul mission? These are questions to which we need answers as quickly as possible. A way needs to be found to dispel the growing disquiet among the Hazaras. Something must be done to rescue them from their plight, hear their calls for help and prevent the growing crisis we see as more are felled each day.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.