January has proved to be a continuation of the tragic, murderous reality facing the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan. A candlelight vigil was held outside the National Press Club on Wednesday, where dozens of Hazara and residents of the capital gathered to protest the January 21 suicide attack in Mastung. Meanwhile, protesters from a religious group protested at Faizabad Chowk in Rawalpindi by blocking the road.
“For the Hazara, every day and every calendar year is smeared with blood and more blood,” said Sajjad Hussain Changezi. “Every nation marks its calendar with special occasions and festivals,” he added. “But the Hazara child is forced to remember the dates of the year in association with the acts of violence against our community.”
At least 26 Hazaras were killed in the Mastung attack, in which a bus carrying pilgrims back to Pakistan from Iran was targeted. A banned militant outfit claimed responsibility for the blast.
Ahmed Ali Kohzad of the Hazara Democratic Party said Hazaras all over the world are protesting against the Mastung attack, but the government still cannot decide whether or not to launch an operation against the militants.
Speakers at the protest in the capital claimed targeted attacks against Hazaras amounted to genocide under the 1948 United Nations Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Hundreds of Hazara have lost their lives in suicide bombings and target killings against in the past few years. Twelve months ago, the Hazara sat in freezing temperatures on Alamdar Road in Quetta with the coffins of their dead in a silent protest against targeted sectarian attacks on their community.
A government changed, and then another, the year passed and now, they are back on the same road with the bodies of their loved ones and more coffins.
Ahmed Ali Kohzad of the Hazara Democratic Party said Hazaras all over the world are protesting against the Mastung attack but the government is still not sure how to address the source of the problem.
We are picking up the bodies of our loved ones every year and there is no reduction in incidents of violence, the demonstrators said.
The protesters called upon the military establishment to stop using militant outfits as strategic assets and act against them.
Members of the leftist Awami Workers Party, activists from the Hazara for Humanity group and civil society representatives participated in the protest and lit candles to mourn the victims of the Mastung attack. They shouted slogans against the provincial government and law enforcement agencies for their failure to protect the lives of innocent citizens.
A few protesters were still at the protest site as late as 11pm.
Meanwhile, activists under the banner of the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) took to the streets and staged a sit-in at Faizabad Chowk.
The protesters converged on the main Faizabad Chowk in the evening from different parts of the twin cities and blocked the main road, which had a domino effect and caused severe traffic gridlock on major roads including Murree Road, Islamabad Expressway and IJP Road.
Due to the sit-in, motorists and commuters had to grapple with finding alternative routes to reach destinations. The protesters shouted slogans against the provincial and federal governments for failing to put place enough security in place for the pilgrims. They demanded that a full-fledged operation be carried out in Quetta and its surrounding areas to dismantle the hideouts of terrorists who continue to commit heinous crimes with impunity.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2014.