It is a sad reflection on the sorry affairs of the state if the head of the armed forces has to step in to defuse tensions over the unending cycle of targeted killing of Hazara community members in Quetta and elsewhere. Upon the insistence of the besieged Hazaras, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa held a meeting with them on May 1st and succeeded in calming them down and ending their four-day protest. To understand why the Hazaras rebuffed earlier attempts by senior officials, including Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, to talk them out of their protest one only has to examine the government’s record at political troubleshooting. In the best of times it has been poor, patchy and downright uninspiring. The government’s representatives have shown little interest in gaining the trust of protesters and even less interest in engaging with them let alone addressing their problems. It is also a fact that no aggrieved party can expect much solace from a lameduck government.
To begin with the demands of the Hazaras were hardly unreasonable. They wanted firm assurances that their kinsmen would be given ironclad security against militants and that adequate action would be taken against those who carried out terror attacks against them in the not-too-distant past. Their anguish and pain is understandable. Not a single suspect has been arrested in connection with the Hazara killings so far. And this is cause for deep concern.
In the absence of a credible and effective civilian authority, General Bajwa is perhaps the only person who could do something substantive to ameliorate the suffering of Hazaras and rein in the religious extremists who have been carrying out well-calculated and designated strikes. For some years now, gun attacks, suicide bombings and bomb blasts have been causing havoc, disrupting the education of Hazara, ruining their businesses and forcing them to migrate.
To neutralise the terror outfits that have been targeting Hazaras and others, the army chief will have to ensure that law-enforcement officials working in the province do their job with more fervour and protect all segments of the population against terrorism.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2018.
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