Five more people, including a woman were killed in a drive-by shooting in Quetta on March 29, in what the provincial government described as “an incident of sectarian targeted killing” while two NGO workers were shot dead the same day by unknown assailants in Mastung. There has been a manifold increase in sectarian attacks in Balochistan recently, and it seems as though the Hazara community is specifically being targeted. In addition to yesterday’s attack, there have been numerous other incidents of violence against the Hazara community. Last September, a bus full of Shias were murdered near Quetta, while a few weeks before that there was an Eid massacre of Shias in Balochistan. Amidst the military’s offensive against separatists, we tend to forget that there is another war being fought targeting the most vulnerable community in the province.
The roots of the sectarian violence, like most discrimination against minority communities, can be traced back to the military dictatorship of Ziaul Haq. In his eagerness to impose a hardline Sunni interpretation of Islam in the country, Zia created and strengthened militant groups that initially fought in Afghanistan and Kashmir, but later turned their guns on the Shia community at home. Unfortunately, successive governments in the 1990s did nothing to throttle these militant groups and the situation kept getting worse over time.
Even before that, however, the Hazara community has been singled out by those who condemn them as imposters and infidels. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was vicious against them. In Pakistan, it was the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that first started issuing edicts against the Hazaras. For a community that is over half a million strong, it is most tragic that the Hazaras are now being made to feel like strangers in their own land. Although efforts are being made by the government to beef up security in the city as Frontier Corps and the police have jointly launched a search operation in different areas of Quetta and arrested suspects, more needs to be done to ensure that no more lives are lost.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.