ISLAMABAD: Like other parts of the country, protest rallies and sit-ins were organised on Sunday in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Attock and other town in Potohar region by civil society and political activists to express solidarity with the Hazara community.
The protests were triggered by twin bombings at Alamdar Road in Quetta that killed over 100 Shia ethnic Hazaras.
The demonstrations and sit-ins have coincided with Minhajul Quran’s planned long march due to arrive in the capital on Monday.
Islamabad activists of human rights organizations, Hazara Students Organisation (HSO), Pakhtunkhwa Students Organisation (PkSF) and Awami Workers Party (AWP) and National Students Federation (NSF) have been staging sit-in for the last two days near Super Market in posh F-6 Sector, for over 36 hours.
They were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogan “Stop the Shia genocide” condemning the gruesome act throughout cold night, chanting slogans while the police stood on guard nearby. Sitting along the frosty road with resolute expressions, they were joined by a sizable crowd of youngsters and families along with their little ones wearing headbands.
Farzana Bari, a leader of the left-wing AWP demanded the state machinery to provide security to those whose lives continue to be at risk. “This is not the first incident in which the Shias have been targeted. We all know which organisations are behind these attacks.”
Secondly, everyone here at the sit-in agrees that the government should resign and there should be an interim set-up, she added.
The participants of the sit-in condemned the provincial and federal governments for failing to protect Shiites and said the perpetrators had been operating with impunity because the judiciary has failed to prosecute the culprits.
As everyone chanted slogans shaming the government and demanding justice, many cried out “Tumhara mazhab, humara mazhab, insaniyat, insaniyat! (Your religion, our religion, humanity, humanity!)”.
Sajjad Hussain, an activist from Hazara, said that the organisations creating trouble in Quetta are not only targeting Hazara community but have gone as far as threatening anyone who dares to help them. “These organizations have been treated as strategic assets. They have become so strong that now they are in a position to threaten and retaliate. In Quetta, they have hijacked society. They threaten doctors in hospitals to not treat the wounded persons,” he stated.
A visibly-outraged Ali Akber Natiq also addressed the crowd, terming the government, “A bunch of selfish people only out for their own gains and scared to stand up for the rights of citizens.”
The poet and fiction writer added that, “It seems the government is too busy looting and plundering while the judiciary chooses to only have a one track vision. The agencies are using citizens as pawns,” he roared as the crowd continued chanting slogans. Families that had come with their young children seemed just as determined as the rest, encouraging the little ones to chant along.
“The time is now. If not now, then when? We must speak up. Everyone has lost hope in the government. We must act for ourselves now,” said Fahmida Riaz a well known writer and poet, adding that the proxy war between some Muslim countries on Pakistani soil must end.
While the F-6 sit-in remained peaceful, a smaller protest at Sitara Market in G-7 carried out by the Pakistan Youth Organisation (PYO) seemed a little more agitated, as they burnt tyres and smashed glass bottles on the road.
Tariq Amin, an organiser from People’s Youth Organisation (PYO) heading the protest, chanted slogans and urged the crowd to understand that foreign elements were at play. “We are fighting among ourselves and not realising that we are all Muslims,” he said, before asking, “Why have we succumbed so easily to foreign elements?”
Perhaps the biggest gathering in the twin cities in support of the victims was a protest demonstration and sit-in held at Faizabad on the Islamabad Highway. Protesters started gathering there around noon and the sit-in was still going on by midnight with thousands in attendance.
Protest demonstrations were also held for the second day in Attock, Jhand and Pindigheb.
A large number of people, including women and children, belonging to Shia community, human rights and political activists, took to the streets chanting slogan against terrorism.
They were holding placards and banners condemning killing of innocent people and failure of the government and the law enforcement agencies.
“We will continue our protest till the time Quetta is handed over to the army and the culprits are brought to book,” said Hassan Abbas, who was leading the protest.
The protesters blocked the Rawalpindi-Kohat road at railway chairing, Jhand-Rawalpindi road at Pindigheb and Kutchery Chowk at Attock for hours.
The killing of innocent people in Quetta continues unabated but the rulers seem unserious in taking any steps in curbing it or reigning in on extremist groups, the enraged protesters said.
The participants of the rallies shouted slogans against the ever-increasing acts terrorism. They said the rulers and law enforcement agencies have failed to provide security to the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.