The Hazara community has announced that it will wait for the notification of governor’s rule in Balochistan on Monday before ending their nationwide sit-ins.
Before the late-night development, the entire Shia Hazara community in Quetta was out in the merciless sub-zero temperatures of winter, away from the comfort of their homes, for the fourth straight day. Thousands of people from all walks of life, ethnicity and religious background were also continuing their sit-ins elsewhere in the country to press for their demands.
Till this story went into print, the number of dead bodies the Hazaras had been refusing to bury as part of a peaceful but powerful protest is 114, with more being added every day as the injured of the blasts continue to succumb to their injuries. Sources in the Hazara community claim the injured are not being given the medical care and attention they deserve.
A visual scan of the crowd at the protest revealed both men and women, of all age groups. Grandmothers were protesting alongside newborn babies as young as 10 days old, out in the cold.
“We have not gone home even once in these four days. We are not willing to leave our dead all alone. They are not being buried for a reason. They are waking up the numb conscience of many, something even alive Hazaras have not been able to,” said an unnamed female Hazara activist at the occasion before the late-night clamping of governor’s rule in Balochistan.
According to the Human Rights Commission for Social Justice & Peace, in Pakistan there are an estimated 956,000 people belonging to this community, of which 600,000 live in Quetta city alone.
“Mainstream media has not given this protest the coverage it deserved. It was only after we had incessantly tweeted and created at least 250 Facebook pages, that people became aware of our plight as we sat waiting alongside our martyrs,” said another Hazara activist.
The haunting photographs of grieving Hazaras sitting alongside an array of coffins with eyes searching for justice became viral on social media and finally woke up the media in general.
“Everybody is saying we should bury our dead because Islamic tradition demands the dead be buried at the earliest. We are Muslims. We know that. But people have to understand that this is an exceptional situation.
“Political forces are pressurising us to give up on our demands and keep saying ‘bury the dead and then we’ll talk’. But we know that once the dead are buried, there will be no pressure. More Hazaras will continue to be slaughtered. It’s better to go through this pain today than having to bury our loved ones month after month,” said the female Hazara activist on Sunday evening.
According to her, they have had to change the shrouds of the martyrs frequently as the bleeding from the bodies continued, and it was not easy, but even in their death, the dead were helping potentially towards saving lives.
A wave of support in the last 4 days has highlighted the plight of the Hazaras. Hazara activists expressed satisfaction and gratitude over the support the common people have shown.
“We thank you for standing up for our community. Rest assured, if tomorrow something happens to your communities, God Forbids, the Hazaras will stand up for what is right,” said a Hazara community elder.
Interestingly, the most support from members of other ethnicities in the Quetta area has been from women. “It’s heartening to see Punjabi and Urdu-speaking women, besides other ethnicities too, slowly trickling in and joining us to support us, even though they know that it’s not the most secure place,” said a grateful Hazara woman.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.