The 13-member Senate committee, headed by the MQM’s Nasreen Jalil, which will soon be visiting Quetta as part of its effort to recommend a new law to protect marginalised groups, like the Hazaras, has a giant task ahead of it. The committee is attempting to find ways to stop the systematic massacre of Hazaras that we have seen over much of the last decade, with 1,456 members of the group — based chiefly in Quetta — killed in targeted bomb or gun attacks over the last seven years. This is a huge percentage, given that there are an estimated 6,000 Hazaras living in Quetta.
The purpose behind the setting up of the committee is of course something we welcome. We desperately need measures to keep marginalised groups in our country safe. They have come under attack more and more frequently as a result of the growth of extremism and the impact it has had across the country. In Quetta, the committee members will meet affected families, Hazara leaders and government officials before devising the draft for a law which will then be discussed with the ministry for law and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.We wish the senators every success. But it is important to keep in mind that laws cannot in themselves change realities. The fact is that the murder of Hazaras and other marginalised groups is a result of the rapid growth of hatred and violence in a society that has become increasingly fragmented. The fear then is that any law will count for nothing more than a cosmetic measure. This would be an injustice. We need much more than that in order to change the fate of the diverse groups living in our country and make it a place where they enjoy equal rights and equal security as citizens. A sweeping change will be needed to back any law that is legislated. This includes efforts to reverse the tide of violence and to resurrect the tolerance we have lost. Only then will any law have a meaningful effect on the lives of the people under threat.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.