Ethnicity trumps humanity in Quetta

Published: January 11, 2013

Bloodbath in Quetta on January 10, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

My city paints its streets with red as I attempt to write this blog. Tears trickle down my face as I reminisce over Quetta, once known as the city of peace. There was a time when people would take shelter in this harmonious city.

Now people run from it.

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Quetta on January 10, 2013. PHOTO: AGENCIES

My head aches from the blasts and my heart longs for home.

I still remember when I was a mere six-year-old; this city flourished with love and hospitality. My childhood memories are fresh and alive. I remember frolicking up and down the uneven streets of Quetta accompanied by my Baloch, Pathan, Punjabi and Hazara friends. Humanity trumped ethnicity in those days- friends were just friends. We didn’t discriminate based on which sect they belonged to.

Winter was a popular season in Quetta and tourists were scattered everywhere. I would see them strolling around in the local markets, holidaying at the famous hill station, Ziarat, and visiting other historical and memorable places in interior Balochistan.

There was no fear of a gaudy death or a deafening bomb blast back then.

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Quetta on January 10, 2013. PHOTO: AGENCIES

I had once heard that Karachi was not a safe place to live in as it was infested with terrorists. I didn’t really understand this. Upon questioning my father about terrorism, he said:

 “It’s not a part of our city, honey.”

Today I beg for the same answer- not only for my city but for my country.

Jan 10, 2013 a string of bomb explosions took place in Quetta, leaving at least 93 people dead and over 150 injured.

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Quetta on January 10, 2013. PHOTO: AGENCIES

The first suicide bomber detonated his device inside a crowded snooker club, and minutes later another attacker in a car outside the building blew himself up. Police, media workers and rescue teams rushed to the site.

The attacks happened in a predominately Shia neighbourhood and sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the blast, saying they were targeted attacks against the Hazara community.

Eight of the dead are reported to be police officials. The rest include a cameraman, a reporter from a private television channel and five Edhi workers.

SHO Jaffer Ali also died yesterday. My brother met him two weeks ago in Karachi. He had come to Quetta to treat his Hepatitis B and had travelled by air because he feared death (the route by road is not safe these days). Who would know his death was calling him here?

The authorities couldn’t even find his body.

Mujahid, the DSP Gawalmandi got a promotion three months ago. It was his first posting and what was most exciting for him was that his station was right next to his home.

Today, half of his body is still missing.

Currently, 93 families are mourning the death of their loved ones in this blood bath. What makes it more heartbreaking is that their bodies mutilated; the blasts have ripped them to pieces.

How does one accept this kind of a death?

We forget that this country was made for all Muslims. There is no room for distinction between Shia, Sunnis, Baloch, Punjabi, Pathan or any other ethnicity. For what it’s worth, Quaid-e-Azam was a Shia Muslim himself but he never discriminated on this basis.

So does this mean that the Shia Muslims should claim that it’s their country only?

Is it a crime to be born as a Hazara? The people living in this country are living with this distress that at any time of the day they might hear the news of their loved ones death. We live with this fear.

“What if we go out for a festival; will we come back alive?”

We are afraid to tell our names to strangers because what if they don’t like it? Will they kill us?

My city has changed drastically. The Baloch people suspect everyone as an agency infiltrator who has been sent to spy on them; Sunni parties see every Shia as an outcast and the Punjabis find it hard to live amongst their own trusted friends.

Nobody is at peace.

Over 900 Hazaras have been killed in bomb blasts and target killings in Pakistan. Don’t these people realise that the value of human life does not depend on their ethnicity?  Even if you kill a Hazara that’s a loss for a parent, spouse, children, brother, sister and a friend.

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Quetta on January 10, 2013. PHOTO: AGENCIES

Come see my city today, it’s drowning in blood and tears. Every citizen questions the purpose of such a life.

In this war of ethnicity and religion we have lost sight of humanity; we have forgotten to be human beings.

I feel sorry for my country; I mourn the fate of my city which was once named “Little London”. Now people call it “the place of death.”

PHOTOS: AGENCIES 

Follow her on Twitter @GulShireen

shireen.gul

Shireen Gul

A freelancer journalist and a mouth piece for all those hapless voices who are suffering since ages in Balochistan. She tweets @GulShireen

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    I share your feelings. May ALLAH give peace to Quetta and this country.

    We all are Muslims and Pakistani or at least humans having no right to kill any other Muslim or even non Muslim. Hazara community has all rights to exist and prosper like others.Recommend

  • Pessimist

    What is depressing about this incident is not the unfortunate life, but how little press this story received in our media. It seems we are so pre-occupied with India and war mongering that we fail to realise that we are slowly killing ourselves from the inside. It’s depressing.

    I have visited Quetta twice. Once in the late 90s and the other time a few years back. How much this beautiful city has changed for the worst can not be described in words.

    Btw, there was a comment on the article yesterday which I really liked. I’ll post it here for the convenience of the readers. On second thought, ET seems to have removed that comment? Why so? It made more sense than 90% of the other comments on that story. It was basically about public reaction to these attacks, focusing specifically on the ethnicities of those targetted :/Recommend

  • Syed

    Lets protest over a stupid movie but please don’t do anything about the continues shia genocide. Mr. CJ, Lashkar e Jhangvi keeps admitting to these attacks, yet you have released their leader Malik Ishaq. Has anyone noticed the attacks on Shias have increased so much after his release. He can take action against one person’s killers yet the 20% shias are getting slaughtered but he does not frekin care@!!!!!!!!! Recommend

  • sars

    I hope and pray peace returns to this lovely , peaceful city where i spent a large part of my childhood. Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    Heart breaking the situation of the city of Quetta, is there no way to put an end to these barbaric traitors who are trying to ethnically cleanse the province, and these terrorists who are convinced every Shia is a kafir. Criminals whether they are right wing militants or these Baloch nationalist traitors must be brought to a court of law and they should be answerable for their crimes, since when did killing innocents become a noble act, in the end they will just argue all is fair in love and war. Recommend

  • Insaan

    Attacks like this are meant to terrorize people of certain sect/ethnicity and to force them to leave the area or convert. These things can’t happen without support of politicians and government.Recommend

  • gujranwala789

    I think pakistanis of all types have a fundamental right and that is “Right to live”. Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Aljihad ! Al Jihad ! Al Jihad !!!

    And when sane voices warned of “blood shed” in the name of “Jihad” they were called infidals, British Agenst, Anti Islam…..and the whole nation silently condemened those voices and some even shouted loud. Now the “godzilla” is out of control…

    Why you all tolerate those hate mongering mullahs in mosques of your towns, why dont you shut them up when they declare others Kafir in seed in hate against other humans…

    why you complain only when they “act on” what they “say”…..problem is YOU who tolerate them around you !!Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    For what it’s worth, Quaid-e-Azam was
    a Shia Muslim himself but he never
    discriminated on this basis

    Jinnah religious record was;
    Ismaili>Twelver Shia>Sunni
    Pretty odd for a secular liberal!Recommend

  • Aijaz Haider

    All Pakistanis, Muslims (of all sects) and non-Muslims, have equal rights. Thre is no justification for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s brutal killings. Sunni Ulema should also unanimously condemn this act of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.Recommend

  • Siddharth

    Look at this Sane ..what’s it about you Muslims thinking its not ok to kill Muslims but otherwise ok…no wonder the world hates youRecommend

  • Parvez

    It defies logical thinking as to why our security agencies appear so helpless.Recommend

  • bhatti

    .afsoas…………. it is so unfortunate that Balochistan is going to become the next battleground of the ethno-religious groups, story of hazara kiling statrted in Afghanistan( mazar-e-sharif) when taliban occupied the city, they killed the shia hazaras there mercilessly…( bcz they opposed their religious and political influence).after 9-11 when US troops came to afghanistan they root out taliban with the help of locals particulary Hazaraz and ajaks…so this fight got prolong when anti-shia groups of mainland pakistan made there new hide-outs in balochistan, and again they found hazaras, as in the vast landscape of Balochistan to kill unarmed civilian is a soft target, so the unhuman behaviour of such mentality got a hunting ground….. .. but there is a question … go back a liitle in history,..when some rockets were fired on the military convey of Pervaiz Musharaf, a reply was given with a military operation in the area and eneded (?).. with the assasination of BIG bugtiii….BUT who will dare to launch an operation against sectarian terriorist, regardless of which sect they belong to.. who will stop the molvis and waaz to disseminate hatred against each other, who will voice for a code of conduct to speak in gathering in mosques and madrissas and even in scools. who will regulate the use of loud speakers…………….. Recommend

  • bangash

    Pakistan is a completely failed state thanks to GHQ-ISI.Recommend

  • Varun

    The blogger says and I quote:
    “…We forget that this country was made for all Muslims. There is no room for distinction between Shia, Sunnis, Baloch, Punjabi, Pathan or any other ethnicity…”

    I tried to imagine an Indian saying “…We forget that this country was made for all Hindus…”
    Most people in India would be revolted and disgusted by such a narrow-minded statement.
    Seriously? This is as good as it gets? “A country for all Muslims, no distinction on ethnicity”?
    What about Pakistani Hindus? Pakistani Christians? Pakistani Sikhs? Pakistani Ahmedis? Pakistani Parsis? Pakistani Kalasha pagans? Pakistani atheists and agnostics and other nonbelievers?
    Where do they fit in your vision of “whom this country was made for”? Should educated, decent, humane Pakistanis in 2013 still be saying exclusivist things like “…this country was made for all Muslims..”? Recommend

  • Taimur khan

    Shireen gul tell me one simple thing although m just a college going youngster dont know much abt such things , did lashkar e jhangvi called you and said they are involved in the matter? Why did you not strike such hard when tableeghi jamaat headquarter were attacked? Why do you say no words against drone attacks in tribal areas , why do you not strike when sipah e sahaba workers were killed in karachi? Why dont you condemn in this manner when ramond davis flew ? Where were you when 6 madarssa students were killed in karachi , were you sleeping when maulana aslam shekupuri was gunned down and the list goes on and on , sunnis are being targeted by shia militant groups , what do you say now? Pehle hi mulk mai bht tension hai please dont provoke angst and anger amongst different religious thought groups ! May Allah bless us.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    In the case of L-e-J and other religious militant and sectarian extremist groups like it, its sect and ideology that trumps humanity.

    Profile: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20982987Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    Besides the ethnic bigotry and separatism that plagues Balochistan, do not see Pak improving there and elsewhere without also addressing its bigoted Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni Islamist extremist ideologues as well. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Parvez: “It defies logical thinking as to why our security agencies appear so helpless.”

    Do read Dr. Hoodbhoy’s OpEd today. That may answer the question. Especially the last line in his OpEd.Recommend

  • Mir Sadaat

    @Varun:
    The issue raised by you is indeed very valid but i think she said for all muslims not only for muslims there is a difference in saying for all muslims and only for muslims. The point she is trying to make very much resonate with your point and that is that we all are humans the reason she used the word “Muslims” as she was pointing to the “muslims” who are at war with each other she very well answered your concern with the following line “In this war of ethnicity and religion we have lost sight of humanity; we have forgotten to be human beings.” Recommend

  • John B

    There was about 10 min coverage with all the details in the prime time news in the US. The reporter was English and one could feel the grief and agony in his voice as he was narrating the incidence.

    I wish I could say “my condolences” to the PAK.

    But to whom am I saying my condolences to?

    To the imbecile people of PAK who hide behind the cloak of religious bigotry and say nothing , did nothing when they sent a poor woman to prison on blasphemy, did nothing when they asked a grieved father to exhume his little girl out of the muslim grave because she was not Muslim, did nothing when they desecrated the grave of Ahmedis, did nothing when they shot and killed the Hazara pilgrims, did nothing when they saw the massacre in Mumbai but gloated, did nothing but danced on the streets when they saw the towers cloappased, did nothing when a school girl was shot in the head, did nothing but clapped for the killers of Bhatti and Taseer, did nothing when they saw their own heritage churches and temples were demolished, did nothing when their neighbors were rapped and converted to islam and wondered whether the convert was Shia or Sunni, did notihing but tuned to the stations to see spectacle of religious bigotry and hatred, did nothing when the Shia mosques were bombed, did nothing when the Sunni women were disfigured with acid, did nothing when their country men who clean their streets were set on fire, did nothing when their heritage Kalat community is discriminated and gloat in pride that these “pagans” are now Muslims, did nothing and asked nothing but were proud of their “o” level grades on the subjects that taught bigotry and hatred…..?

    No, I reserve my grief and share my anger. Recommend

  • Jafri

    Excellent Read, God bless you speaking for Shias. Pakistan is lost, if something happens in Syria or Palestine general public in Pakistan starts sharing sympathetic stuff on social media. But for almost 3 decades Shia Genocide is taking place more than 100,000 killed and no one cares. I salute all those Sunni brothers that have died in these terrorist acts. But Shia numbers are beyond reckoning.Recommend

  • sayed

    if any body kill brother this is name devell , i whis tirget peopal going in hell insallha ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,faking all taroresmRecommend

  • Ali S

    Humanity? What’s that?Recommend

  • Parvez

    @gp65: Just did and yes it was brilliant.Recommend

  • Victim

    First Hindus, then ahmadies, then christians, now shia and soon it will be you. Terrorist have no religon and no faith. So majority do nothing and wait..your turn will be soon…… up nextRecommend

  • Anum

    You depicted very true and heartrending picture…… i wanna cry after reading it…..
    well….good job!!Recommend

  • Atif

    Unfortunately, the hands of our government if full with the blood of the innocent victims. The government still openly allows Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to operate and even their leader has been released by authorities.

    I’m sorry to say this being a Pakistani but the fact is our Government is sponsoring terrorism within the country !.

    May God give comfort to the families of those who have died in the horrendous attack.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P Khan

    @bangash:
    “Pakistan is a completely failed state thanks to GHQ-ISI.”

    .
    Right. When ZAB asked for support in kicking out Ahmedis from the fraternity of Islam, how many protested, both in the Senate or the NA?
    .
    As usual I did not do it, I am an angel. The decision was made by the representatives of the people in a democracy. Did any Shia Mullah raise his voice against the egomaniac Bhutto saying that it was immoral, without mandate and it is setting up a wrong precedent by forcing through such a decision.
    .
    Specially once the Shias, compared to the rest of the populace, on the average are more educated and knowledgeable, they kept quiet. Expediency on the part of opinion makers is bearing its fruit now.
    .
    Both you and me are responsible. GHQ-ISI people have not descended from heavens. They are there because we let them be there. Recommend

  • Sick of people

    Please dont compare Ahmedis and Shias…The context of their persecution is totally different. Recommend

  • Humera

    Well expressed Shireen!
    Only few people can feel the intensity of this incident unfortunately :( I saw some comments above saying its a revenge sort of thing. Please Muslims wake up for God sake.
    My heartfelt condolence goes to the families of deceased and loads of prayers for the early recovery of the injured. Recommend

  • Citizen

    @Varun:

    Pakistan was made for people of every ethnicity, and every citizen has equal rights to be called a Pakistani, no matter what religion/faith. The author probably meant it in the context of the article/issue, which dealt with the mentality of those perpetrating attacks against shias. The last thing everyone needs is another battle dealing with ethnicity/religion. Every religion has its value, and as citizens we should be working together to improve relations, rather than causing more problems. Recommend

  • Sane

    @Siddharth:

    Look at this Sane ..what’s it about you Muslims thinking its not ok to kill Muslims but otherwise ok…no wonder the world hates you

    World hates you more than us. You have a long and bloody history of killing Muslims and other minorities including Christians, Sikhs etc. Come out of ‘Shining India’. Rapes and killings minorities are treated as norm in your country.Recommend

  • Anas Tanveer

    The killers are not even human, and religion or sect comes when we talk about Humans. So, its about humanity and beasts around us everywhere in the world.Recommend

  • Zainab

    @John B
    Blatant generalizations. Recommend