Ethnicity trumps humanity in Quetta

Published: January 11, 2013
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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

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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.