I was hopeful today…

Published: October 23, 2014

Living in this open prison of Quetta, haunted by memories of death, blood and pain, and after losing many friends and loved ones, we need to move on. PHOTO: FILE

It was 6am when my alarm went off. I woke up to it, got off my bed, performed wuzu and then offered my prayers. At 6:30am, as usual, I decided to go out for a refreshing morning walk. It seemed like an ordinary morning – just like any other day.

Whilst on my walk, my phone beeped informing me that I had received a text message from a friend of mine. The message greeted me “good morning” and read:

“If you fail to achieve your dreams, change your ways but not your principles, as trees change their leaves, not their roots.”

Instantly, a smile spread across my face. Such minor gestures of hope were much-needed for the likes of us, especially considering the city we lived in. The Hazaras of Quetta do not have it easy, and we take up whatever scraps of hope we can find to keep going. I decided to post the quote as my Facebook status and spread the hope and optimism around. Within a few minutes, it got many likes and comments, and I smiled again, knowing that I wasn’t alone in valuing these little anecdotes of sanguinity.

That’s the thing with hope, it’s contagious. It wriggles its way into your life without you even realising it and makes you want to live more. However, at times, it goes away just as quickly as it comes. And that’s exactly what happened today.

Around 9:30am, I got another text message from a different colleague. This one, however, did not bring any dose of hope. In fact, it was quite the opposite. As soon as I read the text, I felt a sense of numbness taking over. Perhaps that’s how it feels when hope leaves your body.

The message read:

“Breaking news: Eight Hazara vegetable hawkers martyred in Hazar Ganji attack

I went straight back home to check and confirm the news – it was true. It had happened. Another attack on our people… on my people. But while the news bulletin howled away details of the sickening tragedy, my mind had already strolled away to a memory from almost two years ago – a memory of another, similar attack.

In 2012, a bus of the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) was hit by a suicide car bomb blast that was a targeted attack on the Hazara community. In that tragedy, four people lost their lives while 72 others got injured, and out of those 72, one was my brother.

When we received the news, I remember how my mother ran frantically to our neighbours to confirm what had happened to the bus, while my father and uncle hysterically went about town, from one hospital to another, in search of my brother.

Thankfully, the attack didn’t harm him much and he was able to survive it with just a few, minor, physical injuries. But the toll that it did take was psychological and emotional, from that day onwards, he refused to enter BUITEMS. It took him a year to recover and then he decided to enrol himself in another university, one near our residence. Even though this university isn’t as good as BUITEMS, he’s making do with whatever he can.

It wasn’t just my brother who was affected though; my entire family was shaken up by the incident. My father decided to leave retire – although there were still a few years before his retirement age – because the area where his workplace was located, at Qeso, was not safe for us. The fear induced by this trauma has forced us to survive on my father’s pension, which is not enough for a family of six.

Today, as I sit in front of the television, I wonder how many parents and relatives must be pacing around hospitals – just liked we did – trying to find their loved ones, not knowing if they’re even alive or not. And I think of all the people who went through this tragedy today and will never be the same again.

The feeling of knowing that you are being targeted because of your race is truly horrifying, and living with it is nothing less than a nightmare. It has been a nightmare for the Hazaras of Quetta for quite some time now.

Those vegetable hawkers, who lost their lives, must have also seen the glimmer of hope I saw today. They must have thought of how their hard earned income will feed their family for one more day, they must have thought about how they were going to get one more day to move forward, to achieve… to survive.

Their hopes shouldn’t have ended this way. Their lives shouldn’t have been taken away like this.

But that’s how life works for us.

It was important for me to not lose hope back then, to not let go of my shredded, tattered optimism, and to not give in to the darkness that has surrounded almost every Hazara household in Quetta. And that’s exactly what my advice will be for the survivors and families of the deceased – to not give in to that darkness.

Living in this open prison of Quetta, haunted by memories of death, blood and pain, and after losing many friends and loved ones, we need to move on, we need to look forward to another day, to look forward to a happier, safer tomorrow – as only hope is our ultimate strength… our only strength.

Basit Hassan

Basit Hassan

The writer is a Bachelors of Commerce, who is currently pursing a Masters degree in International Relations.

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

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I feel very sad that this has happened. I know that our country is going through a tough time and attacks are common, but this is not just terrorism, this is targeted persecution. No matter what faith you belong to, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or any other you will feel the plight of these people.
    What increases the sadness is that I see those people being killed in Pakistan who never did anything to “incite” anyone. I have used incite in the meaning that these innocent people were not clerics of their religion, they were not preaching and they never berated the religious beliefs of anyone else. (I do not condone murder of religious clerics of ANY RELIGION but usually Taliban say that “these guys incited us by preaching” so these folks were not even doing that). They were just simple folk and my heart bleeds at their deaths.Recommend

  • Dr. Muhammad Haris Ansari

    Darkness mocked everything in sight. No one dared to hope.Yet I soldiered on. I fell. I picked myself up again. I stood tall. Darkness failed to break me. I lived to fight yet another day. I won.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Tragic!How long this sectarianism,Pakistan!!How long this eating up of your sons and daughters!!Monster of Mullahism,and hate factories need to be destroyed.Recommend

  • Ali Muhammad

    New Army Chief, New ISI Chief, New Federal and provincial Government, Yet again the same #HazaraGenocide and #ShiaGenocide.Recommend

  • ani

    Basit, it is a really hard thing that you and fellow Hazaras are going through. Study hard and come out of that place. That is your only hope and reality.. But, I don’t find it sensible if someone killed in a targeted attack is said to be “martyred”. They were murdered, plain and simple. Eulogizing doesn’t help anyone. Will the dead be brought back to life by glorifying death? All wars and targeted killing bring about is widowed women, fatherless kids and issue-less parents. Nothing comes out of “martyrdom”.Recommend

  • Khadim

    It’s so depressing to have such horrific news each week and month. I fear for the day when these people may think to give hope and indulge in militancy.Recommend

  • Ansh

    Killing some one just because his beliefs are different than mine makes me sick. Not able to find words how to condemn this act. RIPRecommend

  • Parvez

    The words of Martin Niemoller have been spelt out often enough but need to be repeated again ….and again…..Recommend

  • Zain Hassan

    About time we put an end to sectarian killings,While the world is living in the 21st century,Pakistan seems to be stuck somewhere in the 16th.Recommend

  • Nisar Ali

    nicely writtenRecommend

  • nero

    I am very sorry for your loss. May you have strength to continue to hope and act accordingly. Though, the low number of comments in your gives me the impression that most people will rather discuss something else, unfortunately!Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Unfortunately the ‘incite’ accusation is a common disingenuous narrative and propagandist excuse used by these numerous extremists and their sympathizers, who seem to have a never-ending list of irrational grievances and self-justified attacking different groups or people locally and globally that don’t subscribe to their twisted beliefs and prejudiced views.

    Its an international religo-political ideological crisis in our global communities, but in Pak, this social intolerance has been nurtured and flourishing for decades compared to most nations. Coming down to this sort of ethnic/sectarian cleansing through such systematic type of violence was inevitable.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    This view is growing and mimics what some young Lebanese activists had campaigned against with “I don’t want to be a martyr” after some young people were killed in a market blast and called ‘martyrs’ by authorities. The activists felt govt didn’t take such violence seriously due to such attitudes on labelling the victims as ‘martyrs’, absolving responsibility, and the terrorist acts ‘expected’ and an ‘accepted part of life’ with no addressing of social trauma.

    Some writer here also pointed out Aitzaz Hasan’s brave action to save his classmates – and indeed it was brave and martyrdom – had been glorified to the point where no one found something wrong or outraged with the picture of a suicide bomber being there in the first place who could have destroyed the lives of the next educated generation.

    However, I wouldn’t hold it against people, particularly families, to view it as martyrdom considering religious historical precedent of those being killed simply because of their of backgrounds. By itself the honour is not meant to produce such lackadaisical attitudes and inaction. The differences on how we think about victims and martyrs is worth discussing…Recommend

  • a

    Im sorry my brother. I make dua that Allah makes us the best of nations and guides us out of this darkness.Recommend

  • Nadia

    Well written, and unfortunately very true . I am a Shia, always afraid and not knowing which majlis will be the last one for my shia brothers to attend.
    Pakistan, supposedly for all muslims is in the hands of animalsRecommend