Is Imran Khan not the PM of Balochistan? Is the Quetta attack not as tragic as the Christchurch attack?
As I begin to put these words on digital paper, I am appalled at the memories of every time I have written about this same tragedy. Despite the periodic occurrence of these catastrophes, it is evident nobody gives a damn. Thus, I ask, ‘Jacinda, Jacinda. Where art thou, Jacinda?’
It was only a few weeks ago that Christchurch suffered a devastating hate crime against Muslims at the hands of a self-righteous terrorist. The whole of New Zealand, spearheaded by their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, rallied to protect and support its Muslim community. Her government went on to ban the category of weapons used in the attack and inspired strict vigilance against the people responsible for the atrocity.
Her actions and words were praised by everyone across the world, and only hardliners had a hard time swallowing her initiatives. Like everywhere else, Pakistanis also wholeheartedly praised the prime minister for her efforts, her overwhelming support and her personal involvement in addressing her bereaving community. We supported her and wished someone like her could be the prime minister of every country.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, another unfortunate incident took place last Friday in the Hazarganji area of Quetta, where the predominantly Hazara community comes to shop wholesale for vegetables and fruits. An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted in a gunny sack filled with potatoes went off in the crowded market, killing 22 people including two Frontier Corps officials.
As expected, there were lip-service condemnations of the attack, orders for reports and assurances of this never happening again. But as the Hazara community has learned over the years – if you are a religious minority in Pakistan, nobody gives a damn about you.
Since we all wrote praises of Jacinda just a few weeks ago, it definitely begs the question: where the hell were these same people when the Hazaras were killed once again in their homes? Where is our support and solidarity for the people we live with? We can write praises for a leader working tirelessly to keep her community safe, but where was our ‘tabdeeli’ prime minister when the Hazaras resorted to the only way they know how to make everyone listen – a peaceful sit-in protest.
The protest ended last evening after four days where the Hazara community’s men, women and children were sitting through the harsh Quetta weather lamenting the lack of security provided to them, despite open threats from various religious extremists. Unlike PM Ardern, our PM Imran Khan has not bothered to visit the defenseless citizens yet. He was finally going to visit the bereaved families today, on the 18th, seven days after the attack, after everyone has gone home, but has now ‘postponed’ his visit. Sometimes it seems to me that the only way to get the government’s attention is to start breaking public property akin to other protests in Islamabad where the government happily bartered a deal.
And if I remember correctly, it was our same incumbent prime minister who ended his D-Chowk protests only after the Army Public School (APS) massacre in Peshawar, the only province where his party was ruling at the time.
For people who don’t remember the historical perspective, a National Action Plan (NAP) or No Action Plan was introduced after the APS massacre, ensuring that no proscribed or banned outfits can survive in Pakistan. Exactly for the reason why it is called the No Action Plan, despite being on the ‘Fourth Schedule’ these parties continue to participate in our social and political lives.
Ramzan Mengal, the leader of the local chapter of a proscribed organisation, was released a few days before the Quetta bombing took place. For people who aren’t shocked as yet, please Google him. He even contested the elections last year, openly spewing hate speech against a significant Muslim minority living in Pakistan, the Shia community. I cannot fathom for how long we are going to live with the pseudo-strategic assets narrative. How long are we going to allow our neighbours to continue proxy-fighting within our borders?
Shias are liable to be killed, an open declaration by Ramzan Mengal of banned militant out fit the Lashkare Jhangvi. The state of Pakistan is supporting him and media failing to cover #ShiaHazaraGenocide #HazaraLivesMatter #HazaraKilling pic.twitter.com/lHf4SC0BLZ
— Pakistan Media Watch (@PakPressWatch) May 1, 2018
If there is anything we have learnt is that we didn’t learn any lessons after APS. Our children died in vain, because more of our children are still dying at the hands of the same people. When the Army cleared out terrorists from the northern areas during Operation Zarb-e-Azb, why didn’t it get rid of all their look-alikes and sympathisers?
I don’t know for how long we are going to blame every terrorist incident on boogeymen like the Islamic State (IS), who have died out in other parts of the world. The obvious choice is to go with the bigger name, because a small faction of the Taliban also claimed the attack a day before the IS did, and also claimed a collaboration with the biggest villain in this picture, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). As anyone familiar with military tactics knows, it’s always the local assets that actually partake in the act while someone else claims responsibility for it. LeJ has also openly perpetrated and claimed numerous attacks on the Hazara community over the years, so its involvement would not come as a shock.
If we are so hell-bent on making western societies realise that a white supremacist who kills Muslims out of hate is a terrorist, why aren’t we ready to realise that a pseudo-religious, self-righteous fanatic who kills other Muslims out of hate is also a terrorist? But since we Muslims are not the introspective type, we don’t really care.
I remember the famous lyrics from the Cranberries song, Zombie:
“Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken
But you see it’s not me
It’s not my family.”
Exactly right. It’s not our family, and that is why we simply don’t care while the Hazaras continue to live like the Rohingyas of Pakistan.
(An earlier version of this blog stated that PM Imran Khan would be visiting Quetta on April 18th. The blog has been updated accordingly.)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.