Victory of public sentiment 

The Hazaras sat for almost five days with their dead in front of them

By S. M. Hali

Pakistan is passing through various trials and tribulations. The war on terror has taken a heavy toll of human lives and the entire country has suffered. One community that has been deliberately targeted is the Hazaras, a Persian-speaking people, who mainly inhabit central Afghanistan, western Pakistan and part of Iran. They are overwhelmingly Shiite Muslims, and comprise the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, while more than 500,000 Hazaras reside in Pakistan, mostly in Quetta, the capital of the strife-torn Balochistan province.

The origins of the Hazaras point towards Inner Asian descent – Mongolian and Turkic, which is evident from their physical attributes. Literacy level among the Hazara community in Pakistan is relatively high; they are an extremely hard working race, which has integrated well into the social dynamics of the local society. By dint of hard work, Hazaras have managed to reach enviable positions. General Muhammad Musa, who served as the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, followed by a tenure of Governor West Pakistan and later Governor of the province of Balochistan; Qazi Mohammad Esa, a prominent leader of Pakistan Movement and close friend of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, his son Qazi Faez Esa  the first ever Hazara to serve as Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court ; Air Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi, a veteran PAF fighter pilot of the 1965 and 1971 Pak-India wars; Saira Batool, a Hazara woman was one of the first female pilots in Pakistan Air Force and numerous others who served meritoriously in all three services of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, earning glory for themselves and  Pakistan are but some of the notable Hazaras.

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Unfortunately, this peace-loving but minority community has been targeted for its faith and in the last five years, over one thousand Hazaras have been mercilessly slain in cold blood. Their sad plight has been swept under the carpet, perhaps because most of the country is in the grip of terrorist attacks. However, earlier this month, the devastating killing of over one hundred Hazaras in Quetta as a result of multiple bomb blasts, ultimately forced the community to seek justice. The bloodbath of the innocent Hazaras stirred the entire nation and was widely reported in international media but unfortunately the provincial as well as the federal government remained unmoved and oblivious to the carnage. The provincial Government remained totally indifferent as none of the ministers or prliamentarians visited the scene of tragic incident or paid condolence to the grieved   families. Balochistan’s Chief Minister was away on a private visit abroad and did not bother even to make a call to the administration or the grieved families. Shortly after the incident, the people of Hazara community launched an unprecedented, peaceful and non violent protest in the city. The protesters observed hunger strike, in an orderly manner, with eighty-six dead bodies awaiting burial, braving the extreme inclement bad weather.  The protesting mourners included the heirs of the deceased comprising women, men and children besides large representation of non Hazaras as well. Their demands were the removal of the Provincial Government, apprehending the terrorists and handing over the control of the city to Army as the provincial Government had totally failed to maintain peace, law and order. They refused to bury the corpses until their justified demands were met.

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The protest continued under open sky in chilling rainy weather of Quetta in sub zero temperature for four days. The dead bodies kept waiting burial and tears of the protestors continued moving the entire world.  The unique protest stimulated the sentiments of entire Pakistani society irrespective of sect, cast or ethnicity.  The unique silent protest caught attention around the world and became headlines of national and international media.  Resultantly, peaceful protests were launched throughout the country as well as in some international capitals in support of the Hazara Community. Interestingly these protests mostly in the shape of day and night sittings were carried out by non Shia segments of society. The protests were amply supported by all political parties and opinion makers of Pakistan. It was an impressive exhibition of national cohesion and resolve to combat the menace of terrorism. Ultimately, as a result of these peaceful and non violent protests, Federal Government came into action and the demands were accepted after the visit of Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The sad incident came to a justified conclusion and left a message that power of truth and public sentiments will always win over the forces of injustice and evil with perseverance and commitment. It also showed the determination and preservation of the bereaved and sad families which won them the honour and respect and moved the entire state machinery. Meeting of demands of the protestors was the victory of society and power of public sentiments. The entire episode has glaringly proved that if entire nation stands together, justice can be sought even without violent agitation. The role of society, media and the political leadership is the testimony of the fact that Pakistanis are a great nation and can stand together by tackling sectarian, provincial and ethnic divisions against national tragedies.

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Every peace loving citizen of Pakistan not only denounced the dastardly act of targeting the Shia community in particular and innocent Pakistanis in general. The sad epilogue to the whole incident, which brought out the best in Pakistani society, also exposed the dual-faced nature of the politicians. No sooner was the demand of the protesting Hazaras met and the provincial government of Balochistan was removed, placing the strife-torn province under Governor’s Rule, the same politicians, especially the Baloch provincial parliamentarians and their supporters in the center, who had callously and heartlessly remained oblivious of the Hazara’s predicament, now got together to protest against the sacking of their Chief Minister. The voice of the people had spoken and taken cognizance of by the Prime Minister, albeit belatedly but the fresh development only goes to depict that public sentiment may ultimately be victorious, but politicians will continue to vie for their self interest only.

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