Blood and tears

Yet another day of horror has visited Quetta’s Hazara community. We have borne witness, over the years, to the unrelenting bloodshed the Shia Hazara community has had to face – as it gathers around coffins of its loved ones, brutally massacred on the streets, in buses, anywhere. We have seen protests. We have seen the Hazaras forced into a ghetto in Hazara Town. And we have seen all this repeated again and again and again. This time, the nightmare visited Hazaras working at the Machh coalfields, lying between Quetta and Sibbi. Identified by men who approached the coalfield, the Hazara miners were blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs and led into the mountains.

The terror and the knowledge of what would happen next can only be imagined. While fewer and fewer Hazaras work at the coal mines, which has been one of their key working places since the days of the British, many still come to the area, given the lack of jobs available to them in Quetta and their sense of insecurity in a city where hundreds have been killed over the years. But Machh proved to be no safer either. The 11 men were shot and their bodies left on the ground. The Islamic State group has claimed the attack.

We now live in a country from which Hazaras try to escape each day over the border to Iran in the hope of getting away from death. Most are rightly convinced that in Pakistan they will be killed. While words of condemnation have come in from the prime minister and from others in and outside the government, their words are hardly enough. Can mere words convey the horror? Can words ever assuage the grief and anger that will be added to the ever-deepening well of despair felt by Hazara Shias? In fact, nothing can be enough for what the Hazara community lives with and prepares for constantly – taking pictures of friends and family members, hanging them on walls or placing them on mantelpieces, in preparation for a day when they may never see those faces again. Their lives can only change if there is sufficient political will and determination to end the militancy and violence they continue to face. The answer to sectarian killings is to go, with force, after those who perpetrate them. The answer also lies in demanding that those in power, in the centre, in the province, those responsible for keeping this country’s citizens – all of them – safe are made to account for this senseless bloodshed. So that the graveyard in Hazara Town doesn’t see yet more mourners. So that the Shia Hazara community finally feels safe enough to walk down a street or earn a living or live like free citizens of this country.

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