In Quetta, a DESPERATELY tragic chain of events is played out again. Thousands of Shia Hazaras, men, women and children, are holding a sit-in on a highway that passes through the town in the freezing cold of winter. Among them are the coffins of the 11 coalminers from their village who were brutally killed in the Bolan district of Balochistan on Sunday.
The mourners had refused to bury their dead and call off their protest until the time of writing, despite the efforts of the chief minister, some provincial ministers and some federal level government officials, unless the prime minister came and visited them. Imran Khan promised yesterday in a tweet that he would do so “very soon” to condone all the victims, but urged them to bury their loved ones “so that their souls can find peace.”
The city also held parallel days-long sit-ins with the victims’ coffins after both of the two major suicide bombings in Quetta in January and February 2013, in which over 200 Hazaras died. They pleaded to the state to defend them any time they were threatened by sectarian attacks. Assurances and assurances were made to them, but these amounted to nothing more than hollow sentences. They were granted cover by the government in some cases, but by and wide, they came out of their barricaded ghettoes at their own peril.
In other words, the easiest way out was taken by the administration. It did not follow the more complicated course, which was to root out the militant extremists who frequently roamed free in the province, even stage demonstrations and publicly attack the city, and throw them behind bars. There is definitely sorrow for those who have gathered this time around in the frigid weather, but underneath that is tremendous rage.
Anger at the horrible, senseless tragedies that the oppressed Hazaras have constantly befallen, anger at the sectarian killers who somehow manage to strike at will in a highly militarised city like Quetta and identification of escape. And now, among the population, particularly the broader Shia community, the rage is spreading.
In Karachi, demonstrations against the massacre have spread, with protesters taking to the streets to run for the second day, burning tyres and wood and blocking traffic. Having taken place after a lull, the massacre on Sunday tells us of how tenuous a victory over militancy is. The Hazaras have suffered for so long; the living must still find rest, as the spirits of their dead do.