Pakistani Protests Against Shia Extermination Bears Fruit, But Will It Bring About Actual Change?

On January 10th 2013, two suicide bombs exploded in Quetta, Balochistan, killing around 100 people.

Pakistani Protests

On January 10th 2013, two suicide bombs explodedin Quetta, Balochistan, killing around 100 people.

Hazaras, a Persian-speaking Shia minority who emigrated from Afghanistan more than 100 years ago were the targeted victims-and not for the first time!

The incidents speak for themselves. On October 4in Quetta, gunmen on motorbikes stopped a bus carrying mainly Hazara Shias, who were on their way to work at a vegetable market. The attackers forced the passengers off the bus, lined them up and shot them.

Pakistani Protests

Pakistani Protests

This time however, there was a snap that was heard far and wide. It resulted in the biggest protest and sit in, in a long, long time. The Hazara community in Quetta refused to bury their dead even after three days of the bomb blasts and support poured in across the country.

Relatives, friends and members of Hazara community staged a sit-in refusing to bury the dead till their demad of the army taking over control of Quetta would be met.

Pakistani Protests

Supporters also camped out in most of the major cities of Pakistan.

At some places, free food and water was distributed among the protesters by various volunteer organisations. Many cities and towns of upper Sindh also observed a shutter down strike to express solidarity with the grieving families of Quetta.

Shia leaders in Quetta demanded that the army be sent in to protect them, saying that the dead from the bomb attacks cannot be buried until this demand is met.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Sunday night dismissedthe provincial government and announced to impose Governor’s rule in Balochistan, an insurgency hit-province of Pakistan.

Addressing the protestors, former Balochistan Minister and leader of Hazara community, Jan Ali Changezi Monday announcedthat although the demand of calling in Pakistan Army in the city to safeguard the interests of the Hazara community was not met but they were going to end sit-in.

“We will continue to negotiate with the governor Balochistan over the issue of calling Army in the city,”he added.

Finally, after braving three nights Quetta’s in freezing temperatures next to their slain loved ones, the families of dozens of bombing victims ended their protest and buried the 83 bodies amid strict security measures in a Hazara graveyard on Monday.

Pakistani Protests

Pakistani Protests

A total of bodies were buried on Monday. A large number of people participated in the funeral while strict security measures were adopted during the burial. Protesters also chanted slogans against law enforcement agencies for their failure to provide protection to them.

The uproar the incident induced in people is vehement.

When contacted, Amima Sayeed, a Senior Manager for Research and Advocacy and a vocal advocate of human rights, wrote, “It is the collective strength of people and their resilience that shone through in the face of extreme weather, life threatening situation and sheer indifference of both government and masses. Although non-shia people participated, but it was restricted to the active citizens who stand up for social justice. There was a lull from masses, a silence from political parties as well as mainstream media for the most of 67 hours protest. Had the Shias not gone strategic about their sit-ins and laid seige to main traffic arteries across Pakistan after 36hrs of silent protests in Quetta alone, NOTHING would have happened. “

The nation has truly been shaken. But the question is, will there be change?

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan visited the area, met the people and said that the government has failed to provide protection to its people, demanding governor rule in the troubled province of Balochistan.

He expressed solidarity with Hazara Community.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (the largest political party in Karachi and an ally of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)) has pledged supportfor the Hazara Shia community in Quetta.

The issue is hot enough now to warrant such responses. But the question is, will the promises made now will be kept? How seriously will the talks go on? Will they ever go on?

“What is says about Pakistan's future is not very different from what its past - the success of sit-ins and street revolution has been proved in the 60s, 70s, 80s and now 2013 too. At the same time, complicity of state, institutions, media, military apparatus, and elected governments is also proven yet again. No one is mentioning LeJ and SSP who have made public announcements for annihilating shias. As usual, we are fixing the symptoms and putting band-aids but not rooting out the cause. Not because we dont know but because we are sold and sorry excuse for a country, people and human beings itself,” Amima Sayeed feels.

Shias, as well as any other community or minority, in Pakistan and elsewhere should be able to live freely without fear. But that does not happen especially not in countries like Pakistan, rife with instability and extremism. But something has to be done. Change has to come. Many people in Pakistan,  moved by the events of the last few days are hoping against hope that the thread of change, brought about today will continue onwards and forward to bring change and better times for all the people of the country regardless of their beliefs.