It took more than 100 deaths for Pakistan to wake up from its stupor.
The resilience of Pakistan, is pretty well known – we go on, despite everything. We protest and we move on. Whether it’s getting the judiciary reinstated, protesting against blasphemous movies or cartoons or protesting because the Taliban shot a young girl and her friends looking to educate women in their area – we protest, we demand and we go on.
This is different.
Thousands of Shia Hazaras have been sitting in the open, in harsh weather, with the shrouded bodies of victims of the attack that have killed almost a 100 in Quetta. Their demands are simple – they be provided security from the ‘elements’ that are targeting them – the LeJ, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni extremist outfit - among the many Sunni extermist groups harboring in the country.
The Shia minority sect of Muslims makes up about 20% of the population of Pakistan. According to a human rights group, the country’s Shia population is living in a state of siege and conditions are worsening. The silence of the government, the law enforcement agencies and even the media of Pakistan on this genocide is deafening, worse, it’s criminal.
But what could be worse for the loved ones of the dead who are sitting beside their bodies in sub-zero temperatures in open air? They mourn, they read the Quran and they demand justice. These are not hoodlums who are destroying property or causing riots. They are sitting there, in a quiet, dignified way and protesting. They are sitting there, in cold, miserable weather, while the smell of decaying flesh and wailing permeates the air, to demand their basic right – security. The security to go about their daily lives. To live in peace, to go to schools and study, to sit down, to play billiards and have a cup of tea with their friends – without the threat of death hanging over their heads.
The vigil has been going on for the last 55 hours in Quetta. They’re not the only ones now, however. Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and other cities of Pakistan as well cities in other countries have joined the protests in demand for the protection of the Shia.
Men, women and children have flocked to the protests which are on-going in different cities in peaceful vigils. The silence is no more.
In Lahore, people have gathered at the famous Liberty chowk to show solidarity with the Shia. They are protesting in front of the Governor’s House as I write this. In Islamabad, citizens are sitting in sub-zero temperature since the start of the vigil at 3 pm yesterday. According to them, they will stay there until the bodies of the dead are buried and their just demands, met.
In the port city of Karachi – a city where the sectarian tensions and violence is rife, protests are happening at different places; in front of Press Club, the city square near the Quaid’s mausoleum and even the residential house of the ruling party’s chairman Bilawal Butto Zardari – the Bilawal House, where the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, usually resides. The area around the house has been cordoned off, the cell phone service switched off. The protestors are still there.
Just in: talks between PM Ashraf & Shia leaders in Quetta ended in deadlock, Shia leaders say they'll continue their protest.— Rezaul Hasan Laskar (@Rezhasan) January 13, 2013
The President of the Shia Conference, Syed Dawood Agha, says they will not bury the dead until the Army gives them the assurance that it would take administrative control of Quetta.
In Quetta, talks between the Prime Minister and the president of the Shia Conference, ended in a deadlock. However, the reports just in suggest that members of the Baluchistan cabinet and Chief Minister Aslam Raisani have agreed to resign.