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Last April in Quetta

Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit may have pacified the Hazaras but will he be able to keep his promise of peace in the capital of Balochistan?

Last April in Quetta
Hunger strike: Activists Jalila Haider and Hamida Ali Hazara.

In a late night development on May 2, young activist Jalila Haider ended her hunger strike and the Hazara elders announced to end their five-day sit-in in various localities of Quetta, following assurance from Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa that “those targeting the Hazara community would suffer twice”.

More than 19 people, mostly Shia Hazaras and Christians, have been killed in terror attacks in Quetta in April alone. Crime scenes: Brewery Road, Saryab Road and Jan Muhammad Road.

Sunni sectarian armed group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an affiliate of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), claimed some of these April attacks in the capital city of Balochistan.

Hazara elders claim that over 825 Hazara people have been killed in different parts of Quetta in the last 15 years. HRCP, though, reports a slightly lower figure of 525 with most fatalities in bomb blasts and target killings. In all these incidents, trained shooters have fired at the victims. Yet no one has been arrested. After every assassination, Hazaras claim, the Balochistan government and the police come out with “hollow” assurances of arresting the culprits “very soon”.

Protesting against the recent killings in Quetta and demanding the arrest of the killer, activist Jalila Haider went on a hunger strike “unto death”. “It’s the primary obligation of the government to provide security to the people and arrest those involved in target killings. There are many Hazaras in Quetta who depend on a single breadwinner in a family,” she says. “Why are we being punished?”

Before the announcement of the end of protest on May 2, the talks between Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Provincial Home Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti and the protestors remained inconclusive — as Hazara elders had refused to end their protest until the visit of Gen Bajwa. Balochistan Law Minister Agha Muhammad Raza, who belongs to the Hazara community and led the protest, made it clear to Ahsan Iqbal on April 30 that they would not compromise on their demands and security.

The Hazara protesters established protest camps in Hazara Town, outside the Quetta Press Club and outside the Balochistan Assembly.

After the meeting with the army chief, Jalila Haider ended her hunger strike when Ahsan Iqbal presented her a glass of juice.

Lack of security of life and property had led a majority of Hazara professionals — doctors, educationists, engineers and businessmen — to leave the city for safer places, like Australia and Europe, either legally or illegally. But the cold hard fact is, everyone wants to flee from Quetta. “I want to go abroad. I’m here to obtain my passport. An agent has promised to send me abroad if I pay him Rs500,000,” says 19-year-old Haider Ali, while talking to TNS outside the passport office in Quetta.

A resident of Hazara Town Kazim Hussain says, “It’s a pity that our people cannot even go to the market to buy groceries. There’s a funeral every day. Business is slow in the capital of Pakistan’s largest province. “Our business has collapsed due to lawlessness. The government is oblivious of the gravity of the situation,” says Haji Ashiq Achakzai, a local businessman.

On Wednesday morning, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the targeted killings of the Hazara community in Quetta. “Their killers are openly holding rallies,” the CJ remarked during a hearing, noting that the Hazaras do not get admission in schools and universities and are not treated in hospitals. “Are they not citizens of Pakistan,” he observed. The case will be heard in Quetta on May 11. The Supreme Court has summoned a report on the matter from the Balochistan government, police and other law-enforcement agencies.

Agha Raza and other Hazara notables anticipate the suo motu notice taken by the CJ may bring change in Quetta.

Muhammad Ejaz Khan

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