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Editorial

September 13, 2017

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Hazara killings

Hazara killings

As happens at periodic intervals notably in Balochistan, there has been yet another attack on the Hazara Shia community. The community has for years been targeted both on the basis of sect and ethnicity. Past attacks have been claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other groups who base their ideology along the line of sectarian belief. The latest attack follows the same pattern. It took place at Kuchlak, some 30 km away from Quetta when eight members of a single family travelling in a vehicle stopped at a petrol station. Gunmen on motorcycles armed with automatic weapons, according to police, opened fire killing four of the travelers including a 12-year old. They then escaped from the spot as security personnel reached the scene. We have heard virtually the same story over and over again. In July this year another four Hazaras were killed in a very similar attack at Mastung. Even outside of militant groups, the Hazara community faces persecution and suspicion. A narrative has taken hold – and even propagated by some in the media – that the Hazaras, and other Shias, are agents of Iran. This has led to multiple instances of buses carrying Hazara pilgrims being targeted. The Hazara Town locality in Quetta has turned into a kind of fortress area with barricades blocking off streets to prevent outsiders from entering.

It is shameful that an essentially peaceful community which has contributed a huge deal to Balochistan in terms of academics, culture and sports should be mowed down in this fashion. The primary responsibility of protecting the Hazara community of course lies with the government and in this it has failed. If the government wants to demonstrate that it treats all Pakistanis equally it can begin by tracking down those responsible for the killings in Kuchlak. Then it should go after the militant groups targeting Hazaras in the same way as it cracks down against other militant groups. From their statements it is quite clear the police have very little idea as to how to capture those responsible for the targeted murders. We must ask why our intelligence efforts have not had greater success in identifying the groups responsible and finding ways to prevent them from operating. This was, after all, the key purpose laid out in the National Action Plan of 2015. For decades, minorities have been led to believe that their lives are expendable, that their safety is not a priority. Time and again, their fears have been shown to be justified. As difficult as it may be to protect every individual Hazara, an effort must be made not only to defend them against attacks but to try and counter the narrative that has been pushed against this beleaguered community.

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