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January 12, 2018

Hazara demands


January 12, 2018

We have been watching the systematic killing of Pakistan’s Hazara Shia community, based mainly in Quetta, over the last two decades. Now, the community, through the Hazara Action Committee, has moved the Supreme Court to identify those responsible for the periodic massacres of the group which is both an ethnic and sectarian minority. The HAC has asked that the Supreme Court set up a judicial commission to look into the targeting of Hazaras. The court has been told that almost half the country’s 600,000 Hazaras have fled the country because their businesses were attacked, and their homes were constantly under threat. The Hazara Town area of Quetta, a two kilometre stretch of land, has become a virtual prison for Hazaras who have been too scared to leave it for fear of their lives. According to the HAC, at least 2,000 Hazaras have been killed in targeted attacks over the last 18 years. Some of the worst attacks involving suicide bombings in and close to the Hazara Town area killed hundreds from the community five years ago. And the killings have continued, with seven Hazaras killed in two separate gun attacks on their vehicles in September and October last year.

The Supreme Court has said that the bench will pass an appropriate order in this respect. The reality, however, is that even if a commission is set up, as happened after the killing of nearly 100 lawyers in Quetta in a militant attack in August 2016, this is unlikely to solve the problem. In the past, judicial commissions have achieved very little. This is not a matter of identifying the groups responsible. We know who these extremists are and we have been made familiar with the hatred that drives them. The problem is apprehending them. The indication by the HAC that they had support from powerful elements should indeed be investigated. Sadly, however, given the intolerance we have created within our country, the Hazara community continue to face special risks because they are easy to identify on the basis of ethnicity. We have already left too late the task of saving them. Drastic action on several fronts would be required if Pakistan and Quetta were to become a more hospitable place for the Hazaras, who areas are equal and valuable citizens of this land.

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