Saturday January 22, 2022

The Hazara killings

January 11, 2021

One of the first things one realizes about Pakistan is that its population lives in different eras. A tiny minority is attuned to the latest trends in New York and London and it is difficult to differentiate between them and the elite in Western capitals.

A huge educated majority is patriotic and many amongst them are pan-Islamists and believe that Muslims throughout the world form an ummah; some but not all are susceptible to clerics’ sermons. Then comes the vast majority of our populace: the illiterate poor masses who may or may not be happy – according to our newly found trend of conducting polls – but simply live to survive.

Such differences may be present in many other countries but the magnitude is phenomenal in our country. One segment will know the names of rivers passing through various American states and the salient features of the American constitution while the other extreme may not even know the name of our president. And the state is not doing much to bridge this gap. We may have one of the largest numbers of news TV channels but most are not accessible in the rural areas where 65 percent of the people live. Even where they are available, most prefer to watch entertainment on TV. The number of people reading newspapers then dwindles to a miniscule.

We the few reading English newspapers seldom interact with the unfortunate half, except perhaps by visiting under-developed or far-flung areas once in a while to take pictures to share on Facebook. What however is mind-boggling is when some in the educated class make assertions using strange conspiracy theories, including those related to our domestic sectarian issues.

They ignore the sermons that are given in some of our mosques where listeners are riled up against the Shia community. Such people also seem to never wonder about the ideology which prompts some to kill Shias including the Hazaras.

It took us so long to carry out a military operation in the tribal areas to flush out the terrorists. Nobody bothers to explain why this operation could not be carried out decades earlier.

Similarly, I know of no other country in the world where dangerous arms and weapons are so readily available as in Pakistan. Instead of establishing JITs and commissions headed by high court judges, all we have to do is to control the supply of weapons to drastically cut down on cases of terrorism. Attacking terrorist ideologies is more difficult but we can again look to the experience of other countries to imitate their actions, although many of them sometimes can be controversial.

Catching terrorists and hanging them in public or conducting their trial in 24 hours is not the answer. If the state shows empathy with the victims then terrorists feel frustrated. Eleven Hazara coal miners were killed in Mach on January 2. The Balochistan government lacked the courage to visit the protesters in Quetta while the prime minister made a mockery of the whole thing by making it an ego issue. What could a cabinet minister or a prime minister do by meeting the relatives of the unfortunate Hazara victims? Not much – but the bereaved wanted to hear words of consolation from higher authorities. The federal government then had the nerve to talk about compensation to the victims’ families. Is that the panacea to a tragedy which has not happened for the first time and, I dread to say, probably not for the last time in the country?

And lastly, both the provincial and federal government must realize that the international community, and especially Iran, is watching this closely. Apathetic actions by the government regarding the Shia community for whatever reason and to please whomever are going to be remembered for a long time to come. That will be a tragedy as Iran is one of the few countries in the world which unequivocally supports our stance on the illegal occupation of Kashmir by India.

Actions speak louder than words. You have to do something positive instead of playing in the hands of terrorists of the Islamic State. The object of terrorism is terrorism. With guns, you can only kill terrorists. It is only with education that we can kill terrorism.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.