The sensible reaction and timely empathy shown to the Hazara community by the PPP and the PML-N has created a new space for the parties in Balochistan’s politics
The callous gestures of the Balochistan government, the insensible statements of the prime minister, and the dubious role of the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) have dented the masses’ perception of the government, the MWM, and the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP).
Prior to the Mach incident in Quetta, the Hazara community supported the HDP and the MWM in the recent general elections. However, in an unfortunate turn of events, the public support for these parties is seen to be wavering at best. During the protests over killings in Mach, MPA Abdul Khalid Hazara (of the HDP) and Jam Kamal supported the prime minister’s statement about the Hazara community blackmailing him. This left the public highly disappointed. While the MWM did participate in and manage the protest, they used the occasion for their own politics with slogans against the US and Israel. The Hazara community expected the HDP and the MWM to redress their grievances, being allies of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI); instead, they proved to be completely at the disposal of the ruling party.
In this situation, dynamic and young looking leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif – reached Quetta together despite facing serious security threats. They met the families and consoled them. On the other hand, Prime Minister Khan went to Quetta after calling the victims ‘blackmailers’ and even then demanded that they come visit him at a university campus instead of directly going to where the aggrieved were gathered.
Dr Aliya Haider, a human rights activist from the Hazara community, commented, “I personally believe that Bilawal and Maryam have laid a new foundation for their parties, at least, in Quetta.” She added that “The two leaders came here and expressed solidarity with us and shared in our grief against all odds. Their words and gestures gave us feeling as if they are from our own tribe.” According to Dr Haider, the politics of the HDP and the MWM is almost over as far as the Hazara community is concerned. “People say that they supported the two parties for their representation. Instead, they represented the government and powerful quarters for personal gains” she remarked.
In this situation, the PPP and the PML-N’s dynamic and young looking leaders – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif – reached Quetta together despite facing serious security threats.
Dr Haider is of the view that the Hazara community is likely to support the PPP and the PML-N in the future. Bialwal Bhutto has turned a hero for the community as people were reminded of their affection for his grandfather and mother in the past. Similarly, Maryam Nawaz has also gained sufficient popularity especially amongst the women of the community, post her visit.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Imran Khan could have extracted political support in the situation but Khan’s reluctance and uncalled-for remarks about the protesters only lost him support amongst the masses. A PTI stalwart, who chose to be anonymous, told TNS “A majority of the ministers and advisers told the Prime Minister Khan to visit the protesters immediately but he refused. Later, his comments were shocking. Frankly, I am ashamed of his comments; so are several of my colleagues in the party.”
The sensible reaction and timely empathy shown to the Hazara community by the PPP and the PML-N has created new space for the parties in Balochistan’s politics, especially, when compared to the delayed and hesitant response of the Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and researcher. He tweets at BukhariMubasher