The Hazara community in Quetta, Pakistan continued their protest against the Hazarganji bomb blast braving torrential rains and hollow assurances. The Hazara community in Quetta have been continuously targetted by militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba who are believed to roam freely without any pressure from the Pakistan government.
The protesters, who were joined by workers and leaders of the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) on Saturday, blocked the western bypass, which links the provincial capital with main highways, by placing heavy boulders and barricades and burning tyres and set up camps in the area.
At least 20 people, including eight members of the Hazara community, were killed and 48 others were wounded in the suicide blast whose responsibility was claimed by the Qari Husain faction of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan on Friday.
However, according to Associated Press, the militant Islamic State group in a statement posted on an IS-affiliated website claimed it had targeted the Shia population and the Pakistani army. The group also released a photograph of the bomber along with his name, Agence France-Presse (AFP) added.
As the protest against the killings continued, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi arrived in the provincial capital and met the affected families.
Speaking to the media in Hazarganji after offering condolences to the families, the minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government was seriously pursuing the investigations into the suicide attack. He said the federal government claimed full responsibility of protecting its citizens regardless of their caste, creed, religion or province.
He said, “Yesterday’s attack is condemnable and the federal government will fully cooperate in the investigation with the provincial government.”
He assured the protesting families that the government would fully implement the NAP and would take strict action against the terrorist organizations and their facilitators. The federal minister also went to Hazara Town where he condoled with the families of the suicide attack victims on the behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He strongly condemned the incident that targeted the Hazara community.
He said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan has issued a clear direction to all law enforcement agencies and cabinets to ensure that no religious or political groups affiliated with terror groups are exempted from action under NAP. Terrorism does not have any religion and we have fought this war for the past 20 years. Now, we are at the tail-end of our fight against terror.”
He said terrorism could be eliminated through education. “We will have to improve the state of health, education and security in the country or development will not be possible in the country.
“While this incident is horrifying, we are happy to see that Balochistan now has a chief minister who is far-sighted and dedicated,” Mr Zaidi said, adding that the first and foremost challenge was to turn Pakistan from a security state into an economic state.
However, the protesters refused to call off their sit-in. They said the protest would continue until all their demands were met.
The protesters were demanding that elements involved in the suicide attack be arrested and steps be taken to ensure the protection of the community and the implementation of the NAP without any discrimination. They said the government had failed to protect the Hazara community.
A large number of people also staged a protest demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club after marching on main roads. Later, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal visited the protest camp of the Hazara community and expressed solidarity with the protestors. He strongly condemned the suicide attack and said that the government had failed to give protection to the people.
He vowed to fight against terrorism as he did in the past and assured the community of full support from his party.
Persecution of Hazara Community in Quetta, Pakistan
Quetta, which is the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, has seen numerous of these violent incidents. This is in part because of a separatist movement involving militants from the ethnic minority who desire greater autonomy and also because the Pakistani military is engaged in counter-insurgency operations near to the province’s border with Afghanistan, where there is tribal strife that involves the Taliban and allied groups.
It is widely assumed that the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni Muslim extremist militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba, is behind the attacks on the Hazara community in the region.
There are differences of opinion regarding whether LeJ is a breakaway group of a banned former political party, Sipah-e-Sahaba, or simply its armed wing. The LeJ openly issues death threats to Hazaras through newspaper ads and describes them as wajib-ul-qatl (deserving of death). Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operates from sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
Various advocacy groups, such as the Hazara People International Network, have been formed to publicise the situation and promote opposition to it. The Hazara diaspora in Australia, Western Europe and North America have also joined these protests from time to time. Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the political leader of the Hazara in Afghanistan, has also expressed solidarity with the Hazara community in Quetta.
The persecution carried out against the Hazara have been documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Former Balochistan chief minister Aslam Raisani was asked to resign by protesters after Mastung Massacre. Mahmood Khan Achakzai, and Sardar Akhtar Mengal condemned the killings and demanded that the Pakistani security establishment take stern action against those involved in terrorism and acts of violence against civilians.