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Pakistan Deaths
Pakistan Cases

EDITORIAL: What occurred in Mach town of Balochistan in the wee hours of Sunday is beyond belief. 11 coal miners belonging to the Shia Hazara community sleeping in a mud room near the mine were awakened to be blindfolded, trussed up and slaughtered one by one, like animals. They were butchered merely because of their sectarian affiliation. Soon after news of the appalling tragedy spreads members of the Hazara community came out blocking traffic on the Western Bypass and the Quetta-Sukkur Highway to vent their anger and dismay at the brutal killings. Their protest was also a desperate call for protection for the rest of them. The so-called Islamic State (IS) has taken responsibility of the carnage.

Balochistan has had a long tradition of a secular culture. In the coal mines of Mach, the Hazaras have been working for as long as anyone can remember. Like other sections of society, members of this community served in different other fields .One of them, Gen Musa Khan was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army from 1958 to ’66. But things began to change when violent sectarianism started to rear its ugly head in this country under the Zia regime. Countless lives have since been lost to sectarian terrorism all over the country. Although the threat has diminished considerably, there is no respite for the Shia Hazaras. Easily identifiable from their facial features they have been repeatedly targeted anywhere and everywhere: traveling on public transport, in the markets, on way to school, or going about their daily chores. Compelled to live in the ghettoized Hazara Town they can venture out only at the risk of their lives. Many have migrated to other countries; those who stay back live in constant fear of their own and loved ones lives. To say the least, it is a shame that this should be happening in this country.

As expected, the abhorrent incident has been widely deplored by civil society and government officials, alike. Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the incident in a tweet saying he had ordered the Frontier Corps to bring the killers to justice, and assured the victims’ families they would not be left abandoned by the government. He dispatched interior minister Shaikh Rashid by his special aircraft to meet the victims’ families that are holding a sit-in. The minister was unable to persuade them to end their sit in and bury their dead. They have demanded that prime minister should come himself and provide assurance to them. As important as it is to bring the perpetrators to justice, that won’t be enough. The issue needs to be seen in its proper perspective and addressed accordingly. The IS and others of its ilk surely do not operate in a vacuum. Some media reports point out that Mach is not very far from the Afghan border, thereby suggesting the terrorists came from there. Even so, they have facilitators and activists inside Balochistan. Until not too long ago, they have been attacking leaders of non-Shia political and religious parties as well. It is not difficult to identify them. Some of the sectarian partisans are associated even with a certain mainstream party, which resists all efforts at reform. It is about time the state stepped up to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of all citizens. That may be difficult but not undoable.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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