The protesting Hazara community in Quetta called off its sit-ins and protest in the early hours of Wednesday after Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met the community elders in Southern Command and assured them security.
General Bajwa arrived in Quetta late on Tuesday night and called tribal elders and protesting women in Southern Command to apprise him of their grievances. After his assurance, the Hazara community protesting in three separate locations of the provincial capital called off the strike and sit-ins in the early hours of Wednesday.
“Those targeting Hazara community will suffer twice as much and the state and Pakistan Army will provide security to the community,” General Bajwa said during the meeting with the community elders.
According to the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), the army chief also met the Hazara women and Advocate Jalila Haider who went on hunger strike against the targeted killing of Hazara community members.
“We are Muslim first and then anything else. Every Pakistani irrespective of religion, sect, language or caste has to stay steadfast and united to defeat hostile forces trying to create division among our nation,” said Gen Bajwa as quoted by the Army’s media wing.
Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, flanked with CM Bizenjo and Sarfaraz Bugti, visited Jalila’s camp where he assured full-proof security for the beleaguered Hazara community. After the assurance, Jalila also called off her hunger strike and had a sip of juice by the hand of the interior minister.
The recent targeted killing of two Hazara community members in Quetta sparked protest and anger among the community and they staged sit-ins at three places in the city – Western Bypass, Press Club and outside the Provincial Assembly.
Angry protestors also burnt tyres and blocked traffic at the Western Bypass on Sunday. They chanted slogans against the government and law enforcement agencies for their “failure to arrest the terrorists” involved in the killing of community members in broad daylight and “fleeing with complete impunity”.
Suo motu notice
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday took suo motu notice of the continued attacks on the Hazaras.
“It has been pointed out by the Bar and media alike that during the last several years, the Hazara community in Quetta has been a target of repeated terrorist attacks driven by ethnic and sectarian hatred,” said the CJP as he fixed the hearing of the case for May 11 at the top court’s Quetta registry.
He also sought reports from the authorities concerned, including the interior ministry, the provincial government and the Balochistan Levies, on measures taken by the respective agencies to ensure the security of the targeted clan within 10 days.
“I met the Hazara community recently. They were so afraid that they wouldn’t even lodge complaints or requests in the SC,” he said. “The killers of the community are holding public rallies.”
Further lamenting the current state of the community, Justice Nisar said that members of the community were not even provided opportunities for higher education. “They can’t go to schools or hospitals. Are they not part of Pakistan?” the top judge asked.
According to a report by the National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan released in March this year, the Hazara community has suffered 509 killings in Quetta alone during the last five years. Whereas, during April this year, there have been four separate terrorist attacks on Hazara men resulting in six casualties.
“The right to life is the most sacred human right guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution which however has been violated with impunity by miscreants against the small and dwindling community which is otherwise peaceful and law abiding,” exclaimed Justice Nisar, asking the authorities to provide causes of their failure in safeguarding Hazara lives.