Pakistani Security Fails to Protect Hazara

The security forces of Pakistan have failed in their duty to protect the Hazara community in the city of Quetta. On Saturday, a bomb blast killed 84 and injured around 170 in the Hazara quarter of the city. Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfikar Magsi said local security forces were either “too scared or too clueless” to act. So, 4,000 women have begun a sit-in and are refusing to bury the dead until there is some kind of action by the security forces. For once, the Islamabad government can’t blame the west.

The Hazara are largely Shi’ite Muslims who live in largely Sunni Pakistan and Afghanistan. Naturally, then, the governments of those two states view them as agents of Shi’ite Iran. With the schism between Sunni and Shi’ite worsening in the last few decades, Pakistan’s Hazara have come to expect abuse from the government that is supposed to protect them.

Judging from the statistics, things are getting worse for the Hazara. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported that there were over 400 deaths due to sectarian attacks in Pakistan. Less than 2 months into 2013, the death toll is coming up on 200. Saturday’s attack, claimed by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, used close to a ton of explosive hidden in a water tanker truck. This suggests an organized, planned effort. It is very difficult to stop a lone wolf attack, but proper intelligence and police work can pre-empt a more elegant attack like this was. The governor agrees, “it’s their job to pre-empt such attacks. That’s what they are paid for.”

The failure, of course, is symptomatic of the dysfunctional nature of the Pakistani security forces. A huge segment of the security forces back the Sunni militants; indeed, the ISI has funded the Taliban in Afghanistan and does nothing against it in Pakistan. This faction is well-positioned within the state, and it uses its power not to protect the people but to protect its interests. Among those interests is letting groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to do as they please.

Whether Balochistan has reached a tipping point or not is hard to determine. With 4,000 women in the streets and with bodies unburied despite the Islamic custom of rapid burial, it is clear that the Hazara are agitated more than usual. If the governor can get some action against the murderers, there is every chance the situation can improve. Failing to get any action, on the other hand, could result in the Hazara responding in kind. That wold be bad for just about everyone.

The 4,000 engaged in the sit-in are not alone. Dawn Media Group in Pakistan reported, “The Pakistan Bar Council, Sindh High Court Bar Association, Karachi Bar Association and Malir Bar Association boycotted court proceedings to protest against the killings of innocent citizens in Quetta. Some enraged protestors in Islamabad engaged in rioting near the Faizabad bridge injuring several media persons including a camera man of DawnNews. The routes to Islamabad airport were also blocked by the protestors.”

How does one say “No justice, no peace” in Urdu?