Sit-in Protest (London)
Report By Adil Shahzeb
The deadly double bombing in Quetta last week left more than 86 Hazara Shia Muslims dead and hundreds injured. For over four days, the devastated men, women and children of the community sat in protest with the bodies of their loved ones in sub-zero temperatures, demanding an end to the genocide.
The protests soon spread out to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and London, where a large number of Sunni and Shia Muslims sat in for 68 hours until the demands of the Quetta protesters were met.
“Our graveyards are full now,” said Liaquat Ali, from the London-based Hazara United Forum, while protesting at the Pakistan High Commission in London. “What is our crime? We are the most non-violent and peaceful citizens of our country, and love it as much as anyone else. How can killing us any geopolitical objectives for anyone?”
“Hazaras are under siege,” said Wajahat Ali. “Dear Pakistan, please save our men, women and children! Does anyone understand the suffering of the families of the 86 innocent people who have been killed?” he said before bursting into tears.
Alongside hundreds of Shia and Sunni Muslims, the London sit-in was attended by British politicians, a delegation of the MQM, and the Pakistan High Commissioner to UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, to express solidarity with the target killings of the Shia community in Pakistan.
According to Amnesty International, there were more than 40 attacks on the Shia Muslims in Pakistan during the year 2012 and between four to five hundred Shia Muslims were killed across Pakistan in these attacks.
“There are repeated attacks on Shia Muslims across Pakistan, certainly we believe that the government really needs to make concerted effort on an action plan on how it is going to protect the Shia Muslims,” said Polly Truscot, Director South Asian Pacific, Amnesty International.
The British government also condemned the attacks on the Shia population of Pakistan, in the strongest possible words. “The United Kingdom strongly condemns these senseless attacks and the persecution of the Shia population. It was a tragic day for Pakistan said British Foreign Secretary,” said William Hague.
Many at the London sit-in believed that the authorities had failed completely in tracking down the banned militant outfits who have often claimed responsibility for the attacks on Shias and Hazaras.
“Sectarian outfits that are banned in the rest of the country are still operative in Balochistan without being challenged by the security forces,” said Mustafa Zaidi who spent three nights protesting at the London sit-in along with his 10-day-old baby.
Many believe Pakistan’s policy of exploiting far right militant groups as a foreign policy tool was the reason behind the increasing violence in the country.
“The Shia do not fit in the state’s overall Deobandi-Salafi-Nationalist outlook,” according to famous columnist Dr Muhammad Taqi. “They are being sacrificed at the altar of the global jihad. You cannot tell militant groups to fight in Kashmir and Kabul and not kill the Shia at home.”
According to the Hazara United Forum, nearly 1,000 Hazaras have been killed and over 2,000 injured in 120 recorded terrorist attacks in the last two years.
Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.
“In Muharram, our Sunni brothers used to set up Sabeels for us, now we mourn ourselves and lift our own dead and bury them ourselves,” said Shabna Khan, an activist. “We no longer prepare jahez or baree, because it is cloth for shrouds that comes by the yards.”
Adil Shahzeb is an international broadcaster and writer. He tweets at @adilshahzeb and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org