For Hazaras in Quetta, there is not a week that passes without the burial of a few loved ones as a result of terrorist attack. But this time, it was too much. Following twin bomb blasts that killed over 100 Hazara and injured nearly 300 in Quetta, Pakistan last Thursday, thousands of bereaved Hazara families staged a sit-in for four nights under freezing conditions, with a pile of 86 bodies lying on Alamdar Road.
In the blast one Australian resident was killed and another injured and there are unconfirmed reports of further Australian citizens among the dead and injured all from Hazara backgrounds.
Surprisingly, it has had little or no coverage in the Australian media nor does the Australia government done anything to identify the Australian citizens caught up in the incident.
Thursday's attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the most dangerous Sunni terrorist group operating in Pakistan. Inspired by Al-Qaida and Taliban ideologies, the group has for the last decade been targeting ordinary Hazara men and women on buses, in their shops, on their way to school and work. The snooker hall attack was the deadliest so far.
What emerges from this event is the extraordinary will of ordinary Hazara men, women and children to stand up against injustice in this long, desperately cold sit-in, night after night. And more importantly, they defied yet more terrorist threats and the Islamic tradition of burying bodies sooner rather than later.
'They [these dead bodies] are waking up the numb conscience of many, something even alive Hazaras have not been able to,' a female protestor said.
The exhibition of dead bodies and defiance set off acts of solidarity from Hazaras and non-Hazaras alike who joined sit-ins and protests right across Pakistan.
The protestors' demands; for the army to take control of in Balochistan, compelled the Prime Minister of Pakistan; Raja Pervez Ashraf, to dismiss the provincial government and Chief Minister, Nawab Aslam Raisani, and to announce a governor's rule to be imposed in Balochistan.
Only days later, the Prime Minister, was himself got an arrest warrant by the Pakistani Supreme Court over corruption charges, plunging the country into fresh political turmoil.
The removal of Nawab Raisani although a welcome move does not necessarily mean the situation will be improved, given that the Pakistani government policy on arresting the LeJ members remains murky.
Last year, in response to a journalist asking Nawab why he couldn't provide security to Hazaras, he replied
'We will send over truckloads of tissue paper, so they can wipe out their sorry tears.'
Abdul Karim Hekmat has a photography exhibition about Hazaras, "Unsafe Haven", at the Queensland Centre for Photography from January 20-February 17, 2013. www.qcp.org.au
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