Our Changing Values
By: Osman Khan
Thursday, the 10th of January was a tragic day when death rained on Pakistanís Provincial capital of Baluchistan, Quetta. In a deadly series of bombings, over hundred people mainly from Hazara community died and as many got injured. The dead included innocent civilians, women, children and personnel of the law enforcement agencies. A banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the responsibility for the mayhem. Elsewhere in Swat, another blast took place in a religious gathering in the outskirts of Mingora killing 22 people with scores injured on the same day. There appears to be no respite for Pakistan from nationalist, separatist and politico-religious ideologies that challenge the existence of the state. Translating these ideologies through extreme violence to kill innocent citizens has become a common norm of extremist organizations in Pakistan. What are the dynamics that allow various ideologies to grow unchecked by the state denying the people of Pakistan so much desired peace and tranquility, need a deeper look.
While it may not be wrong to link terrorism and separatism to some old and some not too old bilateral and regional conflicts, they have restricted Pakistanís growth into a strong and vibrant country. The conflict between India and Pakistan on issues like Kashmir, river waters and regular violations of LoC are some amongst many that keep the bilateral relationship and regional security in perpetual turmoil. Looking within, it is the religious disharmony that threatens the security of Pakistan. The scourge of sectarianism, a trait picked up during General Ziaís regime, was not even thought of disastrously affecting our national unity sometime in future.
Sectarian violence in Pakistan has involved two communities the Shias and Sunnis. Since 2001, the war in Afghanistan has been spilling over into Pakistan in many complex ways with disastrous consequences for the country. Political and economic factions interact with tribal, ethnic, religious and political identity groups bringing violent conflicts into the hearts of Pakistan. Saudi Arabia and Iranís proxy wars for influence through support to various allied Islamists and sectarian movements in Pakistan, also contributed in a huge manner towards de-stability of Pakistan.
The last couple of years have seen Shias especially those from Hazara community getting targeted in Pakistan on regular basis. In Quetta carnage, families of 86 of the dead Hazara Shiites refused to bury their dead and instead, staged a sit in with dead bodies on their sides demanding that Pakistan army take control of the Province of Baluchistan and that the Federal Government dismiss provincial government. Over five hundred thousand Hazaras live in Baluchistan with major part of the community living in Quetta. These people had migrated to Pakistan and settled in Baluchistan more than hundred years ago. Most of the incidents against Hazara community took place in Mastung which also happens to be the home district of ousted Chief Minister of Baluchistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani. It was surprising that during whole the episode, the Chief Minister of Baluchistan remained out of the country and despite repeated requests of the Prime Minister, he did not return to attend to his people at the critical juncture.
Notwithstanding the unbearable loss of Shias and Sunnis through sectarian violence, a change is being observed in our protesting ways. In case of Hazaraís sit-in for almost four days in Quetta under testing weather conditions, there was not a single episode of violence. There were no stone throwers to be seen. No governmental or personal property was destroyed. Their sit-ins through the chilling nights, until the Prime Minister intervened and packed up Chief Ministerís Raisaniís government in Baluchistan, reflected a great restraint of protestors in resorting to violent or confrontational discourse with the State authorities to get their demands fulfilled. Non violent attitude of the Hazara protestors ultimately got what they wanted and conveyed that the same means can resist oppression and liquidate antagonism. History bespeaks that non violence during protests through sit-ins, vigils, fasting and hunger strikes ultimately compelled leadership and the state to change their minds and hearts and persuaded them to agree to protestorsí point of view while remaining within the stateís constitutional bounds. Such types of protests do not make their opponents suffer instead they show that they are willing to suffer themselves in order to bring about a change. Over almost four days of protests by Hazara community with dead bodies by their sides was a painful sight for all of us and amounted to a national shame. It was for this acclamation that citizens in other cities and towns were morally touched and gathered in large numbers and protested over the carnage. Maulana Tahirul Qadriís controversial long march and sit-in Islamabad is another example where violence did not take place although the dynamics of the two events cannot be compared with each other. As the time passes by, general awareness is picking up amongst our masses of their rights and about the changes needed in our prevalent system to resurrect the country in all facets of its governance and be acknowledged by international community as a responsible and peaceful nation. The awareness of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to peoplesí rights and other state matters affecting their polity, is generating healthy discussions at various forums and as our democracy matures, Pakistan is set to become a progressive country.