Raiding Sit-in Protests

Source: Pakistan Today

Right ahead of the launching ceremony of Khadim-e-Aala’s brilliant Metro Bus Service in Lahore, the hunger strike and sit-in protest camp of the Young Doctor’s Association was raided by Punjab police. They used violence and injured dissenting doctors in a very “fascist” manner, though the adjective is usually reserved for liberals in Pakistan. Even orders of arrresting doctors at sight were issued.

I am not talking about the YDA protest march to disrupt the launching ceremony over here, even though violence on those protestors is as wrong and horrid, even if we assume that these protests are politically motivated as alleged by the ruling party. The protesting doctors later made peace with the CM after breaking the fast, though I don’t expect it to last for long.

I would just like to ask if the people of the province would remain as calm had even a fraction of such a police raid been made on the sit-in protest organized by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad. This is something that everyone of us must ask ourselves and get our priorities straight, because a spectator would expect people to support a protest demanding better healthcare. No messages here for the Punjab government when some of our leaders think that this is the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve. Anyway.

I know a lot of friends would have supported action against the Islamabad sit-in protests calling for electoral reforms, regardless of who organized it and who did not, genuine or staged or whatever, because they did not agree with it, as neither did I. But I would have still strongly oppossed any violent action against the protestors, though there was talk of planning for carrying it out.

Because I knew that a lot more sit-in protests will be held all across the country in the future, whether they are about things you agree with or not. Yes, in a democracy, you never always get what you want, especially when you are living in a state as turbulent as Pakistan. And let’s talk about only those sit-in protests which remain peaceful and don’t become destructive in terms of damage to property.

And there will be more necessary sit-in protests as the ones carried out by the Shia and Hazara community. Because apparently our current PM Raja Pervez Ashraf sb needs a few corpses on the road every now and then to be inspired to get to work.

Before you are outraged at the post, I am not comparing the causes here, just the form of protest. Because you see, traditionally, our protests as a nation and a people are wild and violent, involving a lot of fire and gunshots, and that is what the world knows us for. Sit-in protests can really suck sometimes, especially when they disrupt life (though that is what they are meant for).

It is irritating but if Pakistanis have started to protest peacefully for a change, why force them to become violent? This is why the raid on the doctors’ camp, especially if it wasn’t even causing a road blockade, was wrong on so many levels.

But another part of me, though not strongly, doesn’t really want to put up with all the road blockades and traffic jams for too long. Though I know that there is no choice but to be stuck with a social and political system that is content with putting up with all the injustice and violence.

The Perseverance of the Hazara

Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

Irfan Ali – Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

The January 10 Alamdar Road bombings in Quetta targeting the Hazara and Shia community has worked somewhat like the last straw for both these troubled people and our troubled nation. The Hazara community held a sit-in protest for three days with the corpses of the victim on the road. Similar sit-in protests were also held in other major Pakistani cities in solidarity. The protests triggered the Prime Minister to fly over to Quetta and confirm Governor’s rule in Baluchistan, dismissing the Raisani regime.

Even though I am not sure what good would the Governor’s rule do and if the community could feel safer with increased military security, it is encouraging to see that the protest had its effect. It was surely not a wasted exercise but I am not sure if I agreed with every demand of theirs. But I do hope it works whatever they are. I mean at least words were not falling on deaf years this time around, as has largely been the case with Shia killings in Pakistan in general.

Vigil for Irfan - Source: Shiraz Hassan

Vigil for Irfan Ali in Islamabad – Source: Shiraz Hassan

Sadly for Pakistani twitterati and human rights groups, peace activist Irfan Ali ( @khudiali ) also lost his life in the incident. He was one of the most energetic activists around in Pakistan and was the face of the struggle of the Hazara in many ways.  I am sure that he will be missed greatly by those on the forefront of fighting for the rights of the community and it is simply heartbreaking to even think of all the precious lives lost in this incident. All we can do is just write words on blogs and on twitter.

Even Irfan’s last tweets are reflective of how painful the situation is on ground in Quetta for the Hazara community.

 

I met a couple of my friends in the Hazara community who were also actively staging the protests. What I loved about not only them but almost all the members of the Hazara community in the Islamabad protests was that they were smiling and were in high spirits despite all what was happening to them. They were welcoming everyone with open arms. It is not easy to do that when you are going through hell and staring death in the face.

But apart from any one particular sit-in, the entire Hazara community has remained remarkably calm and peaceful. Given the viciousness of the people of this region, their peaceful behavior has restored some of my long lost faith in humanity. Even though all people like me can offer is moral support, I really hope that the people killing them stop doing it. Because I don’t really see the Pakistani government taking any action against them whatsoever.

All the rest of the communities in Pakistan need to break our silence about it. While we can all hope that the madness of the targeted killing of the Shia community in general and Hazara in particular comes to an end, simply increasing the military security will do no good. Baluchistan is already virtually under military control, so what they need to do is take proactive action against terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

If they are serious to stop this genocide, that is.

The Hazara: A People Without Land and Security

The Hazara community is facing a double crisis in Pakistan. Not only are they being targeted for following the Shia Islam faith but also because of their ethnic distinction. At least that is the impression that I have been told to get and it pretty much seems like so too. In contrast, the choice of these words would sound absolutely devastating for someone living terror and death and bloodbath every single day. That’s just about how safe the Hazara community is in Pakistan.

Now I am not sure about that as I don’t know what I mean by Pakistan any more. Do I even have to add Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan in it anymore because I am not even confident if those are really parts of Pakistan anymore, or what the term Pakistan means anymore. No such thing as government exists in those places, it seems. The community is currently suffering probably its worst genocide in the history of Pakistan. There are just under a million people of the community in Pakistan and most of them are settled in Baluchistan. What is even more painful is that a lot of the Hazaras have roots in Afghanistan and a lot of them moved to Pakistan in hope for a better life and a better future as war pillaged Afghanistan for decades.

Given the kind of claims Pakistanis make of their devotion to the Muslim brotherhood and the kind of protection they can offer to non-Muslim religious minorities, let alone adherents of their own faith, is this the kind of treatment we are offering them? Of course, many of the faithful don’t spare the non-Muslims at all anyway, but why these people, given their Muslim faith? Oh wait, they don’t consider them a part of their own community of the faithful. While we should be celebrating diversity, is this the way we respond to it? With such intolerance. If you don’t like diversity, you are really missing out on the beauty of life. Believe me.

There have been many posts that I have written which have made me ashamed to be a Pakistani but probably none equals the gravity of this particular one. I just met a friend from the Hazara community at the Pul-e-Jawan event and I could hardly look him in the eye out of the embarrassment that the ignorant theocratic, fascist and racist values prevalent in all provinces and areas of the Pakistan make you go through. For most parts, the Hazara people are being targeted because an overwhelming majority of the community adheres to the Shia sect of Islam.

Many of the overzealous segments in the Pakistani Sunni society consider them non-Muslims and call for murdering them openly, which goes to show everyday as members from the Shia community are regularly targeted, the latest example being journalist Murtaza Razvi in Karachi, who by the way has nothing to do with the Hazara community. He could even have been targeted for simply being a journalist, another tragedy of the country. Not saying that the Shia don’t have militant elements too, but not as much as the other majority sects, and where’s the responsibility? The government turning a blind eye like always.

The good thing is that the Hazara community is raising their voices in peaceful protest against the absolutely unacceptable and intolerable genocide for just being different as far as race and faith are concerned. The community is primarily targeted in areas where the hold of the Pakistani law is supposedly weak, but that is no excuse not only because things are not any better in other areas of the country where it supposedly is applied with full force and also because of the disastrous theological and cultural norms that have been accepted and openly nurtured by the strong and the powerful elite of the country, resulting in such disastrous results.

The Hazara Protest in Islamabad (Source: Hazara News Pakistan)

The Hazara community held a protest in front of the Islamabad Press Club on April 14, 2012, demonstrating how peacefully they are reacting against the most violent and unacceptable campaign of their organized genocide. Appreciation for Marvi Sirmed, Farzana Bari and Dr. Asim Sajjad for joining the protest in solidarity as reported by the Hazara News Pakistan blog. Their voices and endorsements are much stronger of course. The protesters from the Hazara community in Baluchistan have talked to the Governor of the province as well, but all they got were assurances that are not backed by any guarantees of course. And they are not even too politically active and aggressive, so please do not confuse them for the campaign demanding the Hazara province in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province or the former NWFP.

The Hazara Protest in Islamabad (Source: Hazara News Pakistan)

In the end, I would like to apologize to my Hazara friends for not being able to make it to the Islamabad protest but they will always find my voice for their support whenever they require it. I am in part guilty of what is happening to them because I and many more like me are simply not doing enough in a multi-fragmented society that has become a killing machine over time, any foreign hand or not, as many of us conveniently like to believe.

Yet again I am very ashamed to be a Pakistani while I say that.