While most were celebrating with family and friends, two Hazara Shias were shot and killed in Quetta on Wednesday – the 2nd day of Eid in Pakistan. For some communities in Pakistan, life remains harsh and unfair no matter what the occasion or the date on the calendar. Balochistan was supposed to be their safe refuge. They were forced to abandon their homes in Afghanistan when the Taliban attacked and killed 2,000 of them in the multi-ethnic city of Mazar-e-Sharif in August 1998. And now, the situation here is no better than the Taliban-rule in Afghanistan. Being a Shia, and a Hazara, and living in Balochistan means that the odds are stacked against you. There exist violent sectarian groups dedicated to targeting ‘your kind’. They fire bullets, plant bombs in residential buildings and public markets, and they do all this with impunity. Those who should have been standing between you and them have walked away to take their position on the stands. It becomes even more difficult to escape death when your distinct facial features make you easily identifiable. And while you continue to become a victim of a systematic campaign of sectarian violence, the attackers remain unhurt and free to return for more.

According to a 62-page Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled “We are the walking dead” – ‘Killings of Shia Hazara in Balochistan, the few arrests that are made following attacks hardly ever lead to convictions. The report suggests that certain elements within the security forces are sympathetic towards sectarian militants. Some members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the terrorist group which claims to be behind most attacks, have escaped from military and civilian detentions under unexplained circumstances. The military enjoys quite a presence in Balochistan. It is hard to imagine that it is not familiar with the perpetrators. The fact that they often hold public meetings and rallies ought to help. Perhaps the armed forces can play a more active role for the protection of the 500,000 members of the Hazara community. The Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) can prove helpful in this regard. As of now, well-known members of the organisation remain at large, while its chief, Malik Ishaq, continues to make a mockery of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. So far, he has been acquitted in 40-terrorism related cases, mostly on the basis of insufficient evidence. How much more blood has to be spilled before the rest of the country responds to the plight of the minority communities? Who will ensure that judges can deliver verdicts without fear of death? Who will protect the prosecutors and witnesses? Surely, the state cannot allow extermination of a people.