The movement against the continued oppression against the Shia Hazara community, one of the darkest and neglected tragedies of Pakistan, finally received some acknowledgment and empathy from the State. Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with representatives of the Hazara community that has been hit badly by incidents of targeted killing in the city. According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the COAS, who gave an assurance that those behind the attacks “shall suffer twice as much”. This meeting caught the attention of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar, who took suo moto notice of the targeted killings on Wednesday and sought a report on the situation from all law enforcement agencies.

While one would be hard-picked to choose one cause for protest for the Hazara community, which has seen series of horrific events over the years, the events that prompted the protests this time was the murder of two shopkeepers belonging to the Shia Hazara community, who were killed in a drive-by shooting in Quetta.

This unprecedented action of the state, where it actually responded to the grievances of an oppressed community, serves as an exemplary lesson to the establishment, government and judiciary alike. This shows how legitimate protests over grievances can be solved with engagement rather than suppression and dismissal.

This is a much better alternative to the previous strategy adopted by the State to any protests regarding human rights- whereby protests by Tehreek-i-Labaik making unreasonable demands would be met with appeasements, heart wrenching and genuine cries for human rights by oppressed communities would be neglected and suppressed.

The Hazara suffering would not have been so terrible, and so longstanding, had our state adopted this current approach to their protests. Since 2008, Hazaras have witnessed senseless violence committed against their community. The apathy and non-reaction from central Pakistan was so great that even the display of dead Hazara bodies, in the protest of 2013 where the Hazara community refused to bury their dead as a form of protest, failed to bring about any action or response from the state. Apathy and resistance to human rights movements, and to calls against violence only exacerbates the situation, and in this case, has lead thousands of the Hazara community to seek refuge in foreign countries. It is hoped that the state has learned this lesson for good and will apply it to any other protest movement in the future as well.