By Hassan Raza
02 June, 2015
It happened again. In an unfortunate incident which took place in Balochistan on Friday night, dozens of heavily armed gunmen wearing the uniforms of security forces (as described by eyewitnesses), stopped two buses, singled out ethnic Pakhtuns after checking their national identification cards and fatally shot at least 22 of them.
Right now, as I write this, hundreds of protesters – mostly relatives of slain victims – have refused to bury the dead and are holding a sit-in outside the Governor’s House in Quetta, vowing to continue the protest until the killers are punished.
Attacks like these are not new in Pakistan. In the past, militant outfits of both sectarian and ethnic separatist groups have carried out attacks of the same nature. They have stopped buses, singled out passengers belonging to any specific religious or ethnic group and shot them dead on the spot.
In the year 2012, two horrific incidents were reported from Kohistan and Mansehra, where Shia Muslims were pulled out of buses and gunned down by militants after their sects were identified through their ID cards. This time, the determining factor was the ethnic identity of Pakhtun victims.
Still, every time an attack of a sectarian/ethnic nature takes place in Pakistan, we witness a jingoistic brigade turning up with their rather mindless rhetoric about how calling the dead "Shia" or "Pakhtun", as in the recent case, would "affect" national unity.
It is tragic that after all that has gone on, an overwhelming number of people are sold on this hypocritical rubbish. Anyone with an iota of common sense would understand that the 22 Mastung victims were killed only because they were Pakhtuns – that's what the act of being singled out was supposed to convey; that they were killed for their ethnicity.
'No, no, they were humans', 'Don't call them Pakhtuns, call them Pakistanis' – these statements are false, illogical and counterproductive.
Yes, people are being killed all over Pakistan; some due to political conflicts between militant wings as in Karachi, and others due to bomb blasts and suicide attacks by anti-state elements. But the victims of these attacks are hardly chosen arbitrarily.
The attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar was not directed at any religious or ethnic group, but it certainly was directed at the Army, by elements who are at war with the Army and the state. Some of those 150 casualties may have been Shia, whereas most were probably Sunni and Pashtuns.
Nobody specified those terms while reporting the incident because it did not make sense to paint an indiscriminate attack as an attack on a certain group – just like it does not make sense to paint a suicide blast at a Shia mosque as an attack on 'Pakistanis' in general.
According to stats presented in the South Asia Intelligence Review, till now 186 people have been killed in sectarian attacks this year alone. The Peshawar and Shikarpur incidents; the Church blast in Lahore; the attack on the Ismaili community in Karachi; the list shows not just how serious the issue is but also the fact that hyper-nationalist rhetoric is not helping to curb the issue.
If the killing of the three Muslim Americans in February this year was more than an attack on 'Americans'; the Gujarat riots of 2002 more than an attack on 'Indians'; the sufferings of Rohingya Muslims more than the sufferings of 'Burmese', then everything happening in our country is also more than an attack on 'Pakistanis'.
While we stand against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism or any other kind of hatred, let's also acknowledge the Shia and Ahmadi persecution, and violence and the discrimination against minority groups like Christians and Hindus.
Acknowledge the motive. Find the root of the problem. Fix it.
That is how you solve issues, not through denial.
In the matter of crushing terrorism, I believe the mindset of the awaam is as important as that of the rulers, and any more denial will simply not do.
Hassan Raza is a journalism student. He works passionately to bridge the gaps between people of all religious communities within Pakistan.