In March 2021, at least 11 Hazaras were killed in Quetta. Referring to the attack as a conspiracy at the time, then information minister Shibli Faraz had tweeted, “The insensitive people lacking humanity are those who cannot resist political point-scoring even on tragedies [sic].”
Later, when a Shia mosque in Peshawar was bombed on March 4, 2022, it was once again labelled a conspiracy and an attempt to incite sectarian violence at a time of political instability.
While the use of sectarianism for political gains and to spread discontent might be true, it is perplexing how Pakistan’s Shia community continues to get the short end of the stick. Not only do they continue to lose members of their community, but are also met with indifference when expressing pain or trying to highlight the violence they face.
While targeted violence against the community has decreased significantly over the past few years, the hostility still manifesting itself through microaggression and smaller attacks amid little to no media coverage, cannot be denied. The aggression that sunk its teeth into the country during former military ruler Ziaul Haq’s regime through the creation of extremist organisations is seen bleeding the country dry to date. Larger attacks and bombings are less frequent, but hostility is rampant even now.
Only in September, a public gathering of the community was attacked in Sialkot. This was on top of continuous targeted attacks against influential Shia personalities such as Zakir Naveed Ashiq, who was killed earlier this month.
Despite all this, many go as far as to deny the atrocities against the Shia community, refusing to believe how they, like the country’s vulnerable religious minorities, are targeted and faced with oppression due to their faith.
While most of these incidents, on one hand, go unreported on mainstream media altogether, any coverage of Shia killings is unfortunately termed “political ploys to incite sectarianism”, on the other.
Baselessly defining those behind such incidents as external enemies only allows the masses to shroud themselves in a veil of ignorance to sweep away the prejudice faced by the members of the community on a daily basis.
It is high time Pakistanis understood that ignoring any divisions in the country or turning a blind eye towards crimes against vulnerable communities, will not resolve anything. It is time we start finding answers to the tough questions we often ignore.
For it is not by ignoring differences that we are united, but by learning to co-exist.