Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Orchards to Killing Fields


Growing up in Quetta in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we all knew the name Yazdan Khan High School. Boasting a predominantly Hazara population, it was the pride of Quetta. It was an academically competitive school, but it was truly beloved for its marching band. With bright red and white uniforms and amazing musicality, these children served as our representatives. Whether welcoming visiting dignitaries or performing during cricket matches at Ayub Stadium, the Yazdan Khan High School Band was always front and center, always flawless. This school, once the proud ambassador of Quetta, was on Alamdar Road, the site of the January 10th bombing.

In a soul-shaking demand for justice, the Hazara community decided to not bury their dead and are sitting out in the cold, alongside what remains of their loved ones. The leaders of the community have given a written list of demands asking that the perpetrators be apprehended and that the Hazara community be protected from further violence, that they be allowed to live their lives in peace. Reading the list brings tears to my eyes when I realize that all they are asking for is justice and freedom -- fundamental rights that should have been awarded indiscriminately to all citizens under the Constitution. This list of demands should never have been needed.

Forget about freedom and justice. Our government is barely acknowledging the loss of lives that the Hazara community, and the human race as a whole, have suffered. The entire world has felt the jarring jolt of this tragedy. People from every nation and every ethnicity are voicing their anguish at the needless loss of innocent lives and the absolute apathy of the governing bodies. But, while the provincial capital is reeling after the massacre, the Chief Minister is enjoying a vacation abroad. The death of over a hundred people was not enough reason for him to cut short his beach time, come back home, and face his responsibility. I hope he has a good reason because, short of being on his deathbed, I can’t fathom any justification for his absence at a time when his presence is needed the most. Or maybe I am expecting too much from an elected official.

This is a time when humanity should have trumped politics, but it is proven to us once again that we, the people, are in no way equal to elected office. The population of Pakistan has risen and is standing with the Hazara community both within the nation and abroad, but the political leaders are cautious in their statements. Even at a time like this, they remain consummate politicians, ever careful not to step on any toes and, God forbid, lose an influential supporter. Their affiliations are dictating their level of outrage, which is muted at best, and their lack of support compounds on an already overwhelming assault.

When will we feel truly protected by the people we elect and the police force that swear to protect us? How long will our children be fed the contorted gospel of “might is right”? We fought against the mightiest powers and carved a country for ourselves so that all religions could live free and without the fear of persecution -- we even declare it to the world by having a white band on our flag. When our brothers and sisters refuse to bury their dead until they get justice, we have to ask ourselves: if not now, then when?

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