Monday, January 14, 2013

Toronto protests against Shia killings in Pakistan

Hundreds gathered at the Toronto City Hall on January 13 to protest against the senseless murders of Shias and other minorities in Pakistan. Pakistan Development Fund, a Toronto-based student group, organized the event in which religious and other groups also participated.

A girl protesting Shia killings in Pakistan

A girl protesting against sectarian violence in Pakistan, Toronto, January 13, 2013

While the Hazaras sat with the coffins of their children who died in targeted bomb attacks on January 10, 2013, millions in Pakistan joined the grieving parents by holding protest rallies against the senseless and targeted violence against minorities in Pakistan. The Hazaras have particularly been an easy target because of their unique features that set them apart from the rest. In the past year alone, hundreds of Hazaras have died in bomb blasts and targeted killings.

Standing in the rain outside of Toronto’s iconic City Hall, the protesters raised slogans against the unabated violence against minorities in Pakistan. The chants of “We want justice, stop Shia killings” resonated in Toronto’s downtown core, which is otherwise a quiet place on a Sunday afternoon.

Speaking at the event leaders of the Hazara community in Toronto warned that the protest in Toronto and other large cities in North America and Europe should alert Pakistan’s civil and defence establishment to the reality that what goes around in Pakistan is not lost on the world, especially the Pakistanis living abroad. Furthermore, while it may be true that misguided patriotism may have made Pakistanis ignore violence and injustice in Pakistan in the past, this is no longer the case.

Others warned that Pakistanis protesting against injustices in Pakistan is indicative of the fact that Pakistan now was part of the group of rogue states whose own citizens have to alert the rest of the world to the injustices being committed in their homelands. Such acts suggest the lack of confidence in the State and its agencies to establish the rule of law in Pakistan, one protester observed in Toronto.

Ayyaz Mallick, a student at Toronto’s York University, is one such Pakistani who believes that the state and its institutions do not represent the Pakistan he has envisioned. A Sunni Muslim himself, Ayyaz organized the rally with other university students in Toronto to show solidarity with Shia Hazaras who have been sitting on Quetta’s Alamdar Road with the coffins of 76 young men who died in two bomb attacks at a popular billiard club, which was mostly frequented by the Hazara youth.

Speaking at the rally in Toronto Ayyaz asked if the State was indeed even concerned about representing the interests of the marginalized communities in Pakistan. He urged Pakistanis back home and in diaspora to be on the streets to register their protest against targeted killings of minorities in Pakistan and ethnic cleansing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta.

Dr. Alia Ali, a resident of Toronto, observed that in the climate of despair and gloom there was still some hope left when she saw Sunni students at Toronto’s universities arranging protests to register their support for the Shias in Pakistan.

As the protest wound down in downtown Toronto, the protest on Alamdar Road in Quetta continued. It was only hours later that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Parvez Ashraf, committed to imposing emergency and Governor’s rule in Balochistan. This made many in Toronto wonder why the government waited for days to take this decision. Apart from facing the indignity and immense grief of sitting on a street with the dead bodies of 75 young men, not much changed between Thursday and Sunday for the government to realize that the Balochistan has not been governed at all in the past four years, said a long-term resident of Toronto in a telephone interview.

While the Hazaras are busy burying their dead in Quetta’s Bahisht-e-Zahra cemetery, where hundreds of other victims of violence are also buried, many in Pakistan wonder why their elected governments are so reluctant to govern.

-- Reporting and videos by Murtaza Haider

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