In an unfortunate incident that took place in Balochistan province of Pakistan on Friday night, dozens of heavily armed gunmen, wearing the uniforms of security forces as described by the eye witnesses, stopped two buses, singled out ethnic Pashtuns after checking their national identification cards and fatally shot at least 22 of them.
As I write this, hundreds of protesters, mostly the relatives of slain victims, who have refused to bury the dead, are holding a sit-in outside the Governor's House in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan Province, vowing to continue the protest until the punishment of killers. Most roads in the city were deserted, and businesses were closed to protest the killings.
Attacks like these are not new in Pakistan. In the past, militant outfits, both sectarian and ethnic separatists, have carried out attacks of same nature. Militants have stopped buses, separated passengers belonging to any specific religious or ethnic group, singled them out and killed them on the spot. In the year 2012, two horrific incidents were reported from Kohistan and Mansehra where Shiite Muslims were pulled out of the buses and were gunned down by the militants after the sect of victims was identified through their Id cards. This time, the ethnic identity of victims became the reason as Pashuns were killed after getting identified.
Yet, every time an attack of sectarian/ ethnic nature takes place in Pakistan, we have a brigade that shows up with their usual patriotism rhetoric how calling the dead "Shiites" or "Pashtuns" as in the recent case would "affect" the national unity. Anyone with even an inch of sense would understand that these 22 Mastung victims were killed only because they were Pashtuns. If anyone comes up with the argument of not to call the dead, "Pushtuns" but "Humans" or "Pakistanis" then this argument is illogical and fallacious as it is quite obvious that their ethnic identity was the reason behind their murder. Similarly, when if a bus is stopped, ID cards of all the passengers are checked, people belonging to one specific sect are separated from others and every passenger belonging to that specific sect is executed summarily, then it is a no-brainer that just like Pashtuns are killed for their ethnicity, these people are killed because of their religious identities.
Killing of Pashtun passengers is sad and condemnable and I am using the word Pashtun because they were killed for being Pashtun just like the people killed in Mansehra and Kohistan were killed for being Shias when they were pulled out of the buses and slaughtered.
There is no doubt in the fact that people are being killed all over Pakistan. Some are being killed in a political conflict as is happening in Karachi between militant wings of different political parties, others are being killed during bomb blasts, suicide attacks by the elements who have turned anti state just like the attack on Army School in Peshawar which left almost 150 dead. It was not the attack on any religious or ethnic group. It was the attack on the Army by the elements who are at war with the Army and state of Pakistan. It is quite possible that some of those 150 were Shiites, it is quite possible some would have been Pashtuns but nobody specified those terms while reporting the issue as the attack was the attack on the state of Pakistan by the militants who are anti state. They caused maximum damage for which they killed indiscriminately regardless of any religious or ethnic identity. That being said this is also true that some are being specifically targeted for their religious beliefs in the country. Sectarian violence is one of the most serious problems that Pakistan faces today. According to stats presented on South Asia Intelligence review, till now 186 people have been killed in sectarian attacks this year. Attacks on Shiite mosques in Peshawar and Shikarpur, followed by the attack on Church in Lahore and the recent attack on Ismaili community in Karachi that left 50 dead not just shows the seriousness of the issue but also tells the fact that patriotism rhetoric does not really help curbing it. In such case, it is important for us to acknowledge the nature of the crime committed. It is important for us to acknowledge who the crime was committed against because therein lies the motive behind the crime. In February this year, three Muslim Americans Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were killed near the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in an attack which many saw and reported as an "Anti-Muslim terrorist attack." Ironically, I rarely saw anyone calling the dead "Americans" they were repeatedly calling them "Muslims" which was justified as their religious identity was the reason behind the crime. When the reason behind murder is hate, it becomes essential to address the root cause behind the murder which in this case was apparently their religious identity.
While remembering the Gujarat Riots of 2002, how many times have we witnessed people stating "1000 of Indians were killed in Gujarat" Do we not use the term "Muslim" for obvious reasons. When discussing the plight of Burmese Muslims of Rohingya, Nobody says "Humans were killed in Burma" we say "Muslims" were killed in Burma because they were killed for being Muslims however mentioning the faith of the dead in Pakistan through an absurd logic creates "Sectarianism" hence we should zip our mouth or listen to the lectures on patriotism from the self proclaimed stake holders of the sacred land.
Instead of viewing it with emotional bias, we must at least acknowledge the problem so that tomorrow we can reach the proper long term meaningful solution by rectifying the problem, but if we are not even in a mood to recognize the problem then how are we going to find the solution? So with all due respect to the stakeholders of my beloved land, If talking about root cause of one serious problem of our country hurts your "nationalism" or so called patriotism then by all means continue living in fools paradise where you think nobody gets killed because of their faith, but then stay quiet because you are not helping but further confusing an already confused nation.
Let us all stand firmly against Muslimphobia and antisemitism or any other hatred against any particular racial or religious group. Let us also open our eyes and acknowledge that serious problems like Shia genocide, Ahmedi persecution, Violence and discrimination against religious minority groups like Christians and Hindus do exist in Pakistan. Lets admit that Ahmedi apartheid DOES exist in our society and we can't rectify these problems without addressing the root cause.
Yes, call the dead Shia when Shia is killed, Call the dead Sunnis when Sunni Muslims are killed because of their religious identities. Call the dead Ahmedi when they are persecuted because of their faith. Call the dead Christian when there is an attack on Church. Call the dead dead Muslim when there is a hate crime just like that of Chappel Hill or Gujarat riots. Call the dead Pashtun or Punjabi when they are abducted by Baloch separatist militants and killed due to their ethnic identity because If any brown Pakistani American in US is assaulted by some white man following a racial slur, reporting the news as "An American was attacked" or how "A human was attacked" wouldn't help solving the crime or understanding the motive behind it. It would simply obfuscate the crime.
May God give patience to friends and families of these 22 people. Hope the elements behind this murder and heinous crime are brought to justice.