On Friday April 12, 2019, at least 20 people were killed and 48 others injured in a blast specifically targeting the beleaguered Hazara Shia community in Quetta’s Hazarganji market. Ironically, the attack came three days after the release from detention of Ramzan Mengal, the Balochistan chief of the sectarian terrorist groups, Ahle-e-Sunnat wal-Jamaat (AWSJ). Pakistan’s generals have been claiming that they are ‘mainstreaming’ the Sunni sectarian terrorist groups. Ramzan Mengal is one of those backed by the state in its fantasy of controlling Afghanistan and fighting India through terrorism. Only last year, he was allowed to contest national elections and spouted venom against Shias during his campaign under full state protection.
According to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema, who was present at the site of the attack, “the blast targeted the Hazara ethnic community. The attack took place in a [green grocer’s] shop. An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was planted in a gunny sack filled with potatoes. Whether it was timed or remote-controlled, our experts will tell. Right now they are investigating. We are giving our attention to the wounded at this time,” he said. The injured have been shifted to hospitals ─ where an emergency has been imposed ─ for treatment. We have arranged transportation back [home] for Hazaras who remained unhurt in the attack.”
This is not the first time this has happened. “The Hazarganji area in Quetta has been witness to similar attacks in the past. Hazara shopkeepers are known to stock vegetables and fruits from the Hazarganji bazaar to sell at their own shops. They are provided a security escort to and from Hazarganji since they are constantly under threat of attack.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) strongly condemned the attack and said: “The fact that this incident occurred in a vegetable market that is frequented by the Shia Hazara indicates that they remain consistently vulnerable, despite efforts to help ensure their right to life and security. This reflects a deeper sectarian problem that will not be resolved until the state makes a concerted effort to eliminate militancy and religious extremism. The Shia Hazara have been effectively ghettoised, their movement and assembly restricted, and their ability to conduct business and everyday affairs severely compromised. This is no way to live. It is worth recalling that, according to the National Commission on Human Rights, over 500 Shia Hazara have been killed in targeted attacks in the last five years. As citizens of Pakistan, the Shia Hazara community have the right to live as part of wider society without constant fear of being targeted by militant outfits. Important as it is to provide protection through police and Frontier Constabulary escorts, this is a short-term solution. The state must ensure that law enforcement agencies in Balochistan – who have themselves lost personnel in this and similar attacks – prioritise bringing the perpetrators to justice. It must also send across a clear message that the state will not countenance violence against any religious or ethnic minority.”