Tuesday Jan 09, 2018
Last week, I was watching television when I heard a statement by Imran Khan. He told a foreign news channel that extremism is a small problem for Pakistan. There are, he said, other bigger concerns. I agree, Khan sahib. Extremism is not a big problem, for you. But for us, it is the only problem.
Due to extremism, I have lost two of my closest friends, family members and acquaintances. I have lost my means of living. I have lost my freedom.
Khan sahib should have asked us, anyone of us. We would have told him how we, Hazaras, live, or don’t live anymore, in Quetta.
But he isn’t the only one. Pakistanis are told every day that the backs of terrorist have been broken. I will believe that only when I can travel to the market outside the red zone of the Alamdar road, where most of us Hazaras live, and can travel without fear when I return home every day.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb has brought peace to the country, but our lives remain unchanged. We are still living in fear. We still recite the kalima every time we go out. We still cover our faces.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a 32-year-old father of four. Quetta is where I was born and where I continue to live, earning a living through selling shoes. Since I am not literate, I don’t have any beautiful words to describe my experience.
Maybe it is just my imagination. But I remember as a child there was no distinction between a Pashtun, Baloch or Hazara. We attended weddings, dinners and funerals together. But now we are prisoners in jail. Actually, our lives are worse than that of prisoners. At least in prison, your loved ones can visit you. Our relatives prefer not to travel to the red zone.
Even we don’t know when they will target us next. And we will be targeted again, that is for sure.
The check posts form a circle around us. Policemen routinely ask us for identification when we move around. I was working in the red zone for a long time, but the money I made could barely meet our expenses. So my brother and I - he is a coal mine digger - found work outside. Both of us would rather not be out here, due to the risk. But what choice do we have?
In the red zone, there is only one government school. Several private schools exist but their fee is too high for us to afford. There is also just one public hospital that can not cater to all our people.
My friends and relatives who live in the Punjab province have tried to convince me to move. They tell me there are all kinds of provisions there. Isn’t it funny that the same party is ruling in both provinces and one has abundant facilities and the other has none? But I am too scared to leave. There is no guarantee that I will not be targeted and killed in Punjab either.
It has been 12 years. Hazaras have been asking for only one thing: safety. Who will give it to us?
Ali is a worker of the Hazara Democratic Party.
Note: The views expressed, are those of the author, and do not reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group.