Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

In the shadow of violence, Quetta’s divides multiply

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Persecution can bring people together. It can also prise them apart.

In Pakistan, so many minorities are threatened by homicidal extremists that travelling the country can feel like hopping across an archipelago of communities under varying degrees of siege.

Rarely is the impression stronger than in Quetta, the fear-filled capital of Baluchistan province, and a cauldron of the bigotry and intolerance that has poisoned so much of Pakistan’s body politic.

A wave of killings unleashed on the Hazara community has left its 500,000 members afraid to venture out of their enclaves in the east and west of the city. At least 100 have been killed in Quetta and its environs since January. Nobody has been prosecuted.

Hazaras blame Lashkar-e-Jhangvi , a Sunni militant group, for the killings. The group has stepped up its campaign against Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority this year, spreading fear from hamlets in the foothills of the Himalayas to the backstreets of Karachi. The Hazaras of Quetta, who are Shi’ites, have suffered the heaviest losses.

The killers of Quetta

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Cut-out cardboard hearts, stars and a slogan that cheerfully declares “The Earth Laughs In Flowers” adorn the classrooms of the Ummat Public School in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The bright images cannot dispel the sense of foreboding shared by dozens of teenage girls seated at their desks, all members of the town’s Hazara community.

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