20 Killed As Bomb Rips Through Quetta Market

ISLAMABAD —  A bomb blast ripped through a vegetable market in Pakistan’s restive Quetta city early Friday, killing at least 20 people including the members of the ethinic Hazara community and injuring 48 others.

The blast at around 7:35 am was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) that had been hidden among the vegetables in the market, police said.

At least eight of those killed in the bomb blast at Hazarganji area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, were Hazara who belong to Shia branch of Islam.

Emergency was declared at hospitals as streams of critically injured were rushed there for treatment.

Four security personnel were also among the injured, the official added. 

Buildings located nearby were also damaged in the blast, police said. Security forces have cordoned off the site of the blast.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hazaras, who follow the tenets of Shia Islam, have a longstanding history of being subjected to sectarian violence by the Taliban and other extremist groups in Balochistan. A report released by the National Commission for Human Rights last year stated that 509 members of the Hazara community were killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta from 2013 to 2017.

Hazara make up roughly 500,000 of Quetta’s population of 2.3 million. They are so frequently targeted that provincial police chief Mohsin Butt said the victims in Friday’s blast were given police protection every time they visited the fruit market.

The latest attack came after a lull of at least a year in attacks against Hazaras, though there have been isolated shootings.

According to Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a Pakistani human rights activist: “The main reason behind violence against Hazaras is sectarian dispute.” He also points out that Hazaras are more vulnerable to being attacked than others Shias, their typical Mongolian features disclosing their identity and making them easily recognisable. 

According to statistics issued by the United Nations, militant groups working under the patronage of the Taliban have killed more than 1,500 Hazara Shias in Pakistan in the past decade. Continual violence perpetrated against Hazaras, in the form of suicide attacks, targeted killings and bombings, has forced them to live in restricted areas, which has further led to economic difficulties for the minority.

“Everyone who leaves for work, leaves under the fear that he or she might not return,” says Mariam a Hazara who lost her brothr in a similar incident last year. “Scores of Hazara men and women have left Pakistan for good because employment opportunities [in Pakistan] were extremely limited and the available ones were never safe”.

While Mariam deals with the trauma of her brother’s perpetual absence, she also feels that the tragedy defines who she is and what she stands for. 

Human rights activist Nasir says whenever Hazaras face violence from militant groups, it’s common to see non-Hazara people being invited to TV studios where they make sweeping remarks and judgements on the persecuted community. 

“They don’t even get to talk about their grievances themselves on the media,” he says. “They are not considered important enough to be given a platform, so when they die no one cares.”

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