Stop Blaming Shias For Coronavirus Spread. It Is Govt That Failed To Perform Its Duty
QUETTA: COVID-19 is not just a medical emergency. It has also fueled the hate against Hazaras, the Shia-dominated community in Balochistan, as several people in the community were tested positive for the virus after returning from the pilgrimage in Iran.
Many audio recordings in which people can be heard discussing the spread of Coronavirus in Pakistan through the Hazara community have gone viral on social media. Abusive language has been used for the community in these calls and they are being held solely responsible for the spread of the virus in Pakistan, especially Balochistan.
A smear campaign was launched on social media after the Balochistan police department on March 12 issued an order to send Hazara police officials on a two-week leave. They also named Marriabad and Hazara Town (two residential towns where Hazaras are in majority) in their official notification.
A similar notification was issued on March 25 by the government of Balochistan. In this notification, more restrictions were imposed on Marriabad and Hazara Town. Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani in a tweet said that the decision to impose these restrictions on the abovementioned areas was in light of the police reports and it was necessary to maintain social distancing to prevent the residents of Balochistan from the deadly virus.
A twitter user, Obaid Shah, said in response that ‘such a decision should have been taken earlier, but this is still positive’.
Another Twitter user, Emraan Manzur, said in reply to the government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani that ‘Hazara Town and Marriabad have been cut off from the rest of the city for more than a decade now. Hazaras cannot even move freely in Quetta due to the fear of target-killings’.
Noshirwan Baluch also condemned the decision and said that the government was fueling the sectarian hatred with such decisions.
The names and mobile numbers of the infected pilgrims were also made public. It is not only illegal but also against medical ethics. When the government spokesperson was asked about this blatant violation of the patients’ privacy, he said that an inquiry had been launched to probe the irregularities committed, but no notification or the names of the committee members have yet been shared.
Hazaras are among the most persecuted and marginalized communities in Balochistan. Hazara Town has been like a big, open-air quarantine for the last two decades. The myth that Hazara Shia pilgrims were responsible for the spread of Coronavirus in Pakistan contains no reality. A large number of Sunnis also traveled to Iran for trade and other purposes. They were not even quarantined at the border. Shia pilgrims were quarantined for weeks before being allowed to go home while these Sunnis were allowed to go to their home towns without any checks whatsoever. It is unfair to blame the Shias, or the Sunnis when the government itself failed to perform its duties.