“After the Hazarganji incident, I became paranoid. I couldn’t see people laugh. I was going insane,” says Muhammad Zahir, a resident of Quetta, who lost his father in an attack on the Hazara community in November 2012.
Zahir received a call from a friend on that unfortunate morning, inquiring about the whereabouts of his father, as a group of Hazara fruitsellers had been targeted in Hazarganji. Zahir’s father had gone to the market to buy fruit to sell at his shop in the Hazara town.
Zahir found the bullet-riddled body of his father after eight hours of relentless search.
Hazarganji is a local hub of vegetables and fruits in the Quetta city from where locals purchase wares to sell at their shops in different places. Extremist militants have attacked the area many times in the past. The government assurances for the safety of Hazaras have rung hollow as vegetable and fruit dealers of the Hazara community continue to be targeted.
The repeated attacks have left devastating socio-economic effects Hazaras. Forty-nine year old Zahir, who had invested 35 years of his life to revive and promote the art of hand weaving, had to shut down his business as the killing of his father affected his mental health. He became a recluse. He did not feel normal.
Extremist militants have attacked the area many times in the past. The government assurances for the safety of Hazaras have rung hollow as vegetable and fruit dealers of the Hazara community continue to be targeted.
Zahir had worked hard to grow his business. He used to design fine carpets with the help of about 100 employees. But for the past three years, he has been on anti-depressants.
Zahir has not been alone in this predicament. Thousands of Hazaras are experiencing side effects of repeated trauma. American Psychiatric Association confirms that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, or a terrorist act, and the reaction mostly involves depression, anxiety, sadness, horror, fear, anger, and helplessness. The outcome of such incidents differs from person-to-person. Therefore, incidents such as the Hazara killings in Hazarganji have caused severe mental disorders among the survivors.
Zahir was lucky to have founds a mental health consultant who directed him to live a better life. But there are hundreds of others who are fighting the mental health battle without help. In the absence of no support from the state, in shape of rehabilitation centres and post-trauma treatments, many people have developed acute stress. Some have resorted to drugs. Sense of hopelessness and lack of interest in daily activities are the most common issues experienced by them.
Quetta, the sixth largest city in Pakistan, is located in the north of Balochistan, close to the Durand line, that connects Pakistan with Afghanistan. The city lies on the Bolan Pass route, the gateway to South Asia. Quetta city is a hub for handmade carpets, rugs, silk embroidery, and local handicrafts.
*Note: The name of the interviewee has been changed for the protection of his identity.
The blog has been published in collaboration with Ravadar – a series that documents the lives of religious minorities in Pakistan.