Lahore, December 20: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep sorrow at the death of at least 55 young men from Quetta’s Hazara community when a boat carrying around 250 people, 170 of them from Pakistan, capsized off Indonesia. HRCP has called upon Islamabad to help the families learn about the fate of the passengers as well as urgently address reasons that force Hazaras and other people from Balochistan to leave Pakistan even in the face of grave danger to their lives.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “HRCP is saddened by the tragedy in Indonesian waters where the crew of a boat carrying around 170 Pakistanis as well as another 80 people of other nationalities, abandoned their passengers as the boat capsized in a fierce storm. At least 55 Hazaras from Quetta are believed to be dead and scores of Pakistanis remain missing. The passengers included over 70 youth from Quetta’s Hazara community. That the Hazara young men chose to leave Pakistan by taking such grave risks is a measure of the persecution the Hazara community has long faced in Balochistan. Other Pakistani passengers, also from Balochistan, were believed to be unemployed young men looking for a way to improve their life as well as businessmen who felt insecure amid growing incidents of kidnappings for ransom in the province, particularly in Quetta.
HRCP sympathises with the bereaved families and would investigate the matter further. As the identities of those who have drowned and others who are still missing remain unknown, the anxieties of the families in Pakistan are beyond description. Irrespective of how the young men ended up in Indonesian waters, the government must immediately facilitate the families’ access to information about the fate of their loved ones, ensure that the survivors get help and the recovered bodies are brought home.
HRCP also calls upon the government to take a long hard look at the state of affairs in Balochistan and reflect on the reasons that compel young men to take such grave risks in order to escape persecution, insecurity and poverty. The government must also identify and punish those who contributed to the death of the boat’s passengers by illegally ferrying them across borders. In view of its obligation to protect the lives of all citizens, the government must also take urgent steps to find a way to put an end to the persecution of the long suffering Hazara community.”