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Soldiering on: Ruqayya Hashmi fights for Shia Hazara community in Balochistan – by Waqas Naeem

Undaunted by terrorist threats, Dr Ruqayya Hashmi fights for the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan.

ISLAMABAD: In several cities across Pakistan, political parties and candidates have faced threats and deadly attacks on the basis of political ideology. But, in Quetta, Dr Ruqayya Saeed Hashmi has battled a different kind of threat throughout her election campaign.

She is a Shia Hazara politician, contesting elections for NA-259 from the platform of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), in a city where over 150 Hazaras were killed in 2013 alone.

On January 10, the Hazara community sat in protest for four straight days with the dead bodies of their relatives, after nearly a 100 people were killed in a massive bombing carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

But despite the imposition of governor’s rule, ostensibly to provide better security to Quetta’s Hazara population, terror struck a Shia Hazara neighbourhood in the city again on February 16, killing at least 67. Once again the LeJ claimed responsibility.

In the protests which followed this attack, Hashmi was on the frontlines, outraged and vocal.

Hashmi, 62, thinks her presence at the protests has made her a target for the Laskhar-e Jhangvi and allied terrorist outfits.

She and her political workers have received death threats. Her campaign activities have been confined to a limited area but she has braved it out by going door-to-door to ask for votes.

Residents want to vote but they also have apprehensions about election day violence, she said.

“Candidates are mobilising people to vote but then there are threats of violence which have scared the voters,” she said.

Nevertheless, she is optimistic that the voter turnout percentage in Quetta city will be above the national average.

Security for the Hazara community is among Hashmi’s top priorities. If elected, she wants to bring about legislation, through mutual political consensus, to ensure the safety of the Hazaras.

“I will try to gather the support of all political parties on grounds of humanity for safety and security of the people of Quetta city, especially the Hazara community,” she said.

A Quetta native, she has twice been a member of the Balochistan Assembly on the reserved seats for women.

She is also proud of the eight years she served as an Army doctor in Quetta and often identifies herself as a soldier.

An activist from her student days; she retained her connection with politics when she married into the Hashmi family, which has been involved with politics from pre-partition days.

Her husband, Saeed Ahmed Hashmi, has been elected to the Balochistan Assembly from Quetta in the past and is contesting again this year.

The Hazara community has around 30,000 votes, according to Hashmi. “The Hazara men and women recognise the importance of their vote,” she said.

But the community’s vote might be divided between Hashmi and the Hazara Democratic Party’s Abdul Khaliq Hazara.

“I will give every candidate a tough time because I am a woman, a doctor, a soldier and because I belong to the brave Hazara community.”

If she doesn’t win, there is always plan B: she is number 1 on the PML-Q list of reserved women candidates for the Balochistan Assembly.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.