first priority is security”
only demand is that the state should establish its writ in Balochistan”
from Report of an HRCP’s fact finding mission, “Hopes, fears and
alienation in Balochistan,”
become a killing field of people from different communities in recent years,
but one community that has suffered the most and has been singled out for
target-killings are the Hazara Shias.
The Hazaras are a distinct
ethnic group living mostly in Afghanistan and having a visible presence in
Pakistan and Iran. Lately, a growing number of members of the community have
settled in Western countries in search of security and livelihood.
The Hazaras have
traditionally faced persecution at the hands of some Afghan kings, primarily
Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, and other ethnic groups due to sectarian and ethnic
reasons. They were originally living in central Afghanistan, but many had to
migrate to neighbouring countries, such as Iran and undivided India to
escape attacks. In due course of time, the Hazara community gained a
foothold in Quetta by serving in the British army and doing other tough
jobs. Soldiering has been part of the Hazara life and a proportionally high
number having been serving in both the Afghan and Pakistani armed forces.
According to Professor
Nazir Hussain, who opted for retirement as the first principal of the
prestigious Government General Musa College, Quetta Cantonment in December
1995 after serving for five years, the Hazaras first settled down in the
plain at the foot of the Koh-i-Murdar mountain range in Quetta and set up
the Marriabad, named after the Marri Baloch tribe who were herders and lived
seasonally in huts in the area. “The
Hazara population grew after 1920s and from Alamdar Road, previously known
as Barnes Road, to the lap of the Koh-i-Murdar houses were built across the
mounds and seasonal streams. It was known as Ward No 7 of the municipality
and was sited close to Quetta Cantonment. It later became part of the
provincial assembly constituency, PB-2 Quetta, from where Hazara candidates
have often been elected,” he explained.
Prof Nazir Hussain said
new colonies of the Hazaras, such as Gulistan, Brohi (Brewery) and Hazara
Town also sprang up and members of the community with money mostly sent from
abroad were able to buy or build houses there. He said Hazara refugees from
Afghanistan, too, settled in these new colonies and many used Quetta as a
staging point for migrating to some Western country, mostly Australia.
Hussain said until
recently the Hazaras lived in peace achieving the highest literacy levels in
Balochistan and prospering as businessmen. “We had excellent ties with the
Pashtuns and Baloch. It was during the General Ziaul Haq era that his policy
of segregation brought a change in the situation. Now we are suffering from
social anarchy and the Hazaras in particular are living in “Jewish
ghettoes,” he remarked.
extremist Sunni militant group banned by the government in 2002, has been
claiming responsibility for the attacks against the Hazaras primarily due to
the fact that they are Shias. Like the other outlawed militants groups, it
has managed to operate and carry out attacks by selecting its targets at
Analysing the situation, a
Hazara elder Air Commodore (Retd) Shaukat Hyder felt many hands were
involved in the violence raging in Pakistan and directed at the Hazaras and
others. He said the names of certain institutions were also mentioned, but
it would be incorrect to do finger-pointing without evidence. “Nobody
knows who is fighting whom and at whose behest in these battles of proxies.
But we know that the Hazaras have been mercilessly killed and still there
was no reaction by those with power to protect them. There was controlled
deployment of the Frontier Corps and the police was helpless,” he argued.
“Finally, the Hazaras decided to stage peaceful protest by putting up the
bodies of their loved ones on the road in sub-zero temperatures. We showed
patience and it paid off,” he opined.
Members of the Hazara
community have risen to high positions, particularly in Pakistan’s armed
forces. The most prominent was General Muhammad Musa Khan, who served as
Chief of Army Staff from 1958-1966 and led the troops in the 1965 war
against India under the overall command of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who at
the time was also President of Pakistan.
Musa was loyal to Ayub
Khan as he continued to oversee the professional development of the army to
enable the latter to concentrate on his politics without giving up his
military uniform. Musa was a religious man and had left a will to be buried
in Mashhad, the Iranian city sacred to the Shias as the burial place of
their eighth Imam Reza. Musa’s body was taken to Mashshad and buried in
the cemetery in the Imam Reza shrine complex. Incidentally, his grave is
close to that of Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad, a freedom fighter against British
colonial rule in India.
Musa’s son-in-law Air
Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi was another member of the Hazara ethnic group
who occupied a high position in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Many other
Hazaras served as officers in the armed forces and some are still in
service. Saira Batool, one of the four female pilots inducted for the first
time into PAF, is also an ethnic Hazara.
According to Air Commodore
(Retd) Shaukat Hyder, three military officers of his Hazara community won
the gallantry award, Sitara-i-Jurat, in the 1965 and 1971 wars along with
many other lesser awards in recognition of their bravery on the battlefield.
“In terms of numbers and keeping in view the population ratio, there are
more Hazaras in Pakistan’s armed forces than any other ethnic group in
Balochistan,” he added.
The Hazaras have also
excelled in sports. In particular, they have done well in soccer, boxing,
body-building and the martial arts. Air Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi’s
brother Shaukat Ali Changezi was a high class body-builder. Prior to him,
another Hazara body-builder, Mohammad Ishaq Beg, was adjudged “Mr
Pakistan” in the 1960s and was also able to compete and do well in the
Asian championship. Qayyum Changezi, a popular footballer was the captain of
Pakistan team for a number of years. There is a story how Qayyum Changezi as
the full-back thwarted the Chinese players during a soccer match in China
and some Chinese referred to him as Pakistan’s “Great Wall” in
reference to the “Great Wall of China.”
The case of the late
Safdar Ali Babal, also an ethnic Hazara, was unique as he played for both
the national soccer and hockey teams. Boxer Ibrar Hussain Shah was
well-known due to his prowess in the boxing ring but he was tragically
gunned down in Quetta because he happened to be a Hazara.
Many other Hazaras have
faced a similar fate. The killings have prompted the younger generation of
Hazaras to migrate to the West and many have been risking their lives by
attempting to reach countries liking Australia in ill-equipped boats.
Being the head of
the Hazara community, Sardar Saadat Ali Khan was in the news recently. He
belongs to the Sardar family and is nephew of late Pakistan Army chief
General Muhammad Musa.
Sardar Saadat’s father,
Sardar Muhammad Isa Khan, was one of three sons of Sardar Yazdan Khan, who
was a descendant of Sardar Sher Ali Khan, a Hazara elder from Joghori in
Afghanistan. This is a family of Khans among the Hazaras and enjoys respect
as the sardars of the tribe. Unlike the powerful landowning Baloch sardars,
the Hazara sardars work in an honorary capacity.
The 62-year old Sardar
Saadat was earlier in Canada, visiting his two sons and a daughter studying
there. He was in the US when authorities in Pakistan requested him to
immediately come to Quetta to help in defusing the situation in the wake of
the devastating bomb explosions on the Alamdar Road and at Bacha Khan Chowk
in which about one hundred people, mostly Hazaras, were killed. He rushed to
Pakistan and played his role in resolving the issue.
The government finally
accepted the demands of the protesting Hazaras who had put 83 bodies on the
Alamdar Road in freezing temperature for four days and refused to perform
burial until the government of Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani was
removed and governor’s rule was enforced.
Without revealing the
“concerned” person who requested him to return to Pakistan to defuse the
situation, Sardar Saadat said his people have been seeking protection
against attacks by the militants but the provincial government remained
unmoved. “We have lost more than 1,300 members of our community in recent
years and many more have been wounded. Out businesses have been destroyed
and we don’t have a peace of mind,” he explained.
Listing his complaints
against former Chief Minister Raisani, he said he felt offended by his
remarks in a meeting with a Hazara delegation last year. “Instead of
offering to take practical steps to protect the Hazara people, the chief
minister said he could send a truckload of tissue papers so that the
aggrieved families could wipe off their tears. I was part of the delegation
and was upset to hear such insulting remarks,” he recalled.
“We are peaceful people
and have harmed nobody. The attacks have ruined our lives. Even our tears
have dried up,” he remarked.
Sardar Saadat said the
Hazaras were losing hope and their children were leaving the country. “I
also sent my children abroad as we feared they would be killed. Gen Musa’s
son Hasan Musa was target-killed in Karachi in 1998 and my brother Sardar
Nisar Ali was injured when he survived an attack in 1999,” he pointed out.
Saying that people from
different communities and walks of life congratulated him and other Hazaras
for successfully campaigning for the removal of Chief Minister Raisani, he
said the people have high hopes from Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar
Magsi. “The governor is a sincere man and is aware of the insecurity felt
by the Hazaras. We hope steps would be taken to protect us even though the
governor’s rule is for two months. We don’t expect all the issues to be
fully resolved but an effort needs to be made to improve security. For us
the first priority is security,” Sardar Saadat argued.
Emphasizing the attachment
that the Hazaras have for Pakistan, he said 200-250 members of the Hazara
community are presently serving in officer ranks in the army and three of
them are brigadiers. He said many others served in the past in the armed
forces and have since retired or are dead. “And Saira Batool from our
community was the first female Pakistan Air Force pilot,” he proudly
Time was of
essence last Sunday. As the night wore on, the PM, along with
representatives of coalition and other parties, had little choice but to act
– and concede to the demand of the peacefully demonstrating Hazara Shias.
So, in an extraordinary
late-night decision on Jan 13, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf dismissed
the Aslam Raisani government and imposed the governor’s rule in
Balochistan under Article 234 of the Constitution. It was only after this
decision that the Hazaras, who had been protesting against the Jan 10 target
killing in subzero temperature, agreed to end the sit-in on Quetta’s
Alamdar Road — and bury 100 bodies of their people four days after they
were massacred in three bomb attacks.
In effect, the elected
government of Balochistan was sacked by the centre for the fifth time. This
time Governor Nawab Zulfikar Magsi has been empowered to serve as the chief
executive of the province; Islamabad to take all key decisions; and Frontier
Corps (FC) granted policing powers.
The decision was welcomed
by the thousands protesting in Quetta, and many thousands more across the
country, from Karachi to Skardu, chanting slogans like, “Am I the next
The major political
parties echoed the same sentiment. PML-Q, with 19 legislators in the
Balochistan Assembly, agreed Raisani should step down and army be called out
in the province. ANP, with 4 seats, nodded in agreement. And so did MQM.
However, two key coalition
partners — Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), with 9 seats, led by Maulana
Fazlur Rehman, and Balochistan Nationalist Party-Awami (BNP-A), with 7 seats
— opposed the government’s decision, calling it “unconstitutional”.
They instead advised an in-house change in the government.
Two days after the
imposition of the governor’s rule, in the assembly session called by
Governor Magsi, the Balochistan Assembly unanimously adopted two resolutions
which rejected the imposition of the governor’s rule in the province as
undemocratic, and called for a judicial inquiry into the Jan 10 killing of
The Baloch and Pashtun
nationalist parties (mainly the ones that boycotted the 2008 elections) view
Raisani and Magsi as one and the same, and are cynical of FC’s role in the
province. BNP-M chief and former chief minister of Balochistan, Akhter
Mengal said although the provincial government was incompetent, yet the
governor’s rule was no solution to Balochistan’s problems.
Surely, the governor’s
rule has generated a mixed response. “Just because something is allowed in
the constitution does not mean that it will always lead to good results.
Invoking the governor’s rule is analogous to pulling on the emergency
(hand) brake in a car,” says lawyer and columnist Waqqas Mir.
The reasons for the
disagreement to the governor’s rule are rooted in the past experience of
the Baloch, who have been disillusioned with Islamabad and see the governor
as its agent, a viceroy. “It makes no sense to deprive the whole of
Balochistan (at least 29 districts) of democratic representation only
because sectarian issues exist in one district, that is Quetta,” says
Malik Siraj Akbar, Editor Baloch Hal.
He adds, “Balochistan
government can be blamed for corruption and incompetence but there is hardly
any evidence of its support to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [the group that claims
the responsibility of the Quetta carnage]. The Lashkar is believed to enjoy
covet support from intelligence agencies. Until the security establishment
abandons its support to these extremist groups and improves the police and
intelligence apparatus, the dismissal of the provincial government and
imposition of emergency is hardly going to improve the conditions”.
Being critical of the
Balochistan government, Akbar says, it did not realise the Hazara protests
would lead to the enforcement of the governor’s rule for two reasons: One,
the government had recently overcome a crisis in the wake of speaker
Mohammad Aslam Bhootani’s revolt against the CM; secondly, the Hazaras had
been protesting in the past. “They had, in response to similar attacks in
the past, protested in front of the Governor House, CM House, Balochistan
High Court and the Balochistan Assembly. What made a difference this time
was the unprecedented expression of condemnation and solidarity across
He stresses that never in
the past were such widespread and massive protests held in Pakistan in
response to something that happened in Balochistan.
Reservations are widely
held against granting of policing power to the FC. “Ninety five per cent
FC personnel come from Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the rest of the five per
cent comprise of top military officers Punjab. It is absolutely devoid of
local representation, ignorant of knowledge of local language and
geography,” he asserts.
Based on these
disadvantages, the FC, whenever called in the past in Quetta to assist the
police, have failed to deliver. Instead, he says, “FC’s lack of policing
experiences added new problems and animosity with the local communities”.
Considering we are so
close to the elections, one wonders how the rule would bode for Balochistan.
“The governor’s rule has not been tested by the courts after the passing
of the 20th Constitutional Amendment,” says legal expert Salman Akram
“Some form of government
will have to be put in place by the present assembly. It’ll have to elect
a new CM because an only outgoing CM can appoint a caretaker setup according
to the amendments in the constitution,” he adds.
And, “One can only hope
that the caretaker set up will not reflect Islamabad’s viceroy but will
feature Baloch leaders who inspire the confidence of their own people,”
hopes Waqqas Mir.
killings are not new to Balochistan or Quetta; both have been a major
flashpoint in terms of sectarian violence since the 1990s. The killing of
Hazara Shia in particular has a racial dimension too because this community,
with its distinctive features, is 100 per cent Shia. This fact alone has
come to harm them, and whereas other Shias elsewhere are sometimes killed in
isolated cases of target killing, the Hazara have always been killed in
These have all been
unprovoked attacks on a peaceful community, merely on account of its
religious beliefs. The attackers are the sectarian outfits that roam freely
in this country. There has been a consistent lack of justice for the
perpetrators of this sectarian violence; they are either not apprehended and
if they are they manage to get acquittals.
The attacks, therefore,
continue unabated while the state half-heartedly deals with them on a case
to case basis and with no long term strategy in place.
This time, on January 10,
after another mass murder of the Hazara took place in Quetta where most of
them are concentrated, the people of this community decided to not take it
lying down; they decided to sit in front of the governor’s house to
protest against the total impunity and lack of justice along with their 86
coffins. They did this for almost three days and nights, with women and
children, and not just in Quetta but in all major cities, and mostly in
freezing cold weather.
This way, the community
forced the people as well as the government to take notice of their
disillusionment with the present setup by their sheer resilience. They
wanted justice, which for them translated into giving the control of the
city in the hands of the army.
This is what the political
activists have objected to and rightly so but, as someone rightly said,
victims think differently from activists. The government responded by
imposing a governor’s rule. This perhaps was the only solution possible
under the circumstances but this is where the Hazaras’ cause got
alienated. Any recourse to the army does not cut ice with the Baloch
nationalists or insurgents who have had enough of interventions by the
centre as well as of rule by the army, in any shape. The Hazaras couldn’t
be bothered less; they are dying and forced to migrate for fear of death.
The problems of
Balochistan are multiple and the government must find a solution to all of
them. For this, it may have to bring the military on board. The status quo,
both in terms of lack of control over the sectarian violence as well as
regarding the insurgency, cannot hold. Only a truly representative and
empowered government can find such solutions.
killings of members of Hazara community have become a regular feature of
Balochistan’s security landscape. Anti-Shia sectarian outfits have a
significant presence in Balochistan. These outfits are pursuing their
agendas with relative freedom compared to the nationalist insurgents and the
In Balochistan, the number
of sectarian attacks and clashes increased by 195 per cent in 2012, compared
to 2011, and the number of fatalities and the injured in these attacks by
around 62 percent and 239 per cent, respectively.
Though anti-Shia terrorist
groups were responsible for most of the attacks, but a weak retaliation as
well. Banned Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP) is getting active in Quetta but
the level of their operations is small and it is considered a non-Hazara
group. The orientation of organisations of the Hazaras, such as Hazara
Democratic Party or Hazara Students Federations, is ethno-political rather
Anti-Shia groups are more
organised and have nexus with other terrorist groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is more lethal among
LeJ operates in and around
Quetta. Two splinter groups of the LeJ known as Usman Kurd group and Shafiq
Rind group are active in Balochistan. The LeJ concentrated in Balochistan
and other parts of Pakistan after its terrorist camps in Kabul and Kandahar
were destroyed when the US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
The SSP, the parent
organisation of the LeJ, remains a silent supporter of the latter. The SSP
has a big support base in Balochistan. The SSP has been banned twice by the
government but in Balochistan it remains intact and provides ground support
for LeJ terrorists.
Asif Chotu, once a close
aide of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi founder Riaz Basra, is reorganising the group. He
has approached other factions as well and now most of the splinter groups of
LeJ have come under one umbrella because of his efforts. The LJ nexus with
Al Qaeda and TTP has not only broadened its ideological horizon but also
equipped it with lethal operational tactics.
According to a media
report, the pro-Pakistan Baloch groups, which are involved in the target
killing of anti-state elements have developed nexus with LeJ in Balochistan.
Jundullah is another
active militant actor in Balochistan, blending the religious sectarian
agenda with a nationalist separatist ideology. It is an anti-Shia and
anti-Iran militant outfit which operates in the Iranian province of
Seistan-Balochistan, bordering Pakistani districts of Chagi, Kharan, Panjgur,
Kech and Gwadar. The number of Jundullah activists is estimated to be around
The group is also aligning
itself with anti-Shia outfits in Balochistan, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, to target the Shia Hazara community.
TTP also claimed
responsibility for many attacks targeting members of the Shia community in
Balochistan. Although the nexus between the militant sectarian Sunni groups
and the TTP was already well- established, it was for the first time that in
2012 the TTP claimed responsibility for several attacks on the Shia
community in different parts of Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban surfaced in
Balochistan in 2009. However, they disassociate themselves from TTP.
Among all militant groups,
LeJ has undoubtedly become the most lethal terrorist group that is targeting
Hazaras in Balochistan. As different factions of the LeJ are coming
together, their operational capabilities will increase ultimately. The group
has sectarian reasons to target the Hazara community.
The current trends of the
attacks suggest that Quetta has become regular a hotspot of sectarian
violence where state needs to craft a proper strategy to counter violent
The News on
Sunday: Do you think imposition of the governor’s rule in Balochistan
would help the cause of Hazaras?
Abdul Khaliq Hazara: In
fact, imposition of the governor’s rule was not a demand of the Hazara
Democratic Party (HDP). We are not in favour of army control in Quetta.
However, after the killing
of 100 people on Jan 10, our ulema and elders demanded the governor’s
rule. The main purpose of this demand was to get rid of the Raisani
government in Balochistan. We want a targeted operation to be launched in
Quetta under army because we do not trust police and FC.
Quetta is a small city. If
the army is serious it can locate and arrest the terrorists in Quetta within
a week. Our main demand is that the government should establish its writ in
TNS: Your views on the
targeted killings of the Hazara community…
AKH: We do not see
targeted killings in their current context, where a particular mindset, with
support from provincial government and the elements of state security
agencies, kills Hazaras. The targeted killing is also a product of failed
policies of the state as successive governments were reckless in the last
three decades in the region. Pakistan’s role in the Afghan jihad in the
1980s, when the state promoted ‘jihad’ in the country and sponsored
terrorist groups, resulted in numerous problems. It gave rise to the
Kalashnikov and drug culture in Pakistan. Quetta became the hub of these
activities in the last three decades because of its geographic position.
Today, we are reaping the results of those policies.
The Hazara community in
Quetta is concentrated on its western and eastern sides. We need to travel
thorough the city to go from one side to the other. The first incident of
targeted killing happened in 2001 when terrorists attacked a van, killing 10
Hazara passengers. Again, 12 Hazara police cadets were gunned down when
terrorists attacked their vehicle in June 2003. The first suicide attack
against the Hazara community occurred in July 2004 when terrorists attacked
a Friday congregation at Imambargah Kalan. In 2008-09, attacks against our
people increased and then from 2011 onwards our people started getting
targeted inside the city. Doctors, professors, students, businessmen and
sportsmen have been targeted and killed. The motive behind these terror acts
is simple — push Quetta into a hell of sectarian violence as all Hazaras
in Quetta belong to the Shia sect. So far, more than 1000 Hazaras have been
killed in Balochistan in the last one decade.
In September 2011, the
buses in Mastung near the ancestral village of ex-CM Balochistan, Aslam
Raisani, were stopped and after checking their ID cards, 26 of them were
killed on the spot. In April 2012, more than 30 Hazara people were targeted
in 10 days. In 2012, more than 120 Hazara people were killed while in the
first 10 days of 2013 more than 100 Hazaras have been killed. Everybody
knows the killers as they do not hesitate to claim responsibility. After the
last incident, in which more than 100 people of our community were killed,
LeJ phoned journalists in Quetta and openly claimed responsibility. They
said they had asked Hazaras to leave Quetta by the end of 2012 or they would
be wiped out.
TNS: But why are Hazaras
AKH: Hazara community in
Balochistan overwhelmingly belongs to the Shia sect and they are also easily
recognisable because of their features. It is true that after the Iranian
revolution some elements among Hazaras and other Shia communities in
Pakistan were enthusiastic about spreading their message. They tried to
convert people from other sects. The ‘Saudi Arabia element’ resisted
this move strongly and pumped in billions of rupees to strengthen anti-Shia
forces in Balochistan. The first wave of sectarian tension in Balochistan
started in the mid-1980s while the second started after 9/11. It was time
when anti-Shia forces had become so strong that they could operate at their
We strongly condemn Saudi
Arabia and Iran’s proxy war in Pakistan. It was the duty of our state to
stop this war but, unfortunately, strong elements of state have become part
of that war. Extremism, sectarianism, and terrorism are being promoted in
Balochistan with the help of elements in our state institutions. On January
11, the LeJ once again threatened they would either kill or get killed to
wipe out Hazaras from Quetta. The LeJ, in fact, wants to provoke us, so we
start attacking our innocent Sunni Pushtun and Baloch brothers in Quetta.
TNS: How difficult is it
for you to keep the Hazara youth peaceful? AKH: Hazaras are peaceful people.
It is true that after 2004 attack on a Shia procession, Shias also turned
violent and burnt some shops. But there are other Shias than Hazaras in
Quetta. We have Shias from different ethnicities from Punjabi, Urdu
speaking, Pashtun, Balti, etc. We always tell our people that the LeJ and
its supporters want to push us in a situation which leads to civil war in
society. We still believe in peaceful protests.
After the January 10
incident, we had two sit-ins in Quetta — one at Alamdar Road while I,
alongwith my party activists, demonstrated in the red zone, in front of the
IG office. But not a single incident of violence occurred from our side.
Most of our youth have been deprived of education; some of them have also
started joining religious elements. People have lost their businesses and
jobs. They cannot move freely in their own city. More than 30,000 Hazaras
have already migrated out of the country. Parents have been forcing their
sons to leave the country. Our PhDs have been working as labourers in
Australia and other countries. Still, an overwhelming majority of our
community believes in peace. We still want to solve our problem peacefully.
TNS: You talked about
involvement of some state elements. Do you have proof?
AKH: So far, more than
1000 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan but not a single killer is in
police custody. It arrested the masterminds of these attacks in the past,
including the LeJ head of Balochistan, Saif Usman, and his deputy, Dawood
Badini. Both were awarded death punishment from a terrorist court in 2003.
They escaped from jail situated in the high security zone in Cantonment,
Quetta. Even when they were in jail, they were treated like special guests
and allowed to carry on their activities from jail. The performance of the
Interior and Home Secretaries, IGP Balochistan and heads of other law
enforcement agencies are abysmal as they have failed to provide protection
to the people. People have lost confidence in police and other law
enforcement agencies as terrorists always succeed in evading arrests. In
several incidents of targeted killings of Hazara community, motorbikes of
local police were used while many of the attackers were in FC uniforms. They
attacked people close to FC checkposts but were never apprehended. I
strongly believe that some elements in our security agencies help terrorists
to identify the targets and then also support them reach their targets with
TNS: What is the solution?
AKH: Our rulers and state
departments need to take the situation seriously. They need to establish
their writ. They need to give confidence to people — that the state cares
about them. At one point our main demand was that our cases be pursued. I
appeal to all the democratic, liberal, political and progressive forces to
come ahead and perform their responsibility for protecting the society from
falling into the brutal hands of extremists in the country.
The HRCP mission
held detailed discussions with representatives of sectarian and religious
minority communities and sought their guidance in understanding if any trend
in the context had been positive. The persecution of the Hazara community
dominated the discussion and even members of non-Muslim communities
sympathised with them.
What the Hazaras had been
facing since 1999 was unique even in Pakistan. Few other communities had
been targeted so ruthlessly on account of their religious beliefs. The
killings appeared to be an attempt to cause bloody clashes between Shias and
Sunnis. The Hazaras had not allowed that to happen almost 99 percent of the
time. The community elders had pacified the youth and kept them away from
violence. But they feared the day when overwhelmed by burying one Hazara
after the other they could no longer be controlled. Once that happened
“the aim of the enemies of Pakistan would be met”.
Hazaras had been uprooted
from Loralai, Machh and Zhob, and over 800 had been killed since 1999. In
the democratic regime, from February 2008 until May 2012, at least 550
Hazaras had been killed. That was devastating considering that Hazaras were
a population of around half a million. Thousands had been injured and around
half of them rendered disabled for life. In December 2010, in an attack on a
Hazara rally on Yaum al-Quds more than 100 people were killed and over 250
Hazara students at
Balochistan University had stopped taking classes due to fear.
Around half a dozen people
had been arrested and some convicted by anti-terrorism courts for target
killing of Hazaras. One of the convicts said in front of a judge that he had
killed Hazaras and that he would kill more if he ever got the chance. The
convicts were living a life of comfort in jails, getting VIP treatment, and
had televisions and cell phones. There had been incidents where the convicts
had led prayers and policemen had offered prayers behind them.
In 2006, two target
killers Usman Saifullah and Shafiq Rind escaped from Anti- Terrorism Force (ATF)
prison in Quetta and not a lock, door or window was broken. The Hazaras had
highlighted the incident as best they could but no inquiry was held. There
were black sheep in the ranks of police and FC. No improvement was expected
until they were weeded out.
Last year a bus full of
pilgrims left Quetta for Iran. After crossing seven security check- posts
and 200 metres short of another check-post, the bus was stopped in Mastung
by armed men. Twenty-four Hazara men and boys were lined up and executed. It
took five minutes to kill them all. Women and children were made to watch.
This does not happen even in Rwanda. We have met everyone, from police
station house officers (SHOs) to the president and the prime minister and
everyone in between. The meetings have lasted for hours. They sympathise
with us, promise to help but nothing changes. The political parties just
join us for fateha and leave. The people have been forced to conclude that
the state is getting them killed. What else can you conclude if people are
killed in front of check-posts? We have committed no crime. We are not
against Pakistan and demand only the rights that all human beings deserve.
– A Hazara community leader
Practical measures needed
to end the killings and impunity. The killings had started in Gen Zia’s
regime (1977-1988). There was none of that before then. The book identified
the elements that killed Hazaras. Saudi money and training and promotion of
sectarianism in madrassas were mentioned.
The aim had been to
confine the Hazaras, who had retreated into small pockets. That had already
happened. They could not move along Saryab Road in Quetta.
The massacres of pilgrims
going to Iran could be seen on Youtube. The route to Iran needed to be
secured for pilgrims. Political and religious organisations generally
condemned attacks on Shia pilgrims and non-Muslims had also join protest
guaranteed the rights to life and religious freedom. If both these rights
were absent then the state had failed in its constitutional responsibility.
The religious and
sectarian minorities called upon the government, and political and religious
parties to formulate a charter to safeguard them.
were being distributed
Hindus and Christians was justified. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was there
because someone protected it. Those who pasted posters on the walls and
distributed pamphlets were there because someone protected them. If the
Hazaras pasted posters against Lashkar-e- Jhangvi on the walls everyone will
see the consequences for the Hazaras.
Shias live in Saudi
Arabia, in India and other countries. It is only in Pakistan that Shias are
safe neither in the mosque nor in markets. It is only here that they preach
killing Shia Muslims in the name of Allah, burying them without a funeral,
without bathing the body and without a kafan (shroud covering the dead
body). – A Shia cleric
Over 100 Hindus had been
abducted in Balochistan. The majority had been released after ransom was
paid. Those who did not pay ransom were killed and their bodies dumped. A
22-year-old Hindu man was killed because his parents could not pay ransom.
No one from the government had come to the victims. Hindus could not get out
of their houses. Their education had been suspended. There had also been
incidents of conversion, although none of them was recent. In small cities
Hindus were forced to pay bhatta (extortion money).
About a fifth of the Hindu
population had migrated from Balochistan. The rest could not leave because
they were poor. The Hindus could not just leave whatever they had in
Pakistan and go away. Who wanted to leave his motherland? The Hindus were
being pushed out. They looked at Hazaras and thought that the pain and
suffering of Hazaras was far greater than their own.