Editor’s note: “The resilience of Hazara people in Quetta is wearing thin, but they are hoping that some day things will change for the better.” We thank Fasi Zaka for drawing our attention to this excellent article on Hazara Shias which we are cross-posting on Pakistan Blogzine for further reflections on this oft ignored and misrepresented genocide.
“I was stunned when I saw the blood-stained body of my paternal uncle Ali Baba being removed to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for post-mortem,” says Ali Madad who was in hospital enquiring after the health of his close friend who was already admitted there.
The cause of death of Ali Baba and his two brothers was the powerful bomb explosion which occurred outside Eidgah at Gulistan Road Quetta soon after the Eid congregation. The blast had claimed the lives of over thirteen people, including four women.
“What is our offence and what are we being punished for,” asks Raza, who belongs to Hazara Shia community, while talking to TNS. His voice was worn out as he struggled to keep himself composed. The target killing of Hazara community in Balochistan has been going on since 1999.
Apparently, there are two types of target killings — one is sectarian and other is backed by separatist groups. Not only the religious congregations, but the caravans of pilgrims intending to go to Iran are attacked. Dozens of people have lost their lives in ambushes on pilgrims’ caravans. Banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“During the last one decade, hundreds of people belonging to Hazara community have been killed,” says Ahmed Khozad, secretary general of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), regretting that the government is oblivious to the gravity of the situation. “Those killed include teachers, doctors, students, politicians, women and children. HDP’s chairman Hussain Ali Yousufi also became victim of the target killing in 2009,” Khozad tells TNS.
Reports say that over 400 people belonging to Hazara community have been killed systematically in different parts of Quetta during the last several years. In all these incidents, people belonging to different shades of life — educationists and professionals — are targeted by highly professional and trained shooters. After each assassination, the Balochistan government and police come out with hollow assurances of arresting the culprits ‘very soon’, but no killer has been arrested so far. Thus, the killings continue.
“It is a pity that our people cannot even go to markets to get groceries. These days, attending funerals of those killed is a common practice of Hazara community. We are tired of burying of our dear ones and its time now that the killing should be stopped,” says another Hazara leader while talking to TNS.
“We have tried our best to get our protest against the target killings registered with the provincial government and move it for action, but all in vain. Now, we are left with no other option but to stage a sit-in in front of Parliament House, Islamabad. The federal government shall come out of political hibernation to protect us,” says Ahmed Khozad.
The Hazara people started migrating from Afghanistan to Quetta, Iran and central Asia in 1893 when Ameer Abdul Rehman reigned as Ameer of Kabul. The Hazaras defied him and consequently a large number of them had to migrate to Quetta and other countries. “Some of the migrating Hazara people chose to labour in Mach coalmines, while others joined the British army,” says Ahmed Khozad while detailing the historical mass migration of Hazara tribe to Pakistan.
“There are many families in Quetta that had lost their earners of bread and butter to target killers. Unbiased administrative action is the only solution to the rising target killings in Quetta,” says Khozad.
“A number of Hazara youngsters are leaving the country to settle in Australia and other European countries. Legally or illegally, everybody wants to flee from here. I am here to collect my passport as an immigration agent has promised to send me abroad if I pay him Rs500,000,” says 19-year-old Haider Ali while talking to TNS outside the Quetta Passport Office.
Pashtuns, Balochs, Punjabis and Hazaras had been living in Quetta peacefully for years, but now an unknown fear is hovering over the city.
“The economy is lurching from one crisis to another and business activities have slumped in the capital of Pakistan’s largest province. Our business has collapsed due to lawlessness in Quetta,” complains businessman Haji Ashiq Achakzai. Psychiatrists also report an alarming increase in patients suffering post-traumatic stress disorders.
Pashtun and Baloch nationalist groups hold the government responsible for the chaos. The resilience of Hazara people is wearing thin, but they are carrying on as best as they can, hoping against all odds that someday, some time, things will change for the better.
Source: The News on Sunday