Pakistan like India is home to numerous ethnic groups which include PunjabisPashtunsSindhisSiddisSaraikisMuhajirsBalochHindkowans , Chitralis, and Gujarati. Smaller ethnic group comprises of KashmirisKalashBurushoKhowarHazaraShinaKalyu and Balti who are mainly found in the northern parts of the country.

However, unlike India, in Pakistan there are certain ethnic groups who are not only grossly discriminated but are also regularly targeted in a routine manner. What is more surprising is that the security forces deployed to protect these ethnic groups are either helpless or are party to the perpetrators.

Ethnic Violence in Pakistan

Incidence of ethnic violence in Pakistan  is as old as the partition of India in 1947. Pakistan, which was created to safeguard the interest of Muslims of undivided India, could never do that for the Muslims who chose the new Islamic state of Pakistan. They were given a new name, Mohajirs, the Muslims who migrated from India.

India too had Hindus migrating from Pakistan but there was never a new name for them or anything which separated them from rest of the country. There was no violence against them in comparison to the battered life of Mohajirs who continued to face persecution. Worst being the ethnic genocide of 1965, 1985 and as late as of 2011 when almost 900 people were killed in Karachi.

Shias, Mohajirs, Ahmaddiyas, Pashtuns and Hazaras have been targeted since long on the basis of their faiths by the Sunni Muslims and various terrorist outfits. Period of Zia-ul-Haq witnessed increased attacks on Shias with the first major sectarian breaking out in 1983 in Karachi. With no interference from the government forces these riots soon spread to Lahore and Balochistan. Soon the sectarian violence became a recurring feature of the holy month of Ramadan every year. Incidents of Parachinar in 1986 and Gilgit massacre of 1988 are some of the events never to be forgotten.

Hazaras the Latest Victims

Worst victims of the ethnic violence in Pakistan have been the Hazaras, who follow the tenets of Shia Islam. They have been subjected to the sectarian violence since long forcing them either to stay in the gated environment or relocate from their homes in Quetta. Their tormentors are the Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups in Balochistan.

As per the report released by the National Commission for Human Rights 509 members of the Hazara community were killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta from 2013 to 2017 only. Why more of Hazaras and not the other Shia community? Is it that they are more hardworking and hence prosperous then other communities or is it their typical Mongolian features disclosing their identity and making them easily recognisable?

Whatever it may be the fact is that the Hazaras are being targeted and killed. According to one of the Pakistani human rights activist “The main reason behind the violence against Hazaras is sectarian dispute.” He also points out that Hazaras are more vulnerable to being attacked than others Shias, their typical Mongolian features disclosing their identity and making them easily recognisable.

Why Pakistan Government has failed to protect them?

Hazaras are at loss to understand why the Pakistan security forces have failed to protect their community.

Statistics issued by the United Nations has stated that various militant groups working under the patronage of the Taliban have killed more than 1,500 Hazara in the past decade. The development of sectarian violence is being attributed to be a result of Arab states and other outside powers inside Pakistan funding these killers for their fundamentalist networks.

Soldiers and security checkpoints around the community settlements in Quetta are a very common sight, however the terrorists are still targeting the Shias seemingly without any challenge to them.

Last year, following the killings of 12 Hazaras in a bomb blast in Quetta, the entire community went for a sit in protest which was only called off after the personal assurances by Pak Army chief General Bajwa.

Continual violence perpetrated against Hazaras, in the form of suicide attacks, targeted killings and bombings, has forced them to live in restricted areas, which has further led to economic difficulties for the minority.

Hunted Hazaras

Statement by one the Hazara girl that, “Everyone who leaves for work, leaves under the fear that he or she might not return,” whose brother was killed in a sectarian violence, paints a grim picture. She further adds that “Scores of Hazara men and women have left Pakistan for good because beside the limited employment opportunities available one is never safe in Pakistan”.

Nothing seems to have changed for this community from the old days of 2012 when scores of Hazars were killed in repeated terror attacks. Abdul Qayyam Changezi , their leader of that period had the heart wrenching feelings,  “It’s quite obvious that the government and security agencies are either not interested in protecting us, or are unable to do so. The government should sell everything we own, our houses, our businesses, the furniture in our houses, our pots and pans, every single thing. With that money they should buy a large ship and put all of us on that ship and push us out into the open sea. Surely there is one country somewhere out there in the world that will take us.”

Worst part is that there is no representation of the community in their own land. “They don’t even get to talk about their grievances themselves on the media,” . “They are not considered important enough to be given a platform, so when they die no one cares.”

 Viewpoint

Hazaras want to be part of mainstream. They want to serve their country. They have joined the armed forces in Pakistan and are into flourishing business. Unlike any other community they are peaceful and strive to keep their protests peaceful, despite unrest stirred up by militants to pit people of different sects against each other.

It is high time that the Fedral government keeps its promises to protect the community and the directions of Imran Khan are implemented in letter and spirit lest more weapons are trained against the establishment.

The high walls around the neighbourhoods of Hazara community in Quetta designed to protect them from extremist militants, should not confine the community from flourishing. It should be able to instil a sense of assurance to the locals and not a sense of confinement and threat.  

They too have a dream and an ambition, to change the image of Hazaras in the world, and especially in Pakistan, and they must be assisted in realising their dreams.

26 Jul 19/Friday             Written by Azadazraq