Hazara massacres: evasiveness or reluctance to act?


Lal Khan

Another atrocity committed against the Hazaras by the so-called non-state actors and the state’s another usual evasion. This time five innocent women belonging to the Shia Hazara community were returning home when their bus was stopped on Quetta’s Kirani Road by armed men, and one of them barged inside and started shooting indiscriminately. The murderous action was barely noticed during a media circus that is preoccupied with phony war hysteria.
Such is the condition of state security for ordinary people that this atrocious terror struck even when the authorities had claimed tighter security measures for Muharram in Quetta. As after every such murderous act under every regime of the last decade, federal and provincial rulers “strongly condemned the tragic incident and directed law enforcement agencies to ensure the arrest of perpetrators of the assault.” The top state official had their usual regrets conveyed to media through their spokespersons. Once again the Hazaras were the victims of this sectarian monstrosity with the regime, and the state having failed them yet again.
There have been increased and numerous sporadic attacks on people belonging to the Shia Hazara community particularly over the last two decades, resulting in spilling the blood of this unfortunate and targeted community. On Feb 16, 2013, a bomb blast at a market in Hazara Town left 89 people dead. In January 2013, 81 people were killed and 121 injured in suicide and car bomb blasts in the Alamdar Road area. Terrorists gunned down 26 people belonging to the community when, on Sept 20, 2011, they were travelling in a bus near Quetta. In September 2010, a suicide bombing during a Shia rally in Quetta killed around 50 people and injured many others. In March 2004, an Ashura procession was attacked in the city, which left 42 people dead and many injured. Most of the victims were Hazaras.
The earlier attacks were often claimed by the so-called Sunni subsect, calling itself Lakshar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Pakistani-Taliban-affiliated organisation that considers Shias as heretics and their killing as a pious religious act. After the last attack this summer, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan responded by banning Shia pilgrims from traveling by road between Quetta and the Iranian border, saying it was impossible to “fully secure” the route. Now will he ban the Hazaras from even travelling less than five kilometres to the Quetta city for their groceries? This lays bare the mind-set of our ruling elite in power.
There has been widespread sectarian violence between Pakistan’s different Sunni sects and Shia groups for long. But in the past five years groups including Jaish-ul-Islam and the LeJ have launched and executed sectarian terrorist acts in an increasingly brutal campaign. Balochistan has become one of the epicentres of this slaughter. However, historically, there was very little sectarian violence in Balochistan. Sectarian violence has only recently raised its ugly head, and this has been deliberately nurtured by sections of the bureaucratic elite to crush and demoralise the movement against class and nation oppression. Over half-million Hazaras were forced out of Afghanistan during the 1980s due to the ‘dollar jihad’. After the US aggression and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, this community has been bled and maimed by sectarian butchery.
After these acts of sectarian killings of Shias in Balochistan during the last few years, the state launched rigorous military operations against ‘terrorists’. But it is an open secret that these military operations were mainly conducted against ‘other targets’. No efficacious operation has ever been executed against these sectarian outfits.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report paints a grim picture of the authorities. It states: “The Pakistani government’s response to this violence suggests incompetence, indifference, or possible complicity by security forces and other state personnel with the extremists. Authorities have failed to apprehend or prosecute members of militant groups, including the LeJ, that have claimed responsibility for such attacks. While Pakistan and Balochistan authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects linked to attacks against Shia since 2008, only a handful have been actually charged with any crimes.”
The barbarous acts of non-state actors and the total indifference of the Pakistani state to the plight of the ones being slaughtered have multiplied insecurities leading to severe psychological and social traumas on the Hazara community. A malaise, a painful irrelevance has set in the community’s prevalent psyche that is practically ghettoised. Since 2012, Quetta’s Hazaras have been forced to restrict their lives and activities to the neighbourhoods of Marriabad and Hazara Town along with economic hardships and limited freedom of movement and safe access to education.
It is not an accident that the Hazaras, mainly the youth, are trying to get out from this suffocating isolation and social and cultural privation, escaping Pakistan to seek refuge in countries as far away as Australia.
However, continuous targeting is posing serious questions of an existential threat to the Hazara community. Narendra Modi’s cynical rhetoric on Balochistan was more damaging for its inhabitants than to anyone else. But pointing fingers at proxy wars being the only cause of this murderous campaign is insufficient. There has been a history of alienation, oppression and isolation of the region. Pakistan was created on August 14, 1947, but until March 29, 1949, the Khanate of Kalat was a separate princely state that was annexed under duress. Ever since the region has been in turmoil and bloody conflict. With the discovery of huge reserves of minerals, imperialist vultures have swarmed onto the region for naked plunder. The alienation and sentiments of national and socioeconomic deprivation, exploitation, state and non-state brutalities have aggravated people’s revulsion against the system. The disparity of socioeconomic development and relatively less terrorist violence and state repression in Punjab and some other regions is increasing alienation and a seething discontent in Balochistan. The fight against religious sectarian bestiality, and struggle for national and socioeconomic liberation has to be united in a collective struggle on class basis. Only through the victory of this class struggle can this sectarian savagery — the distilled essence of the rotten capitalism — be obliterated, once and forever.