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Quetta: on the brink of civil war

The citizens of Quetta should be admonished to refrain from providing any kind of support to the terrorists before it is too late for all

The exacerbating law and order situation in the southwestern capital of Balochistan province is alarmingly worrisome as more and more innocent people are being thrown on the altar of death on an almost daily basis. There is no iota of doubt that the Hazaras, in particular, have been the chief target of relentless ethno-religious attacks; however, the non-Hazara city-dwellers such as the Pashtuns, the Baloch, the Hindu and the Christian minorities and the Punjabis have also been targeted on one pretext or another.
The last week’s two separate incidents tell a gruesome tale as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s imported butchers beheaded four innocent Shi’ites, who were abducted at the end of June. The video clip featuring these cold-blooded murders explicitly entailed that the perpetrators were talking in Pashto, symbolising the Taliban-style execution to spread fear and terror among the three million locals of the Quetta city. The second incident was, by no means, less tragic as a local Hindu trader was shot dead by unknown people. Apparently, the Hindu businessman was abducted for ransom; failure to reach an amicable bargain with the heirs ended up with the death of the abductee.
The annual reports of various human rights organisations, viz., Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have blatantly expressed grave concern over the safety and protection of minorities in Pakistan. Special sections have been incorporated into these reports to highlight the persecution of Hazaras as well as that of the Hindus, the Christians and the Ahmadi minorities.
All sections of society agree that the intelligence agencies are involved in perturbing the law and order situation in Quetta for ulterior motives. Political analysts, intellectuals, columnists, members of civil society and the human rights organisations frequently express their reservations about the aggravating security situation in Quetta. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has also shown his displeasure about the infamous role of the secret agencies in Quetta.
The bold statement of the recently sworn in Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, while presiding over a high-level meeting in Islamabad last month after taking charge of the post of chief executive from his predecessor; also acknowledged the involvement of federal agencies in the worsening situation of Balochistan and, in particular, Quetta.
The federal government and the judiciary’s highest office-bearers’ concerns convey their inability to harness those very departments whose main responsibilities are providing round-the-clock intelligence reports to the relevant quarters to improve the law and order situation rather than destabilising it. The previous rulers, who let the cat out in the late 1970s, created a huge challenge for all governments, including the incumbent one, to tame this blood-sucking monster. The main stakeholders in Balochistan have realised what the motive of the intelligence agencies is. The targeted attacks against the Hazaras in Quetta, the abduction and merciless killings of other minorities in the province, the mysteriously planted bomb blasts in and around seminaries, the clueless murders of prayer leaders of Sunnis and the latest add-on of Taliban-style beheading of the Shi’ite Muslims echo too much of a sound of civil war in the province.
Various Quetta-based political and social organisations working for the Hazaras, their chieftain, Sardar Sadaat Ali Hazara, and human rights activists have started uttering clearly that they are too exhausted to bury the bullet-riddled corpses routinely. Simultaneously, they point fingers at the dubious role of the intelligence agencies while suspicions rise manifold when the federal and provincial governments show apathy towards taking preventive measures to minimise human losses. The Hazara youths are enraged, while growing pressure on their elders to curb them from taking illegal steps is becoming less effective.
In the entire 13 years since the Hazaras first faced the attacks on their community members in 1999, the overall law and order situation remained intensely perturbed, especially for them, even though the Pashtun stakeholders own heavy investments in the form of shops, markets and local businesses. However, the Baloch are mostly populated in the suburbs of Quetta city; they too share equal socio-political interests in the city as well as in the province. Surprisingly, the nationalists’ political leadership of the Pashtun and the Baloch has been content with verbal condemnations of the brazen attacks of targeted killings on the Hazaras, while showing almost no practical support and solidarity with these oppressed people. The Hazaras term these condemnations devoid of genuine interest to take pragmatic steps for a solution.
I have quite often pondered what may restrict this stratum of society from openly denouncing these incidents and showing the dedication to help curb the menace. I frequently get the feeling that the main political leadership of the Pashtun and Baloch may think that the fire burning in their neighbourhood is of no concern to them. Mixed emotions among them may persist as though their neighbours must extinguish it themselves. The hard fact remains that the foreign elements-cum-imported target killers are making hectic efforts to provoke ethno-religious conflict in the entire Quetta city. Although the Pashtun and Baloch can clearly perceive the dangers of the fire spreading to their own houses, the obvious signs of a smokescreen will not at all save them from its overwhelmingly large-scale destruction.
If they can truly understand that hidden hands are trying to pit the Hazaras against the Pashtuns, Baloch, Punjabis and vice versa, then it is high time they openly came forward and preached to their fellow communities to thwart all conspiracies of civil war in Quetta.
Under no circumstances can the target killers execute their killing spree in the city successfully unless they have the full moral, financial and logistical support of the locals. When the assassins, in broad daylight, infiltrate the narrow and congested lanes and bazaars of Quetta, target-kill their prey and disappear smoothly, it is evident that the locals harbour them in nearby havens. When terrorists kill people in crowded areas such as Spinni Road, Seriab Road, Akhtarabad, McCongi Road, Podkilli Chowk, Hazar Ghanji, it reveals that they have the full support of the locals to hide in their dens comfortably after completing their tasks. The aforesaid areas are densely populated by both the Pashtun and Baloch who will have to be preached in a clear tone that terrorists would go away once they accomplished their goals but the locals will have to co-exist with one another for centuries. One particular ethnicity is in the line of severe fire for years, and it may erupt like a volcano any time, bringing unimaginable catastrophe to the whole city.
The Pashtun and the Baloch nationalist parties must take a clear stance on persecution of the Hazaras, and the citizens of Quetta should be admonished to refrain from providing any kind of support to the terrorists before it is too late for all.

The writer is a London-based freelance journalist, and the chairperson of a political organisation, known as Hazara United Movement (HUM)

(Source)

This article was published on the Daily Times on 21/07/2012.

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