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Who to blame for ethnic persecution of Hazaras?

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Government of Pakistan must also be pressured to the extent of taking reasonable steps against the terrorists, executing targeted operations in the areas of Quetta in which attacks have occurred frequently

The incessant targeted attacks on the peaceful denizens of Quetta city have mostly hit the Hazaras who have lived there for centuries. Numerous authors, writers, intellectuals and columnists analyse the ethno-religious killings of this under-represented and oppressed ethnic group based on reviews and published articles, but I will try to look into it from a different perspective as I hail from the same ethnicity and city.
On various occasions, I have seen terrorists perpetrating acts of targeted attacks and then leaving the scene without fear of being caught by the law enforcement agencies. For instance, the incident of June 8, 2003 when 13 Hazara police cadets were gunned down on Sariab Road, Quetta in broad daylight, which left seven others critically wounded. In less than a month, the terrorists broke into the Grand Mosque on Prince Road, known as Imam Bargah Hazara Kalan, to wreck the Friday congregation prayers with suicide bombing and fierce firing on worshippers, killing about 67 people and injuring about 70 others. The third major attack happened on March 2, 2004 when terrorists targeted the annual Ashura procession in Liaquat Bazar with hand grenades and AK-47s, killing 45 and injuring 100 people. The third orchestrated attack could not have happened without the support of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan as all entry and exit routes around Quetta city were sealed off by the law enforcement agencies three days prior to the main procession. All adjacent hotels, restaurants and inns were being checked several times a day to ensure security measures are in place. Thousands of paramilitary troops and police were deployed with barbed wire, blockades and obstacles blocking the important routes to avoid any untoward situation. Nonetheless, the terrorists successfully struck the heart of the procession with hand grenades and automatic weapons to murder innocent people. The firing of terrorists, in the third instance, did not kill as many people as the targeted firing of the anti-terrorist force (ATF) — the elite commando group to combat terrorism — killed innocent people. For obvious reasons, the fire orders could not have been executed without the instructions of their superiors. Government immediately announced to probe the Ashura carnage under a serving high court judge, which took months of inquest to complete but without bearing fruit as the report was never made public. I later learned through some well-placed friends that the judgment too was implicated as it blamed the mourners for the mass human loss.
In the above mentioned first and second example, I was not at the scene of the crime but I reached about half an hour after the incidents, among mayhem, to shift the dead bodies and the injured to the Sandeman Provincial Hospital, who were later referred to the Cantonment Military Hospital for better care and treatment. In the third instance, I was literally at a distance of 10 metres from the main scene of the crime when terrorists were firing at people. Fortunately, my friend and I were standing in the opposite direction of the culprits’ firing and due to restricted hand movement, they were unable to fire in our direction. Later that day, I witnessed how the members of the ATF were shooting at the protesters from armoured vehicles and many succumbed to their injuries instantly. Shahbaz Mandokhail was the superintendent of police (ATF), but no government official was ever investigated or held responsible for the killings of those innocent people.
Since then, the perpetual targeted killings of the Hazaras have touched new heights with new tactics and a renewed gusto from the terrorists. The number of death casualties for this oppressed ethnicity has crossed the figure of 700, with double this number injured. Most of them are paralysed for life, due to unaffordability of medical bills by the victims and their families.
Then another tragic incident occurred in the heart of Quetta city, which killed six innocent Hazaras and several others were critically injured. Reliable sources have confirmed that the terrorists came on two motorcycles and fired on a shoe shop to target the Hazaras.
In three weeks in just the month of March, Hazaras were attacked four times in different areas of Quetta city. A simple arithmetical calculation reveals that it comes to burying one person a day. Most of the human loss consists of young adults whose estimated age is18-25.
The Pakistani media is deliberately silent, mostly, about these atrocities. The federal government, including the president and the former prime minister of Pakistan, were content with verbal consolation to the victims’ families and condemned these incidents, without any directives to arrest the perpetrators.
The Balochistan Chief Minister, Aslam Raisani, who hits headlines with his preposterous statements about the loss of Hazaras’ lives, spends most of his time in the capital Islamabad, which evidently depicts his interests in running the affairs of the province. Instead of seeking an amicable solution to these problems, he was quoted as saying last September that he would send a truckload of tissue paper for the victims and their families and that killing of some people would not affect the overall population of the province.
These religious fanatics were produced under the patronage of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, with financial support of some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. In a terrorist attack that targeted a moving Suzuki pick-up van on Spini Road, Quetta, on March 29, 2012, the police check post was literally at a distance of 15 metres from the main scene of the crime. This check post is manned 24 hours a day but the security personnel turned a blind eye to the scene. Had they counter-fired on the terrorists, they could have thwarted their plan to kill innocent people.
The provincial government claimed to have deployed about 3,000 paramilitary troops and police in Quetta city but they could not stop these heinous attacks. The provincial Interior Minister Mir Zafarullah Zehri spoke in TV interviews, numerous times, about the involvement of provincial ministers in these targeted killings and kidnappings of innocent city dwellers, but still the government and the judiciary showed passiveness to take any action against the culprits and their supporters.
It is high time Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations as well as the international community exerted meaningful pressure on the government of Pakistan to protect the lives of minorities. Government of Pakistan must also be pressured to the extent of taking reasonable steps against the terrorists, executing targeted operations in the areas of Quetta in which attacks have occurred frequently.

The writer is a London-based freelance journalist and the Chairman of Hazara United Movement (HUM) — a political organisation working for the rights of the Hazara Diaspora with its head office in London.

(Daily Time)

This article was published on the Daily Times on 4th July, 2012, a Pakistani English Newspaper.

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London Conference urges international community to voice against the genocide of Hazaras in Pakistan.

 

Lord Eric Avebury

 

International Imam Hussain Council organised a conference and interactive debate on the genocide of Hazaras in Al Khoei Foundation, Chevening Road, London on 12-11-2011 from 3-30 PM to 7:00 PM.

The guests included Lord Eric Avebury (well-known human rights activist), Dr. Ali Alawi, professor Harvard University (ex-minister for trade, defence and finance in Iraq’s interim government), Murtaza Poya and Yousuf Al Khoei.

The programme was divided into three parts which supplemented speeches, debate and question and answer session. The speakers were Sadiq Noyan, Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, Haji Marzooq Ali, Dr. Ali Alawi, Murtaza Poya, Liaquat Ali Hazara and Lord Avebury.

The programme started with the recitation of the Holy Quran followed by the speech of Sadiq Noyan who thanked IIHC for organising such an event to highlight the plights of Hazaras. He briefly mentioned about the History of Hazaras, focusing on the historic persecution, compelling them to migrate to the neighbouring countries. He said, “A local bus carrying Hazaras was stopped near Mastung, the ID cards were checked and the Hazaras were taken off the bus, lined up and sprayed bullet over 10 minutes until they are dead. This act killed over 29 innocent Hazaras”.

Liaquat Ali Hazara – a human rights activist – commenced his speech to give kudos to Rubab Mehdi Rizvi and her for organising the conference to voice against atrocities being perpetrated against the Hazaras in Pakistan. He said, “About 2000 years, the central Afghanistan was an independent state which was known as Ghurgistan, being inhabited by the Hazaras and then it was forcibly included in today’s Afghanistan. As the wave of extremism and terrorism has moved to the south-western city of Pakistan, I would like to draw your attention towards the religious, racial and ethnic persecution of the Hazaras which has engulfed over 700 innocent lives till this date. There are over 0.7 million Hazaras in Quetta, Pakistan with over 90% literary rate and most of them are educated to degree level. He emphatically said, “With special context to human rights, the politicians, human rights activists and other distinguished guests present here, should raise their voice against atrocities and cruelties being perpetrated against the Hazaras in the name of religion, ethnicity and faith. There is not sectarian violence in Quetta, Balochistan as one extremist group known as Lashker-e-Jhangvi has been single-handedly targeting the Hazaras with sheer impunity. The history of Pakistan is the witness that the Hazaras are the most oppressed and repressed citizens of the country whose plights mostly go unnoticed”. He also pinpointed, “The provincial government has imposed arbitrary sanctions of the Hazaras to obtain a no objection certificate (NCO) for their inter-city movements which is against the injunctions of constitution of Pakistan. We have sacrificed our lives for the country. We have indeed contributed enormously in the development and progress of the country”.

Audience at IIHC's Conference

Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, the Chairperson International Imam Hussain Council, said, “The IIHC, over the last 33 years, has been promoting inter-faith dialogue, sectarian harmony and community cohesion. This conference has been arranged in response to the on-going onslaught and a recent escalation of the cowardly attack on the Hazara tribe. The Hazaras’ persecution is borne out of a largely unresolved centuries’ old religious and ethnic animosity towards them which has resulted in massacre, institutionalised discrimination and disposition of their lands which has ignited and even moved Afghanistan towards an uncertain position and with unscathed ethnic violence in the Hazara population, it is likely that the Hazaras will continue to have grounds in the UK under the 1951 refugees’ convention to persecution. She also mentioned the persecution of the Pashtun despotic and cruel leaders against the Hazaras in Afghanistan.

She then turned to Pakistan and mentioning, “The Hazaras in Balochistan, particularly Quetta, have been targeted for over a decade now. The patriotic Hazara community have contributed many of its fronts to the Pakistan army. The extremists have decided to target Hazara community as a way of retaliating against Pakistan army. Anti-state elements are doing it in the name of religion and ethnicity, trying to create an Afghan-style scenario in Pakistan. The situation has got worse since they have killed vegetable vendors, police cadets, government officials, lawyers and politicians. This includes the murder of an international renowned boxer, Ibrar Hazara who represented Pakistan in Olympics three times. However, for his killers, the only way to find and kill him was that he was the member of the Hazara Shi’ite community. Only 21 days after the brutal Mastung massacre, fresh attacks have taken place where rockets were fired at a bus carrying pilgrims including women and children. These murderous attacks have now become so frequent that they no longer qualify as the news in national or international media. The onslaught of the targeted killings continues unabated with half a dozen more from the Hazaras were injured last night.

The aim of the conference this year is to reflect on the plights of Hazara Shi’ite ad their future as a minority in the context of their rights to religious freedom, citizenship and more importantly life without fear.  She also demanded that the Government of Pakistan must extend the representation of Hazaras to the Senate and the National Assembly in the same way as the former Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto extended it in FATA areas. We need to see more Hazaras in the top level of the society.

Far right - Dr Ali Alawi

Dr. Ali Alawi, a professor at Harvard University and minister for trade, defence and finance in 2003-2004 in Iraq said, “The history of Hazaras is not known to the world, it is known to you and us, of course because we share the common faith and we are co-religious. You are facing the crises in Pakistan, there is no doubt about it, the targeting is faced by your community in there and I really urge to put your strength together, to see what resources you have got to be used so that you voice must be heard at international arena, your voice must reach international institutions, the UN, international human rights groups including Amnesty International and all other NGOs concerned. You are the citizens of Pakistan and it should provide your protection. You have to mobilize yourselves with the pen, in strength in parliament”.

Lord Eric Avebury, a veteran political and human rights activist briefly mentioned the history of persecution of tyrant and autocrat Pashtun leaders towards Hazaras in Afghanistan. He said, “The Hazaras in Afghanistan have faced abject persecution by a handful of Pashtun there since the 1800s and in 1850s Amir Abdul Rehman Khan attached the independent state of Hazarajat to bring it under his control and used the Sunni Muslims to subjugate the Hazaras, control their territory and confiscate their agricultural lands and hand them over to the Pashtun nomads for grazing. It is estimated that over 60% of the Hazara population was massacred by this campaign of Abdur Rehman and some 75,000 people were compelled to leave to Mashad, Iran, Pakistan and in parts of Central Asia but sadly they didn’t escape from persecution in their new homes and today we are witnessing the different ways of killings as mentioned this afternoon. You also remember that the Taliban murdered several thousand Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998 and Mullah Niazi was the main criminal responsible for that crime against humanity who became the governor of the region when it was controlled by the Taliban, announced the Hazaras as infidels and declared to kill them because of the religious belief they hold.  Thousands fled to Iran, Pakistan, North America, Northern and western Europe including the UK and Australia who form the third largest population after Pakistani and Indian community there. The situation in Pakistan is getting worse which is becoming a failed state where the rights of the minority are being exploited and hundreds of people are killed. In the last three months, there have been three separate incidents of mass murder of Hazaras in Quetta. The anti-Shia Jundullah group is having hands in killings in Balochistan despite its focus on Iran.

Lord Avebury also assured that he will make a report very soon and send it to the European Union through the Foreign and commonwealth office to exert meaningful pressure on the government of Pakistan to stop the massacre of Hazaras.

Later, the session commenced an interactive debate including the members of media, civil society and Hazara representatives, followed by questions and answer session.

 

International Imam Hussain Council\’s Conference on massacre of Hazaras

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