Hazara holocaust and the deafening Pakistani silence by Anas Abbas
July 1, 2012
In Pakistan, the non state actors who implement the policy of “Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die,” have been belligerently persecuting the Hazara community since 1998. A concise historical persecution account of the Hazara people was well documented by Dr Saleem Javed in his Friday Times article. He writes: “On July 4, 2003, 53 people died and 150 were hurt in a suicide attack on a Hazara mosque in Quetta. It was the first attack of its kind. Since then, more than 700 Shias, most of them Hazaras, have been killed in violent mass killings and suicide bombings in Balochistan”.
Recently these attacks have gained significant momentum as 14 were killed and 45 injured in a suicide attack on a bus in Quetta which had just returned from Iran carrying pilgrims including women and children
So the questions are:
Why Hazara community is being targeted in Pakistan?
Who are the perpetrators and what is their motive?
These are the two questions that need to be answered first in order to understand the war against Hazaras. Currently the popular perception in Pakistan is that this persecution is an ethnic war which is a consequence of War on Terror and is designed by Foreign Elements (i.e. United States, India & Israel) in order to destabilize Pakistan’s most neglected Baluchistan province. This conspiracy theory is pervasive in Pakistan’s electronic, print & social media in different forms and is mostly promoted by Pakistani Army and politicians such as Imran khan who has this tendency of linking everything with War on Terror, to the extent that he faults the War on Terror for Salman Taseer’s assassination.
One can expect this narrative to flourish in Pakistan, the land of conspiracy theorists where the top leading scientist Dr Atta-ur-Rahman blamed United States for causing floods and earthquakes in Pakistan and where history is illegitimately distorted in order to glorify barbarians such as Mohammad Bin Qasim, and Ahmed Shah Abdali.
Lets analyse the above two questions and determine the driving force behind Hazara persecution.
The single most important factor behind Hazaras being targeted in Pakistan is in fact religion. Hazaras are predominantly Shia Muslims and the correct approach is to view their persecution in the context of protracted brutal Shia persecution since the 7thcentury. Pakistan, a Sunni dominated country has a brutal history of Shia persecution where Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have slaughtered 1000s of Shias since their inception. These organizations were born in the aftermaths of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi-a-Arabia. Pakistan Army and ruling elite helped formed and infused the Jihadi militant culture during 1979 – 89 Soviet Afghan War.
The same LeJ is now widely responsible for attacks directed against Hazaras. The LeJ, however, is not the whole story and it is incorrect to view these attacks as part of sectarian conflict alone. The other element reinforcing this violent campaign is Taliban’s ethnic cleansing ideology.
Even a cursory examination of history can tell us how the Hazara community was targeted during the ruthless Taliban rule 1996 – 2001. According to the Human Rights Watch and a 55 page report prepared by United Nation, Hazaras suffered severe oppression and large ethnic massacres by the Taliban. These ethnic cleansing campaigns were at their peak when Taliban captured Hazarajat (Land of Hazaras) and had it shut off completely from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor and Daykundi (Hazara dominated provinces). The massacres not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all areas of Afghanistan that were controlled by the Taliban particularly after their capture of Mazar-e Sharif in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared Hazaras as apostates due to their adherence to Shia Islam.
Therefore, the current war against Hazaras in Pakistan is not just a part of sectarian religious conflict but also a substantial part of Taliban’s ethnic cleansing campaign.
Following NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan, the situation for Hazaras has changed drastically but the ethnic cleansing campaign is now shifted from Afghanistan to Quetta which is the current headquarter of Taliban. The LeJ is now acting on behalf of Taliban to target Hazaras. The Taliban have always had deep links with Pakistani terrorist organizations as these organizations provided thousands of fighters to them in the war against Northern Alliance in 1996. Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Taliban, comprehensively documented this in his book “Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia”. According to the U.S. State Department report and reports by the Human Rights Watch, during the 1996 war, 40% of the Taliban militants were Pakistanis.
Despite the open declaration of war against Hazaras by the Taliban, the common perception in Pakistan remains largely based on false propaganda by the Taliban sympathizers such as Imran Khan who view them as a freedom fighting force justifiably struggling against American imperialism.
Apart from persecutions and massacres, the suffering of Hazaras is constantly ignored in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Hazara issue has not been the subject of Pakistani obstreperous media talk shows and has failed to attract even the kind of attention that has been given to the terrorist Aafia Siddiqui and against Drone attacks.
This is mainly because the criterion for condemnation in Pakistan has always been eccentric, absurd and hypocritical in nature just like in rest of the Muslim world where mass hysteria against a particular issue is created only if it possesses direct links to United States, Israel and India. This silence is similar in nature as always been observed by Pakistanis on thousands of Pakhtuns and Balochs who have been killed by local terrorist organizations and the Pakistan Military and on Darfur conflict where up to 500,000 people (mainly Muslims) have been killed by Sudan.
Political and religious parties in Pakistan take no interest in the plight of Hazaras since none of the influential politician represents Hazara community and the issue lacks fundamental ingredients of anti Americanism which sells in public.
In days to come it should not come as a surprise if the violent attacks against the Hazara people continue as it is more than likely the Taliban will continue their violent streak unabated with no resistance from either the Pakistani media or public. It is indeed sad and adds another chapter to the dark brutal history of Pakistan that the massacre of this magnitude can continue to take place.