Hundreds of Afghan civil society and human rights activists held a demonstration in Kabul on Friday protesting against ethnic cleansing of a particular minority group in Pakistan. They were holding banners calling the UN to take notice of an ethnic cleansing in Quetta, where, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 600 members of the Hazara ethnic and sectarian minority have been slaughtered in last couple of years by the Al-Qaeda linked sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The latest such attack was reported on October 4.
According to the New York Times, “On Tuesday [Oct 04] morning, attackers riding in a pickup truck intercepted the bus carrying mostly Shiite day laborers traveling to a market. The gunmen forced non-Hazara passengers to get off the bus, then opened fire on the people remaining inside.” 14 people were killed.
They were all vegetable vendors going to a market on a local bus. Just a week before that attack, a bus on the way to Quetta-Taftan was targeted. According to a statement by the Human Rights Watch, “On September 19, near the town of Mastung, gunmen forced about 40 Hazara who had been traveling by bus to Iran to visit Shia holy sites to disembark, shot 26 dead, and wounded six.
Although some Hazara managed to escape, another three were killed as they tried to bring victims to a hospital in Quetta. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the September 19 attack.”
The Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams says “these targeted attacks are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.”
In reaction to the October 4 attack, Amnesty International said, “Sadly this is only the latest in a long line of brazen attacks against Quetta’s Shi’a population. Sectarian violence has been a feature of the general breakdown in law and order in Pakistan, but these recent attacks seem to indicate a new targeting of the ethnic Hazara community".
Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International Mustafa Qadri said, “routine targeted killings against the Hazara and other groups because of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliations raise serious questions about the will or ability of Pakistan security force to protect the people of Balochistan."
According to Pakistani media reports, more than 600 members of this ethnic and sectarian minority have been killed in Quetta since 2001. Though the targeted-killing of Hazara Shias in Quetta started in 1997, but in the year 2011 alone, about a hundred have been killed so far in execution-style attacks when members of the minority community are identified, lined up and shot.
All these attacks, since 1997 to the latest two massacres, have been claimed by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant outfit and breakaway faction of the Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan, founded by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi in Punjab in 1996.
The banned group is a lethal sectarian outfit active in anti-Shiite attacks in Pakistan, where the government has failed to crack down against its members. Rather, a known LeJ leader Malik Ishaq was released by a Pakistani court in July. Since then, the attacks mounted on the Hazaras in Quetta.
According to Pakistani journalist Amir Mir, LeJ in an open-letter distributed in Quetta has warned to “purify Pakistan” from the Hazaras. In a report for the Asia Times Online, Mir reported translation of such a letter. “All Shi'ites are worthy of killing. We will rid Pakistan of unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure and the Shi'ites have no right to live in this country.
We have the edict and signatures of revered scholars, declaring Shi'ites infidels. Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shi'ite Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission in Pakistan is the abolition of this impure sect and its followers from every city, every village and every nook and corner of Pakistan.
“Like in the past, our successful jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta, is ongoing and will continue in the future. We will make Pakistan the graveyard of the Shi'ite Hazaras and their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we will be able to fly the flag of true Islam on this land of the pure. Jihad against the Shi'ite Hazaras has now become our duty.”
But the question is, “Why the Pakistan law enforcement agencies have failed to crack down against this group?” In an op-ed on the News on October 06, former IG Police Balochistan Tariq Khosa said, “it is not a secret that such forces have their hideouts near Mastung in Kabo and other Ferrari camps. These camps are located in the B Areas, which are out of the reach of Balochistan Police, thanks to power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats who have handed over 95% of the province to the rag-tag militias, called the Levies.”
Though Mr. Khosa cries the bureaucratic system with police, it is a matter of internal security which comes under the responsibilities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Army, who are more focused against the Baloch separatists in Balochistan, while the Al-Qaeda elements, and their affiliates like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are operating freely in the province.
Prominent Pakistani journalists such as Najam Sethi, Mushtaq Minhas, Javed Nusrat and others in TV talk shows are now calling the continuous attacks on Hazaras as an ethnic genocide. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement last week called upon President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani “to take immediate, direct and personal initiative to prevent the killing of members of the Hazara community in Quetta and ensure action against all those who have failed to protect citizens’ lives.”
Despite the continuous attacks, and calls by Human Rights Watch, The Amnesty International, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and prominent Pakistani journalists, the Government of Pakistan and its security establishment has turned a blind eye and deaf ear.
Very shamelessly, the Chief Minister of Balochistan and member of the Executive Committee of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Nawab Aslam Raisani was making jokes out of the massacre in Quetta. In a statement referring to the attack in Mastung that killed 40 Hazaras, he said, “of the millions living in Balochistan, 40 dead is not a big deal. I will send a truckload of tissue papers to the bereaved families. I would have sent tobacco if I was not a politician.”
The half-a-million Pakistani Hazara community of Quetta are current generations of those Hazara who fled Afghanistan in 1890s when Amir Abdul Rahman declared Jihad against them, killing and displacing millions.
After reading the above lines, there might be one question in your mind that, what is a failed state, if not one that cannot ensure the right to existence of its citizens, particularly the ethnic and sectarian minorities?
Those protesting in Kabul on Friday were also holding banners asking UN to take notice of the ethnic genocide in Quetta. Some held placards with caricatures of Ban Ki-moon. They handed over a resolution to the UN office in Kabul and all the diplomatic missions. Hope the world will take notice of this cruelty and stand for the right of an ethnic and sectarian minority to exist!