By Abbas Nasir
June 29, 2012
WE have made this Islamic Republic such a heaven on earth that we struggle to find words, often fight over these, to describe what its proud sons are capable of.
Just two days ago, someone asked on Twitter why our Fourth Estate calls bloody attacks on the Shia-Hazaras in Quetta ‘sectarian violence’. “Isn’t it Shia genocide?” I dived into various dictionaries but couldn’t come up with a definitive answer.
Butchery, slaughter, carnage, mass murder and of course genocide have been variously used to describe such bloodlust as is being evidenced in (not just) the Balochistan capital. Your vocabulary is as good as mine.
But will finding the correct word, using the most appropriate, accurate terminology alter the bloody ground reality or render it any clearer? Not really. Then, aren’t there even more significant questions to be asked?
Such as what drives our propensity to hate so much that even a name arouses the vilest of passions. How vile? Well, vile enough for us to kill. Didn’t you hear the ‘motive’ for the killing of a KESC official in Karachi, was said to be his Shia-sounding name though in fact he wasn’t.
How did we get here? Don’t you wish you knew? All we can see is when a state thinks nothing of using an indoctrinated non-state cast for its ‘strategic objectives’ it is but a small step for some of these villainous actors to start pursuing their own ideological agenda, no matter how toxic.
And what do we do? We prioritise. In Balochistan, our first priority is to tackle those who are ‘threatening the integrity of the state at the behest of their foreign masters’. These ‘misguided’ militants can be dealt with later if at all, even brought back on the rails as they are patriotic.
We are defending the country against external threats. All else must be secondary. One day the citadel of Islam will become that for certain. What’s the worry if for now it resembles no more than a slaughterhouse soaked in the blood of its innocent sons and daughters?
When you see the daily relentless slaughter of the Shia-Hazaras in Quetta (frankly, it’s pointless to keep count when you know it’ll need to be updated every 24 hours if not sooner) and similar hatred at work elsewhere from Chilas to Karachi, what do you do?
Well, many Shia-Hazaras say the electronic media, in particular, prefers to shut its eyes or just look away rather than acknowledge the horror. Perhaps they are right. Religious fanaticism that drives people to mass murder isn’t half as sexy as politicians tearing each other limb from limb on live telly.
Everyone is stepping over each other to please the latest centre of power in the country, the esteemed black-robed judges. The military and its intelligence apparatus continue to sell with, dare I say, consummate ease its national security threat perspective to journalists.
It may itself be under siege but even a government that has failed at almost everything except delivering on a hearty legislative agenda still has enough ideological support or the means to buy a voice or two that counts in its favour.
But who’ll march for the Shia-Hazaras, they ask. They have little hope in a decadent government whose chief executive is either so disinterested or feels so powerless that his detractors now count the number of days he is able to spend in the province he represents each month.
He prefers the handlebars of his Harley Davidson to ride around the federal capital and entertain himself rather than demonstrate the steel required to steer his troubled, torn province to safety as he was elected to do. Sincere apologies if such reports are mere propaganda.
What isn’t propaganda is that (given the size of the community) a disproportionately large number of Shia-Hazaras have been killed in and around Quetta. This happened not as they planned or executed acts of aggression against anyone. Their crime: being easily identifiable as Shia-Hazaras.
You haven’t heard many Hazara voices, have you? Here is one. Saleem Javed is a doctor of medicine and a blogger who tweets @msaleemjaved. In his own words, he so effectively articulates how it was and is for his community.
“Being a Hazara was a matter of pride. We grew up with dreams to take part in Pakistan’s development with devotion and sincerity as our forefathers did. Be it in the field of education, sports, politics or defence. We were glad as everybody thought we were successful in achieving our goals.
“But things have changed greatly since 1999. We feel being subjected to persecution, prejudice and discrimination almost on a daily basis. We feel as if there is always somebody mapping out a plan to attack us?
“You feel as if the state of Pakistan has totally abandoned you. As if the security forces are facilitating your murderers. As if the media is mocking your death. As if the human rights organisations are turning a blind eye on your genocide. And worst of all, as if your fellow countrymen are celebrating your death.
“As a Hazara you are afraid of a policeman, afraid of any armed man. We don’t even trust the Pakistan Army, top judiciary … almost nobody. Because nobody has ever heard your voice over the last 13 years. You are afraid of going to university because somebody is lying in wait to kill you.
“You can’t even escape. You need a passport for that. But you feel you’ll be murdered if you go to the passport office. You can’t go to any office for that matter because you will be identified, chased and finally shot in the head.
“You feel that even your neighbours are annoyed by your screaming and want you to stop shouting.”
Don’t let your fears about your neighbours stop you, my good friend. Or we’ll be left with no hope at all.
Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.