By Dr Mohammad Taqi
January 30, 2014
Is the chief minister not aware that the Hazaras cannot move freely between Hazara Town and Mariabad, Quetta without risking executions? That a people are being ghettoised in the 21st century on his watch seems completely lost on Dr Baloch
The beleaguered Shia Hazara community of Quetta has dug yet another mass grave for its loved ones slaughtered in the Mastung bombing by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) as they were returning from a pilgrimage in Iraq and Iran. The Hazaras, one of the most peaceful people in Pakistan, had just commemorated the anniversary of the massacre perpetrated on them by the LeJ via twin suicide bombings last January in Quetta. A hundred Hazara Shias died in that attack. Before that the LeJ had executed 26 Hazara Shias in an ambush in Mastung in September 2011 and another 15 in Quetta in June 2012 as they were returning from a pilgrimage. It seems nothing has changed for the hapless Hazaras. The then provincial and federal governments led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had promised action against the LeJ just as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has done now. One will have to see it to believe it. Till then, the Hazara Shias are on their own.
The cavalier attitude of the Balochistan chief ministers has perhaps also remained the same. When asked about the plight of the Hazara Shias, the former chief minister Aslam Raisani offered to send them a truckload of tissue papers. The current chief minister, Dr Malik Baloch, was not as callous as Mr Raisani and did show up at the peaceful protest organised by the Hazara Shias. However, his proposed — and later enforced — solution to the ongoing tragedy was just as inconsiderate. Dr Baloch said that the pilgrim buses should stop using the land route through Mastung and go to Karachi instead. He suggested a ferry service between Pakistan and Iran with the voyage starting preferably from Karachi. The television anchor asking him the question might not have known but it is just not possible that Dr Baloch is not aware that the shortest route from Quetta to Karachi also goes through Mastung. Whatever the easiest way to Karachi may be, Dr Baloch, a supposedly enlightened and progressive leader, was clearly taking a detour around responsibility. What does he have to say about the Shia Hazara vendors getting killed in Quetta? Is the chief minister not aware that the Hazaras cannot move freely between Hazara Town and Mariabad, Quetta without risking executions? That a people are being ghettoised in the 21st century on his watch seems completely lost on Dr Baloch.
This is not the first time Dr Malik Baloch has been economical with the truth. In fact, he and his lead senator, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, both have made it a habit to speak of the elusive foreign hand and Iran-Saudi proxy war whenever the Shia Hazara killings are brought up as an issue that their government should be addressing. They never pinpoint what exactly the Hazara Shias have got to do with Iran. How many Saudi proxies have ever been killed by the Hazaras? Do they have any militant outfit that has targeted civilians and blown up buses? As the leaders in charge of a terribly restive province, these gentlemen, who have been permanent fixtures in Islamabad, should be a bit more forthcoming and serious.
They cannot be unaware that the LeJ and the state-backed jihadists fighting the Baloch nationalists have been consorting for quite some time. Terrorists like Usman ‘Saifullah’ Kurd, Ramzan Mengal, Dawood Badini and Jaleel Abubakar Ababakki have been the bane of both the Baloch nationalists and the Hazara Shias. Some of these men fought alongside Mullah Omar’s Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s and reportedly spent time in the training camps setup there by the LeJ founder, Riaz Basra. Logistics and manpower sharing between the LeJ and the state-propped death squad, the Baloch Musallah Difaa e Tanzeem (BMDT),cannot be hidden from the ostensibly nationalist government of Balochistan.
But, then again, till the time of this writing, Dr Malik Baloch has not let out as much as a whimper about the discovery of mass graves in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan. The gruesome find has been reported by the Pakistani and international media, putting the number of bodies or remains at anywhere from 15 to 100. In all likelihood, the dead were ethnic Baloch. A member of Dr Baloch’s cabinet, Mr Sarfaraz Bugti, had the gall to tell the BBC Urdu service in one breath that the bodies were unidentified but ‘he guaranteed’ that the state was not involved. He blamed the Baloch separatists for the atrocity and alleged that the Indian intelligence agency RAW was involved. Mr Sarfaraz Bugtimay be covering up what could be a gorywar crime. Dr Malik Baloch’s silence on this tragic matter speaks volumes about both his capacity and will. This is indeed a sad state of affairs under a chief minister whose election held some promise for many, if not all, in Balochistan and beyond.
To their partial credit, Dr Malik Baloch and Senator Hasil Bizenjo have stated that any operation in Balochistan against the LeJ cannot be successful unless the theatre of action is expanded to include Punjab and even Karachi. There can be little doubt that while its tentacles reach all provinces, the body of the LeJ hydra remains in Punjab. It is quite disingenuous to not mention, even in passing, the close relationship of the LeJ with the terrorist groups unleashed to neutralise the Baloch separatists.
The Hazara Shia genocide is very much the outcome of the state’s policy to deploy armed groups to upend the Baloch insurgency. The state is not only aware of sectarian terrorists but some of its functionaries have reportedly been complicit in springing the LeJ ringleaders, Usman Saifullah Kurd, Dawood Badini and Shafiq Rind, from prison. Similarly, the BMDT’s head honcho, Shafiq Mengal, who recites scripture at the drop of a hat, cannot thrive without high-level patronage. The state’s strategy of countering the Baloch insurrection with jihadism is but a replication of its similar strategy to neutralise Pashtun nationalists on both sides of the Durand Line with an array of fundamentalists. Sadly, the outcome in Balochistan is no less disastrous than it has been in the Pashtun lands.
A meaningful operation would entail not just including Punjab but actually abandoning the policy of using jihadist proxies at home and across the borders. Short of that, Balochistan will unfortunately keep bleeding and its people digging more mass graves and marching on in search of their missing loved ones buried perhaps like those found in Khuzdar.