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Sectarian Killings of Hazara in Pakistan and Afghanistan

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

April 17, 2019

Christchurch mosques killing in New Zealand stunned the entire world’s conscience to shame. Instantly its prime minister-a brave woman with a mother’s heart-rose to the apogee of human greatness when she rushed to be on the scene of crime and be with aggrieved families to share their grief and help them recover.

For days and weeks she was seen attired in black mourning dress visiting the families assuring them of transparent justice at any cost. Whatever she did in the dark hours of national crisis was not cosmetic. Its primary objective was to re-generate confidence of the people-irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender-in the judicial system of the country, in law-enforcers, in the government and in her as the prime minister who had the capacity to lead and sustain any eventuality- however grim and challenging.

Unlike Pakistan, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacanda Ardern did not appoint a committee of so-called experts or JIT as is the practice to cover up a crime, to save the culprits or to move on as we have seen in cases like that of Sahiwal killings by elite counter-terrorism force. PM Jacinda got to the bottom of it. She could see wisdom on the need to de-weaponise the society where arms could be held freely. No more.

Legislation is in order to restrict certain categories of lethal weapons from household and individual domain. And I am sure this is the first major step for defanging the society and averting any future incidents like Christchurch mosques. Most outstanding characteristic of her whole operation was not to allow Islamophobic or sectarian forces to raise their heads. It is to Jacinda’s credit that she converted a bloody situation from becoming a threat to a peaceful society and its unshakeable bond of peaceful co-existence. I wonder had she been president of US 9-11 instead of George W. Bush, Jr, world could have avoided a clash of civilisations, a crusade against a peaceful religion that has world population of over a billion and averted from plunging this century into century of terror.

In Pakistan, we are back to killing fields of Quetta with Hazaras as its prime victims of annual feats of genocide at the hands of sectarian killers-many of whom it seems are in cahoots with the certain elements among law enforcers. This time the responsibility has been claimed by the Sunni or Salafi ISIS. They killed 20 Hazaras in a suicide bomb blast in t`he Quetta district of Hazarajang, including law enforcers and injuring scores of others.

This is not the first time it happened. Killing of Hazaras has come to be an annual feature. And that too despite the fact that Quetta is a garrison town and Balochistan a province that has over half a dozen cantonments with heavy presence of the army, Rangers, levies and host of intelligence agencies having a carte blanche to do anything they want to in the name of law and order including picking up of usual suspects to consign to the long list of missing and hapless persons-with no voice and no relief.

Soon after the recent killings there was a four- day sit in by the families of the victims. They were demanding of the PM and the Army Chief to visit them not only to condole with them but to give them some sort of assurance that the Hazaras would be protected. Any the way their protestations fell like seeds on the stony ground, none of the two had the compassion to be with them. However, glib tongued Interior minister Shaheryar Afridi was sent to pacify them. He is rare specie of ministerial buffoonery. While offering his condolences he mentioned that his leader IK was in touch with leaders of neighbouring countries-including Iran’s President Rafsanjani — to seek arrest of culprits.

Hazaras is a minority not only in Pakistan but also in Sunni Afghanistan. Since they are Ahle-Thasih their number gets assimilated in Shiite Iran. However, their distinctive Mongolian features make them conveniently identifiable making them easy target of sectarian killers in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our down ward slide to sectarianism and ethnic poolitics began when the secular vision of the founder of Pakistan-Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah -a Shiite- was tainted by the West Pakistani Power Troika and replaced with the concept of garrison state backed by feudal class and obscurantist forces who had opposed MAJ. It took its demonise proportion with the advent of ‘Mard-e- Momin’ General Ziaul Haq ordained by his divinity to play Messiah.

General ZIA’s ten-year long oppressive rule allowed targeted killings in Hazaras and of other Shias as if he had given a licence to a systematic program of Shias and democratic forces in the country. Except brief spurts of democratic rule under Benazir Bhutto , the treatment of Hazaras has been much more of the same. Unfortunately ever since PTI government Hazara killings have become more ominous.

The other day the prominent columnist and TV anchor Najam Sethi in his programme rightly linked our overall malaise to the fact that we have not ceased to be National Security State and not given up our brotherhood with the militant non-security actors. Indeed, the way we side with the internationally declared pariahs such as JuD’s Hafiz Saeed and JeM’s Maulana Masood Azhar makes our policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds a thorn in the eye of international community making us outcast and a suspect involved in terrorism despite our sacrifices in men and material and fighting extremism.

During the tenure of President General Pervez Musharraf his onetime Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider set himself seriously on the task of de-weaponisation of the country to eliminate lawlessness. He tried rightly earnestly but various compulsions came in his way. However, he did succeed in ascertaining the numbers of weapons possessed by individuals. It was in millions and quite a large number of lethal bores were licensed. Not only that, he could not frame an operational procedure to defang individuals who were given a right to keep arms to satisfy their tribal egos in KP, Balochistan and tribal areas. As a result of Musharraf regime’s deliberate failure and increasing influence of Sunni religious leaders like Lainbaik and their armed organisations Pakistan’s civilian population has become most well-armed and dangerous.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.