A genocide in our neighbourhood
Hidden from international and regional attention, ethnic cleansing to the point of genocide of sorts is going on in Pakistan. The Hazara community in Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan, is being systematically annihilated by mass murder, while law enforcement agencies look on, either helplessly or in connivance. Cries of ‘Shia Shia, Kafir Shia’ rend the air, pamphlets threatening elimination of the entire race of Hazaras are distributed right under the nose of the Pakistani military and intelligence services in the garrison town of Quetta, yet nobody does anything to stop this business of hate and murders.
Two years ago, a Sunni militant outfit, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), declared Hazaras as wajib-ul-qatl — making it the duty of Muslims to kill them. And they are going about killing Hazara Shias with impunity. Pakistan has the world’s second largest Shia population, with half a million Hazara Shias living in Quetta, and they are being wiped out systematically.
In twin bombings on January 10th and February 16th, almost 200 Shias, mostly Hazaras, died and the LeJ proudly took credit for the bombings. Their blood curdling press statement warned the Hazaras of more attacks saying, “…the LeJ will conduct similar attacks in 2013. The enemies (Hazaras) will not find ways to leave Balochistan alive.” To media channels, the LeJ read out a statement: “We want to make it clear to the Shia Hazaras that they should not consider themselves safe and secure till the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate of Pakistan…we are neither afraid of Governor’s Rule nor the Pakistan Army and we will continue to kill Shias Hazaras in their homes.” In their spare time, they kill Hindus, Christians and Ahmedis.
Hazaras and Ahmedis are Muslims but in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, they are treated as Kafirs or infidels. In no country in the world are citizens made to sign on a declaration that they are not Ahmedis, pejoratively called Qadianis in Pakistan. As writer Mohammad Hanif asked succinctly, “Ya Ilaahi, ye mulk hai ya kafir banaane ki factory?” (Is this a country or a factory that declares infidels?). And he rightly pointed out that had the Father of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah been travelling by road in today’s Pakistan, he probably wouldn’t have survived the journey because his identity card would have revealed that he was a Shia. Let’s go further back. Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty who Pakistanis see as a hero, was a Shia from Persia. The sect they are today eliminating.
65 years after the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion, that country is unsafe for Muslims. Muslims are now fleeing Pakistan. Hazara Shias, first forced to live in ghettos, are now being bombed there. They are being threatened that the several thousands who have survived will also be killed. And through all this, the gentle Hazaras sit in peaceful demonstrations...in rain and sun, pleading with the administration to help them. The callous authorities mouth platitudes; the terrified liberals and media are scared to condemn too loudly, fearing retribution from the powerful LeJ. The minorities have no voice in Pakistan; no politician dare take up their cause, especially when elections are round the corner.
The world community also seems to have given up on Pakistan. Other than the token words of condemnation, the global powers have abandoned this jihad factory as long as it is not blowing up people from other nationalities. It is indeed horrific to see how no country has come out to empathise with or help the Hazaras as they pick the dead bodies of their relatives from aftermath of suicide bombings, targeted massacres in buses and markets. India officially raised the issue of persecution of Hindus in Pakistan but has made no mention of the massacres of the Shia community. If India is truly secular, then the predicament of the minority Hazaras and Ahmedis should be as distressing to Indian government and human rights groups as that of Hindus who are fleeing Pakistan. But we are silent and so is the rest of the world.
The situation has the miniscule liberals in Pakistan terrified because they know that the ‘establishment’, which has used and continues to use these very terror outfits as an extended arm of its foreign and security policy is now unable to stop them. Maliq Ishaqs and Hafeez Sayeeds enjoy demi-god status in Pakistan. This hydra-headed and multiple-limbed monster of jehadi terror in our neighbourhood is eyeing us with jealousy and hate. We can ignore it only at our own peril.