Why are the Hazaras being killed in Balochistan, Pakistan?

There is a dramatic increase in the senseless and cowardly attacks on Hazara civilians in Quetta, Pakistan. People are being targeted for no apparent reasons.  The attacks are indiscriminate and random and the victims are exclusively Hazaras. The latest attack took the lives of eight people who were gunned down in broad day light in a crowded part of the city.

Why are these people targeted in such a brutal fashion and where is the government security apparatus to protect the citizens? Is it the government policy to give a green light to the terrorists to subdue certain segments of the society? There are a number of reasons:

1-      The first thing that comes to mind is the animosity of a tiny minority of the extremist Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, toward Shias in Pakistan. The Hazaras in Pakistan are predominantly Shias and thus the victims of anti-Shia campaigns in the country. Are the Hazaras the only Shia group in Pakistan? Certainly not. Almost every ethnic group in Pakistan has Shias among their members. Sometime other Shias have also been the targets of assassinations in Pakistan, but the Hazaras bear the brunt of this ominous campaign. Why are the Hazaras being the main targets of this sectarian mayhem? The answer among other things is to be found in the vulnerability of the Hazara community and their distinct features.

2-      The relative success of Hazaras both in business and education is also a cause for jealousy and hate among the disaffected groups in the province who find Hazaras a scapegoat for their miseries. The Hazaras have become an urban elite in mostly the impoverished Balochistan province where per capita neither the Pashtun nor the Baloch can match the Hazara success. Needless to say that their success has been achieved through hard work and not at the expense of others.

3-      Being Shi’ites, the Hazaras are erroneously associated with Iran. At times there have been some moves by the Shia clergy, not necessarily of Hazara origin, in support of the Iranian political agendas such as the Quds Day(Roz-e-Quds) or Jerusalem Day. This has been organized by those mindless clergy who are working more for the interest of Iran than the Hazaraor the Shia community in Pakistan. Since the Iranian political agendas are carried out in the name of religion, the Hazaras have taken part. Otherwise, the Quds Day or any other Iranian agendas have nothing to do with the Hazaras. The Wahabi and Deobandi followers have misconstrued these events as being instigated by the Hazaras.  Creating enmity between the Shi’tes and the Sunni communities in Pakistan was the result of the Iranian hegemonic policies and exacerbated and intensified by the Wahabi inspired extremists who are supported and financed by regional powers. In fact Pakistan and Afghanistan are the victims of proxy wars being fought between regional powers that vie for position in the Islamic world.

4-      If one is to believe in the conspiracy theories, the complicity of the Pakistani government and the security establishmentand/or the weakness of the Pakistani state are also a reason for the Hazara genocide. It is inconceivable to think that the ISI is not aware of the activities and whereabouts of the terrorist groups or their extremist elements in the country. Quetta city or Mastung is not Waziristan where the extremists reign supreme. The ISI is such an ubiquitous organization that practically nothing of importance takes place without its full knowledge or approval. Let us not forget that almost all extremist groups of note are being created, trained, financed, armed and directed by the ISI, both those that engage in terrorist activities in Afghanistan and the ones that occasionally operate in India including Kashmir. It looks as if it is the intention of the government or its policy to promote sectarian terrorism against certain groups in Pakistan. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reports that  “militant outlets which are said to be financed by the ISI and trained with the collaboration of Frontier Corps and Military Intelligence in Balochistan. Their main tasks include counter-insurgency, spread of Talibanization, sectarian violence, Killings of Hazaras and Shias, attacks on NATO supply routes and targeting journalists and lawyers.”

If one disregards the conspiracy theory, then it is a case of extreme incompetence on the part of the government. Since the start of the genocide against the Hazaras in Quetta, the government has only one suspect in custody. Two master minds of the terror, namely Usman Saifullah Kurd and Shafiq Rind were apprehended, but thanks to the complicity of the security establishment both escaped from a high security facility. One of them, Rind, was later rearrested, but Kurd is still at large and is believed to be leading the terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Jangvi in Quetta.

To add insult to injury, AslamRaisani, the chief minister of Balochistan province commenting about the massacre of the Hazaras in Mastung, shot his mouth by saying that he would send a truck load of paper tissues for the Hazaras to wipe out their tears. How pathetic. His remarks published at the time in national newspapers were not only insensitive and irresponsible but downright inhuman. Instead of focusing on his incompetent administration where notorious terrorists escape from practically under his knows, he makes such a stupid remark. If he had some dignity, he would have resigned from his post. By the same token, his bosses should have relieved him of his duties.

It is ironic that he reportedly still enjoys membership of PPP, the party that is in power in Pakistan. He also holds the same position. It is a disgrace to the party and government to have clowns like Raisani as the chief minister of a province. In true democratic societies where the governments are responsible for the welfare of the people, the civilian as well as the uniformed authorities are held accountable for the safety of the populace.

Sadly in Pakistan, sectarian attacks are carried out with impunity and almost always, the police seem to be on the scene right after the incidents take place as if they knew in advance something about the events.  The government seems to be oblivious at best and paralyzed at worse.

5-      The last and perhaps the most serious reason for the carnage caused by the terrorists is the vulnerability and the weakness of the Hazara community to defend itself. Terrorist groups more often try to attack the soft targets, the most vulnerable and weak. The Hazaracommunity numbering roughly about 600,000.00 people are living in two main sections of the city. Unfortunately it is customary for the criminal and terrorist groups to target those who cannot defend themselves.

Conclusion

In the absence of a credible and reliable national security force or law enforcement authority, the people have the right to defend themselves. As long as the Pakistani government turns a blind eye to the plight of the peaceful Hazara community, they can and should form neighborhood watch and civil defense force to defend themselves. Turning the other cheek would encourage the killers and make them more blood thirsty. This may sound drastic, but the alternative has not helped so far. As long as the Hazaras in Balochistan wait for the government in Islamabad to protect them, they will be deeply disappointed.

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Why Are the Hazaras Being Killed in Quetta, Pakistan?

There is a dramatic increase in the senseless and cowardly attacks on Hazara civilians in Quetta, Pakistan. People are being targeted for no apparent reasons. The attacks are indiscriminate and random and the victims are exclusively Hazaras. The latest attack took the lives of eight people who were gunned down in broad day light in a crowded part of the city.
Why are these people targeted in such a brutal fashion and where is the government security apparatus to protect the citizens? Is it the government policy to give a green light to the terrorists to subdue certain segments of the society? There are a number of reasons:
1- The first thing that comes to mind is the animosity of a tiny minority of the extremist Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, toward Shias in Pakistan. The Hazaras in Pakistan are predominantly Shias and thus the victims of anti-Shia campaigns in the country. Are the Hazaras the only Shia group in Pakistan? Certainly not. Almost every ethnic group in Pakistan has Shias among their members. Sometime other Shias have also been the targets of assassinations in Pakistan, but the Hazaras bear the brunt of this ominous campaign. Why are the Hazaras being the main targets of this sectarian mayhem? The answer among other things is to be found in the vulnerability of the Hazara community and their distinct features.
2- The relative success of Hazaras both in business and education is also a cause for jealousy and hate among the disaffected groups in the province who find Hazaras a scapegoat for their miseries. The Hazaras have become an urban elite in mostly the impoverished Balochistan province where per capita neither the Pashtun nor the Baloch can match the Hazara success. Needless to say that their success has been achieved through hard work and not at the expense of others.
3- Being Shi’ites, the Hazaras are erroneously associated with Iran. At times there have been some moves by the Shia clergy, not necessarily of Hazara origin, in support of the Iranian political agendas such as the Quds Day(Roz-e-Quds) or Jerusalem Day. This has been organized by those mindless clergy who are working more for the interest of Iran than the Hazaraor the Shia community in Pakistan. Since the Iranian political agendas are carried out in the name of religion, the Hazaras have taken part. Otherwise, the Quds Day or any other Iranian agendas have nothing to do with the Hazaras. The Wahabi and Deobandi followers have misconstrued these events as being instigated by the Hazaras. Creating enmity between the Shi’tes and the Sunni communities in Pakistan was the result of the Iranian hegemonic policies and exacerbated and intensified by the Wahabi inspired extremists who are supported and financed by regional powers. In fact Pakistan and Afghanistan are the victims of proxy wars being fought between regional powers that vie for position in the Islamic world.
4- If one is to believe in the conspiracy theories, the complicity of the Pakistani government and the security establishmentand/or the weakness of the Pakistani state are also a reason for the Hazara genocide. It is inconceivable to think that the ISI is not aware of the activities and whereabouts of the terrorist groups or their extremist elements in the country. Quetta city or Mastung is not Waziristan where the extremists reign supreme. The ISI is such an ubiquitous organization that practically nothing of importance takes place without its full knowledge or approval. Let us not forget that almost all extremist groups of note are being created, trained, financed, armed and directed by the ISI, both those that engage in terrorist activities in Afghanistan and the ones that occasionally operate in India including Kashmir. It looks as if it is the intention of the government or its policy to promote sectarian terrorism against certain groups in Pakistan. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reports that “militant outlets which are said to be financed by the ISI and trained with the collaboration of Frontier Corps and Military Intelligence in Balochistan. Their main tasks include counter-insurgency, spread of Talibanization, sectarian violence, Killings of Hazaras and Shias, attacks on NATO supply routes and targeting journalists and lawyers.”
If one disregards the conspiracy theory, then it is a case of extreme incompetence on the part of the government. Since the start of the genocide against the Hazaras in Quetta, the government has only one suspect in custody. Two master minds of the terror, namely Usman Saifullah Kurd and Shafiq Rind were apprehended, but thanks to the complicity of the security establishment both escaped from a high security facility. One of them, Rind, was later rearrested, but Kurd is still at large and is believed to be leading the terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Jangvi in Quetta.
To add insult to injury, AslamRaisani, the chief minister of Balochistan province commenting about the massacre of the Hazaras in Mastung, shot his mouth by saying that he would send a truck load of paper tissues for the Hazaras to wipe out their tears. How pathetic. His remarks published at the time in national newspapers were not only insensitive and irresponsible but downright inhuman. Instead of focusing on his incompetent administration where notorious terrorists escape from practically under his knows, he makes such a stupid remark. If he had some dignity, he would have resigned from his post. By the same token, his bosses should have relieved him of his duties.
It is ironic that he reportedly still enjoys membership of PPP, the party that is in power in Pakistan. He also holds the same position. It is a disgrace to the party and government to have clowns like Raisani as the chief minister of a province. In true democratic societies where the governments are responsible for the welfare of the people, the civilian as well as the uniformed authorities are held accountable for the safety of the populace.
Sadly in Pakistan, sectarian attacks are carried out with impunity and almost always, the police seem to be on the scene right after the incidents take place as if they knew in advance something about the events. The government seems to be oblivious at best and paralyzed at worse.
5- The last and perhaps the most serious reason for the carnage caused by the terrorists is the vulnerability and the weakness of the Hazara community to defend itself. Terrorist groups more often try to attack the soft targets, the most vulnerable and weak. The Hazaracommunity numbering roughly about 600,000.00 people are living in two main sections of the city. Unfortunately it is customary for the criminal and terrorist groups to target those who cannot defend themselves.
Conclusion
In the absence of a credible and reliable national security force or law enforcement authority, the people have the right to defend themselves. As long as the Pakistani government turns a blind eye to the plight of the peaceful Hazara community, they can and should form neighborhood watch and civil defense force to defend themselves. Turning the other cheek would encourage the killers and make them more blood thirsty. This may sound drastic, but the alternative has not helped so far. As long as the Hazaras in Balochistan wait for the government in Islamabad to protect them, they will be deeply disappointed.

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Peace with the Taliban: is it Tenable?


Are the Taliban a terrorist group? Is the country that harbors and nurtures them on the US list of states that sponsor Terrorism? The answers to both of these questions are obvious and need not require any elaboration. What does however necessitate scrutiny is why the Obama administration is so keen to support a rapprochement with the Taliban as well as their primary sponsor? Moreover, would it not be logical to talk to the sponsor rather than the sponsored?

The Taliban have not changed since 911. If anything, they have become increasingly ruthless and bold in their tactics and operations as the operations showed in 2011.

2011 also saw a direct attack on the American embassy in Kabul. The individual Talibs that attacked the US embassy had last minute direct contact with its foreign backers who are an off-again-on-again US ally in the war on terror.

It is highly premature at this point to not call the Taliban an enemy. After all if they are not an enemy why does the US negotiate with them? If the Taliban are not the US adversary as claimed by US Vice President Joe Biden, then what is the US doing in Afghanistan? There is no Al Qaeda in the country and the Afghan government for all its ills is not an adversary of the US. The Afghan opposition has no grudge against the US in Afghanistan. Why are the US and NATO spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually in Afghanistan?

Given the Taliban and their supporters’ track record, it is indeed extremely naïve to think that the fundamentalist group and their backers have been reformed or at the very least mellowed in their views on Islam and or geo-politics. The Taliban are an ideologically driven group whose every move is determined by the deviant version of their religious belief. They live by their beliefs and they die by them without any remorse for the thousands of innocent lives they take along with them. They send zealots of all rank and files from foot soldiers to the supposedly top negotiators who in fact murdered the former head of the Afghan high peace council Burhanuddin Rabbani, to blow themselves and their targets up. The Taliban are resistant to change. The mere possibility of considering reform is regarded heretic and therefore anyone who may espouse or merely consider the idea is liable to death. Their rigidity is what appeals to thousands of their young aspiring jihadists.

Rapprochement with the Taliban is fraught with a lot of misconceptions. From an Afghan standpoint, approaching the Taliban is faced with a dichotomy. From the Afghan government’s perspective that is dominated by Pashtun nationalists,   it is desirable because it reunites the Pashtuns, possibly at the expense of the rest of the population. President Hamid Karzai has called the Taliban his “dear brothers” on numerous occasions. If he can secure an agreement with the Taliban it will be his greatest achievement regardless of the price and or long-term consequences for the non-Pashtun population. His mandate is not to bring peace to Afghanistan but, peace to his people or to unite and strengthen the Pashtuns exclusively. Once this goal is achieved, he would try to bring in line the other ethnic groups, or so he thinks.

To the majority of Afghans, namely, the Tajiks, the Hazaras, the Uzbeks, the Turkmens, the Nooristanis, the Baloches and the Pashiies, the return of the Taliban in whatever shape or form is fraught with concern and despair. The massacres of the Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamian and Yakawlang, the Tajiks in Shomali north of Kabul and the Uzbeks and Turkmens in the north during the reign of the Taliban are still fresh in the memory of the people. There are hundreds of thousands of people who lost their loved ones, their properties and their total livelihood as a result of the plunders and scorched earth policies of the Taliban and their local and foreign cohorts. The majority of these ethnic groups are against the Taliban inclusion in the government or the concept of any power sharing arrangement with them.

As part of the negotiations in Qatar, the US is to release certain Taliban leaders from Guantanamo and take off the names of others from the US list of most wanted terrorists. Releasing the Taliban leaders such as Mullah Fazl from Guantanamo is akin to releasing Ratco Meladic. As the Taliban deputy defense minister and chief of staff of the army, it is estimated that Mullah Fazl killed more innocent civilians especially Hazaras and Shi’ites than Melodic ever did. Yet, it is ironic that the former, instead of being put on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, is to be released to lead or take part in the Taliban negotiating team, while the latter is currently being tried in the international court of justice for the crimes he committed against Muslims in Bosnia.

More ironic is the fact that Osama bin Laden is killed and his demise is announced with a lot of fanfare by the US administration, while his close associate, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is being taken off the list of the most wanted terrorists. It was indeed Mullah Omar who gave sanctuary to bin Laden and facilitated his terrorist operations and planning. If bin Laden is responsible for the killings of more than three thousand people in the US and Africa, Mullah Omar is responsible for not only the killing of an estimated 30,000 people but also the physical destruction of Afghanistan’s most treasured heritage – the statues of Buddha in Bamyan.

Now from a moral vantage point: do the US military/political deeds follow any principles, norms or standards or the US indicts, arrests, imprisons, tries/pardons anyone that it wants arbitrarily and haphazardly? What is the rational in killing one terrorist, Osama bin Laden, while taking another one, Mullah Mohammad Omar from the list of most wanted terrorist? If it is the killings of innocent people, Mullah Omar has killed more than bin Laden. If it is only the killing of Americans, that is something else. Why do we arrest Meladic and release or plan to release Mullah Fazl?

And finally, why do we talk to the Taliban? Is it to bring peace to Afghanistan or facilitate the withdrawal of US soldiers beginning in 2014? If it is bringing peace to Afghanistan, it would fail without the participation of the non-Pashtun population of the country who by any estimate represent more than 60%. For a non-Pashtun Afghan to accept the Taliban resurgence or domination in Afghanistan, it would be tantamount to suicide. Even if the non-Pashtuns of Afghanistan are to be included in negotiations with the Taliban, it would be foolhardy to envisage a Dayton type accord between the Afghan sides. Former Yugoslavia is not a good blue print for Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a tribal society where suspicion and hatred run far and deep.

On a final note, the very nature of the so-called negotiations is not clear. Negotiation among who? If the US is to talk to the Taliban, according to Mr. Biden, they are not the enemy of the US. If the Taliban would agree not to attack the Americans, would that be a success? What about the Afghan government and other Afghans? What happened to at least the three preconditions for the insurgents: the renouncing of violence, severing ties with Al Qaida and respect of the Afghan Constitution? The Taliban have repeatedly said that they will not talk to the Afghan government because they consider it to be a “stooge” and what about the Taliban themselves? They are the product of the Pakistan ISI. Would it not be better to talk to Pakistan directly than to talk to its proxy? Would it not be efficient and merely prudent to just talk to Pakistan itself and bypass the Taliban or even exclude the government in Kabul because it is not officially at war with the Taliban either?  In any case as Afghan history can attest, any formula for peace without the consent and participation of all Afghans is doomed to fail.

Brief Biography: I am a veteran journalist of the Voice of America. I worked as freelance journalist and a stringer for VOA in the early eighties in Quetta, Pakistan. Later I moved to VOA central office in Washington and worked for 20 years there. I also wrote for Jane’s’ publications and Jamestown foundation.  I currently live and work in Afghanistan.

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