Saturday, August 27, 2016


Pakistan's Beleaguered Hazara Minority Caught In Regional Crossfire

A child reacts as Shi'ite Hazaras gather around the coffin of a bomb victim on the third day of protests following the bombing in Quetta on February 19.
A child reacts as Shi'ite Hazaras gather around the coffin of a bomb victim on the third day of protests following the bombing in Quetta on February 19.
By Abubakar Siddique
The Hazara community once saw Quetta as a refuge from persecution. But today the tiny Shi'ite minority finds itself swept up in a broader conflict that has left it increasingly vulnerable to sectarian violence.

More than 1,000 Hazaras have been killed and thousands more injured in attacks carried out by Sunni militant groups in Pakistan's insurgency-plagued Balochistan Province since 1999. Whereas the provincial capital, Quetta, was once considered a secular city, it has been the scene of many of the attacks.

Politician Abdul Khaliq Hazara, whose last name derives from the ethnic group, says members of the community in Quetta are concerned in the wake of the latest attack, in which some 90 Hazaras were killed in a February 16 bombing. "This is a highly uncertain situation," he says. "It is possible that more people will be inclined to migrate now. We don't see any ray of hope here. The atmosphere is overwhelmingly gloomy."

Quetta's Hazaras arrived in the city after fleeing persecution from a hard-line Afghan king in the late 19th century. They prospered in the relative security of Quetta's cantonment under British rule, and later after Pakistan achieved statehood.

Many Hazaras joined the military and gained a reputation for loyal service. The community prospered in mining and business and was known for hard work and a passion for sports.

Hazara says that the atmosphere in Quetta began to change following the upheaval in Iran and Afghanistan in the late '70s. Both the Shi'ite clerics who led the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Arab backers of the Sunni anti-Soviet Afghan mujahedin had ambitions that went beyond the borders of one country.

Caught In The Middle

Hazara explains that the traditional rivalry between Shi'a and Sunnis was rekindled in Pakistan through the generous funding of mosques and sectarian militias.

The Hazara community, he says, became a target in the late 1990s after members of the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e Jhangvi fled a government clampdown in the eastern Punjab Province and headed west to the neighboring Balochistan Province.

Lashkar-e Jhangvi has accepted responsibility for nearly all the attacks carried out against Hazaras in Balochistan Province.

READ NEXT: Hazara Killings Bring Sunni Extremist Group Into Focus

Now, Hazara says, the community feels they are caught in the crossfire of a much larger conflict among rival Muslim sects and ideologies. "We are the scapegoats in this war. We are being used as cannon fodder," he says. "Our enemies are trying to paint us as Iranian sympathizers just because we are Shi'a. We are caught in the crossfire between some [Sunni] Arab states and Iran, and we are being massacred in their proxy war."

Hazara says that despite years of unrest in Balochistan, the Hazaras have no rivalries with the largely Sunni Pashtuns and Baluchis that populate the province. Hazaras make up about 30 percent of Quetta's population of just over 2 million, sharing the city with Pashtuns, Baluchis, and smaller ethnic groups.

Lashkar-e Jhangvi is believed to draw recruits from hard-line Sunni madrasahs that were established in Balochistan over the last 20 years. Lashkar-e Jhangvi patronizes the Iranian Sunni extremist group Jundallah, which has mounted several attacks in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

Jundallah draws its members from those Baluchis who took refuge in Balochistan Province to avoid capture by Iranian security forces.

Living in Quetta is becoming increasingly difficult for the community, says Ahmed Kuhzad, a Hazara political activist. He says Hazaras live in two neighborhoods on opposite ends of the city, making them vulnerable to attacks along the only road linking them.

Kuhzad says that the community, which has held large protests in the wake of the February 16 bombing, will feel secure in Balochistan only if the government launches a determined operation against Lashkar-e Jhangvi. "They have to go against them with the will to finish them off," he says. "We will consider anything short of that as a sign of support for them."
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
February 21, 2013 12:42
non-violence shown by shia is impressive.
it's time though that shia representatives contact maybe indian or/and israeli experts on terrorism to protect their citizens.
pakistani forces verifiably are not efficiently fighting the radical islamists who consider shia to be "kuffar/unbelievers".
therefore, shia undoubtedly should improve security measures, maybe with the help and expertise of indian and israeli experts.
this step could help to improve israel's ties with libanon, iraq, maybe even iran.
shia (not only in pakistan, libanon, iraq, also in bahrain) would definitely welcome israel's and india's help.

Besides, shia representatives cannot ignore the killings anymore. If pakistan's decision-makers are not willing to track the culprits who are responsible for masterminding or executing various attacks against innocent people whose only crime is to be shia and not sunni, shia should ask themselves tough questions.
Eventually, shia could strive for the creation of a SHIASTAN.

Kosovars split from serbia, pakistani muslims split form india, bangladesh split from pakistan. If turks from central and east asia could come to anatolia and create their state on kurdish and armenian lands, why should shia not take their homeland to make it an independent nation.

Anyway, pakistan is way too chaotic; ethnic and religious bonds and greed for money and power are far more important than all this talk of „a muslim nation“.
So why not a shia nation in south asia?!

By the way, just forgot, jinnah's dream did'nt materialize. After the lahore resolution, in which „pakistan was a matter of life and death“, muslims still live in india, and in many aspects much more successfully and peacefully than pakistan could ever dream of. (this doesn't mean though that nepotism, corruption, casteism, poverty, religious conflicts, etc. do not effect life.
Yet, the war with bangladesh and many issues in „modern pakistan“ have shown that chauvinism, narcissism and a transfiguration of reality are much more common than ever expected.
Pan-islamic conferences and nuclear haven't brought much prosperity to the people.

suicide attacks and raids against shia still continue.
If there wasn't u.s. financial support, chinese logistics and military support and the menace of these very nuclear warheads this place (ironically) would be doomed. Still, it seems pakistan, despite all its armed forces and nuclear weapons, is more than ever doomed.
In Response

by: Abdul Nasser from: United States of America
February 23, 2013 07:55
I think the issues of the Hazara must be put towards the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which has a Mandate to minimize the conflicts between various Muslim groups. They are in the best position to assist. Why should Muslim minorities seek help from outside the Ummah? It is the Ummah itself that has issues of identity. These issues are similar to the issues the US faced during the conflicts between ethnic groups like Blacks and Whites with the radical KKK causing all kinds of problems. Or the Italian and Irish mobs running wild before the Federal Bureau of Investigations stepped in. Even the history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has a history involved in conflict mediating between Natives and Whites. I'm not sure what Anonymous is talking about by going to Hindus and Jews. They are the last people Hazara will want to go to. Going to Israelis especially will get them killed. They should reach out to the O.I.C. as part of a restructuring of the Constitutional Charter all Member States agreed to when they became Members. The Secretary General of O.I.C. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has actually condemned the attacks.
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 23, 2013 22:34
I think the comparison to US internal problems isn't fair. What is going on is more global, more in comparison to the Protestant Reformation than to historical events in the US. The reason is that the US by design is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Even though Pakistan is multi-ethnic and in theory is for all Muslims, the global events of the past decade have split Muslims so far that Shi'a might not be even considered part of the Ummah.

But as far as a Shiastan? Iran is already supposed to fill that position. They should open the doors to all Shia everywhere that need a place to flee to. Maybe in a saner world, this would be how its done. Iran should spend less time on its aggressive posture, and more effort on making it possible for Shia to relocate to Iran. (similar to how Israel relocates foreign Jews to Israel)

by: Abdul Nasser from: United States of America
February 24, 2013 21:23
This is a reply to Anonymous last post. I compared the US because that is the history I know. All nations around the world have a cultural history.

I would disagree that the US was created to be multi-ethnic and multi-religous. It was argued in famous cases that the foundations for the US was to be for all people, but there were many dissenters; Slave owners, Father Charles Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, and Daniel Pipes.

Israel had a foundation to be for all Jews as a Jewish, and not Jewish and Muslim nation. Pakistan was created for all Muslims. Iran however, was not created for all Shia.

Iran's Islamic history started with Arab invasion. The push back was to bring Afghan Muslims in. This is how the Shahs stayed in power. There is a whole historical backdrop of Ottoman influence which created a tug of war between Arab-Persians and Indo-Persians. This is the period of the Safavid Dynasty which created what we know of as Iranian Shi'ism.

This push back by Iran is what we can call Arab Shi'ism (Hizbullah for example) and Afghan/Pakistan Shi'ism (Hazara for example). With this in mind, and Iran-Iraq war, it makes more sense to classify Iran Shia policy as bringing awareness within Muslim Nations through political protest and communal connectivity. We see this in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We see this with Hamas. We see this with Rohingya. And we see this with Hazara.

There is a political tension between the Shia leaders of Iran and the Shia leaders of Pakistan. It is really not right to say Iran is Shia and Pakistan is Sunni. That would be to fall into the propaganda conflict. Zulfiqar Bhutto was Shia and Zia ul-Haq was Sunni. In Iran, we have the Shah (Sunni) and Ayatollah Khomeini (Shia).

I would also argue that Iran does not have an aggressive posture, but a defensive one. Israel and the USA have the aggressive postures; Drone strikes and illegal detentions.

In regards to the OIC, they have signed treaties with all Muslim nations, including Iran and Pakistan. The purpose of the OIC is to instill respect between Muslims of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. The history of it starts in Israel with the Australian Denis Michael Rohan who set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and specifically burnt down Saladdin's Minbar.

Most Popular

Editor's Picks