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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Notes on Hazara Genocide and a report by Human Rights Watch

Following is the link to Human Rights Watch report titled " We are the walking dead- Killing of Shia Hazaras in Baluchistan, Pakistan".

In my opinion its one of the best report on this topic which clearly answers three main following questions

-Why are Hazaras being targeted?
-Why has State been totally ineffective in protecting Hazara people against terrorist violence?
- What has the been the extent, trend and dynamics of violence against Hazara people?

Killing of Hazaras in Baluchistan, an issue which must be on the front line, has been, and this is too unfortunate, entertained with political indifference in Pakistan. I do not see a community of almost half a million subjected to genocidal violence, receiving as much sympathy and vocal support as does those cases such Palestinian in Gaza do.

This following image seems to capture the essence of the point i am. Those who know the story of young boy Shahzeb who was murdered in Karachi, and the way apex court of Pakistan pursued the case, whereas Hazara Shiite were being slaughtered by bombing their houses, by ambushing as they travel to their holy places in Iran, the question is why no such enthusiasm was shown on Hazara Genocide? Just as the image speaks, Are 102 Shiite dead not equivalent to one Shahzeb?

Human Right Watch report documents that Hazara faces a multi pronged attack. They are being killed for being Shiite. They are also being killed for being Hazaras. And this hatred is institutionalized at State level in Baluchistan as the above report makes  it clear through its fact finding study.  Here, I quote an eye opener from a story which was published in The Nation on 8th of April 2010 in which Nawab Magsi, Governor of Baluchistan, while being asked about criminal and terrorists activities the province said that  police knew each and every thing about the identities and activities of drug  peddlers, criminals and terrorists but were unable to take action against any of them. Quoting  Inspector General of Police Balochistan, the governor said he (IG) complained that whenever police arrested any criminal, he received calls from high ups for his release. 

First mass migration of Hazaras from Afghanistan to Quetta took place in 1890's as they flocked to the valley fleeing the persecution by Abdur Rahman Khan, known as Iron Emir of Afghanistan. Second high point of migration came during the 1990's when Hazaras migrated to Quetta in the wake of Taliban massacres in Afghanistan.

The question is, Why are Hazaras being targeted? I enumerate some of the reasons behind their targeting below.

1- To understand Hazara genocide one has to understand the political economy of Quetta and the region and Hazaras historical place in it. Hazaras have been dominant in State services during at least first 3 decades of Pakistan's history. It has been the hallmark of post colonial societies that mostly, if an ethnic community has been over represented in local administration due to its high education or any other reason, such a political economic arrangement has led to societies experience divisions sharpening  between the communities. The shifting patterns of power eventually led to the other communities finding increasing place in the power domains. Sense of  division has been there but the fact it turned violent is directly related to the State sponsored radicalization from 1980s onward of which Baluchistan was one of the laboratory.  This process of radicalization has been an ongoing process about which Tribune, quoting Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, had following to say in its report of 31st of August 2012,

The report observed that religious fanaticism was not being exported to the province from outside, rather it was being bred within Balochistan. A burgeoning network of madrassas was contributing to the aggravation of inter-sect tensions. It stated that militants have managed to establish training camps in the troubled province.

Baluchistan is experiencing home grown radicalization and it is contributing to increasing violence and support for attacks against Hazaras. . My own research reveals the Mastung, Jhal Magsi and Quetta are the most affected cities of such radicalization.

2- Owing to the historical sense of divison between the communities, and the rapid onslaught of radical religious ideology further sharpening division, a whole set of stereotyping has emerged about the Hazara people. Such stereotyping is meant to dehumanize some group, make it an "Other"  and serves to create an environment in which targeting of such a community, if not acceptable, then at least does not permit much condemnation too. For example, such stereotyping of Hazaras as agents of Iran find its acceptance not just by people keeping prejudice against Shiite for religious reasons but also, to an extent, among  the local community and its people who are part of the power domains.

This is perhaps the legacy of shifting power pattern where social divisions and acceptance of stereotyping against the other community is not necessarily religiously motivated but also manifest itself across large section of society. It has been well documented in HRW report that one of the reason that State has shown indifference to the plight of Hazaras is due to the acceptance of such stereotyping by people in power domain.

3- After some of the Afghan Taliban moved to Quetta and surrounding areas, they also brought their rabid hatred against the Hazaras, Taliban faced one of the fiercest resistance by the Hazara community during the civil war in Afghanistan. It must be known that the onslaught of the persistent persecution of Hazara community in Quetta started after the debacle of Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

I am deeply troubled by this lack of attention that we give to issues which are in our immediate surroundings.
Why is that we, the people, are more enraged by oppression over one group but not at the other, which happens to be happening quite near to us? We reject terrorism of all sort. We abhor any such type of violence. But still, is not that indirectly, or perhaps in our subconscious, on a very minute level perhaps, our sensitivities have been affected by the dehumanizing propaganda of the terrorists against Shiites and Hazaras, so that we do not feel equally enraged seeing atrocities against them as compared to the way we get  enraged seeing some other communities subjected to samwe type of religiously motivated violence. 

I highly recommend the reader to go through the HRW report to know more about Hazara Genocide in Baluchistan. Its a unique case of Genocide where a community is being targeted not just for its sect but also for its ethnicity. The saddest part is that, although such cases as that of Palestine, remains a permanent part of our political imagination, of course they should be, but a Genocide happening very near to us, does not receive much of our attention, or when it does, its only when carnage is being enough to claim hundred or so dead.

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