Azaranica is a non-biased news aggregator on Hazaras and Hazarajat...The main aim is to promote understanding and respect for cultural identities by highlighting the realities they are facing on daily basis...Hazaras have been the victim of active persecution and discrimination and one of the reasons among many has been the lack of information, awareness and disinformation...... To further awareness against violence, disinformation and discrimination, we have launched a sister Blog for youths and youths are encouraged to share their stories and opinions; Young Pens

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

President condemns Quetta blast

ISLAMABAD, Aug 31 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday strongly condemned the blast in Quetta that killed and injured several innocent people and termed it a heinous act. In a message from Urumqi (China) the President expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones. He asked the provincial authorities to investigate the matter and do all to arrest the masterminds. The President directed the provincial authorities to ensure that best possible medical care is provided to the injured.

Associated Press of Pakistan

Car Bomb (and suicide bomber) Kills 10 (Hazaras) After Eid Prayers in Pakistan



Posted Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 10:00 am
Pakistani police say a suspected suicide car bomber killed 10 people, including women and children, after morning prayers at the start of Eid al-Fitr in southwestern Baluchistan province.
Authorities say hundreds of people were leaving a Shi'ite mosque in Quetta when the bomb exploded in a nearby parking lot.
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day Muslim festival celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Police believe the bomber was targeting the mosque, but could not get close enough because the road was blocked.
At least 20 people were wounded. The explosion also set several vehicles on fire and damaged at least one nearby building.
There was no immediately claim of reasonability for the attack.
Quetta is home to both Taliban militants and nationalists who have fought against the government for decades.
Pakistan also has a long history of sectarian violence between the country's majority Sunni-Muslims and the significant Shi'ite minority.

Voice of America

PM condemns blast in Quetta

ISLAMABAD, Aug 31 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday strongly condemned the blast in Quetta which resulted in the loss of precious lives and injuries to several others. Expressing heartfelt condolences with the victims’ families, the Prime Minister said that those elements playing with lives of the innocent people would not escape the wrath of Allah Almighty and law of the land. The Prime Minister directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical care to the injured.

Associated Press of Pakistan

کوئٹہ میں بم دھماکہ، گیارہ ہلاک

کوئٹہ میں بم دھماکہ، گیارہ ہلاک



زخمی اور ہلاک ہونے والوں میں عورتیں اور بچے بھی شامل ہیں

پاکستان کے صوبہ بلوچستان کے دارالحکومت کوئٹہ میں ایک بم دھماکےمیں گیارہ افراد ہلاک اور اکیس زخمی ہوگئے ہیں۔

دھماکے میں ہلاک اور زخمی ہونے والے بیشتر افراد کا تعلق شیعہ مسلک سے ہے۔

یہ دھماکہ مری آباد کے علاقے میں واقع گلستان روڈ پر اس وقت ہوا جب لوگ عید کی نماز ادا کرنے کے بعد واپس اپنے گھروں کی جانب جا رہے تھے۔

دھماکے میں زخمی اور ہلاک ہونے والوں میں عورتیں اور بچے بھی شامل ہیں۔ لاشوں اور زخمیوں کو فوری طور پر کوئٹہ کے سول ہسپتال اور سی ایم ایچ منتقل کر دیا گیا جہاں بعض کی حالت تشویشناک ہے۔

کوئٹہ سے بی بی سی کے نامہ نگار ایوب ترین کے مطابق طبی عملے کا کہنا ہے کہ ہسپتالوں میں دس لاشیں اور بائیس زخمیوں کو لایا گیا تھا جہاں زخمیوں میں شامل ایک شخص ہلاک ہو گیا۔

پولیس حکام کا کہنا ہے کہ دھماکہ کار پارکنگ میں کھڑی گاڑی میں نصب ریموٹ کنٹرول بم پھٹنے سے ہوا۔ دھماکے سے جائے وقوعہ پر کھڑی متعدد گاڑیوں کو نقصان پہنچا اور ان میں آگ لگ گئی۔

اس واقعہ کے بعد سکیورٹی اہلکاروں کی بھاری نفری موقع پر پہنچ گئی اور علاقے کو گھیرے میں لے لیا۔

وزیراعلٰی بلوچستان نواب اسلم رئیسانی نے اس واقعے کی مذمت کی ہے اور پولیس کو دھماکے کے ذمہ داروں کے خلاف فوری کارروائی کا حکم دیا ہے۔

ادھر ہزارہ ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے چیئرمین عبدالخالق ہزارہ نے دھماکے کی مذمت کرتے ہوئے صوبے اور بالخصوص کوئٹہ شہر میں شیعہ مسلک سے تعلق رکھنے والے مسلمانوں کے خلاف کارروائیوں پر تشویش ظاہر کی ہے۔

انہوں نے بلوچستان کی حکومت سے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ اس قسم کی کارروائیاں کرنے والے افراد کے خلاف سخت ایکشن لیا جائے۔

Source,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/2011/08/110831_quetta_blast_zs.shtml

Quetta: Hundreds lose lives in sectarian, ethnic and tribal violence; Samaa TV

Staff Report

QUETTA: Unending spell of sectarian, ethnic, tribal and tribal violence has claimed hundreds of innocent lives in Quetta in recent years.

On the other hand, police have blamed non-cooperation from the public for their failure to prevent such attacks.

Thousands of people have fallen prey to target killings, sectarianism, ethnic and tribal clashes and other violent incidents in the provincial capital of Balochistan.

According to official figures, 380 people were killed in 2008, 333 in 2009 and 318 were targeted in 2010. Over the first seven months of the current year, more than 200 people have already lost their lives. But police say their performance is satisfactory.

Experts say that police should be empowered to curb the crimes in Balochistan so that peace could be restored in the restive province. SAMAA

Quetta Blast on Eid Day; Mechid TV

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

کوئٹہ میں بم دھماکہ، پانچ ہلاک



دھماکے کا نشانہ بننے والے افراد کا تعلق شیعہ مسلک سے ہے
پاکستان کے صوبہ بلوچستان کے دارالحکومت کوئٹہ میں ایک بم دھماکےمیں پانچ افراد ہلاک اور دس زخمی ہوگئے ہیں۔

یہ دھماکہ میں گلستان روڈ پر اس وقت ہوا جب لوگ عید کی نماز ادا کرنے کے بعد واپس اپنے گھروں کی جانب جا رہے تھے۔

دھماکے میں ہلاک اور زخمی ہونے والے بیشتر افراد کا تعلق شیعہ مسلک سے ہے۔

اس دھماکے میں زخمی ہونے والوں میں بچے بھی شامل ہیں جنہیں دیگر زخمیوں کے ہمراہ فوری طور پر کوئٹہ کے سول ہسپتال اور سی ایم ایچ منتقل کر دیا گیا جہاں بعض زخمیوں کی حالت تشویشناک ہے۔

کوئٹہ سے بی بی سی کےنامہ نگار ایوب ترین کے مطابق پولیس حکام کا کہنا ہے کہ بظاہر دھماکہ ایک گاڑی میں نصب ریموٹ کنٹرول بم پھٹنے سے ہوا تاہم تحقیقات کے بعد ہی اصل صورتحال سامنے آئے گی۔

دھماکے سے جائے وقوعہ پر کھڑی متعدد گاڑیوں کو نقصان پہنچا اور ان میں آگ لگ گئی۔ اس واقعہ کے بعد سکیورٹی اہلکاروں کی بھاری نفری موقع پر پہنچ گئی اور علاقے کو گھیرے میں لے لیا۔

وزیراعلٰی بلوچستان نواب اسلم رئیسانی نے اس واقعے کی مذمت کی ہے اور پولیس کو دھماکے کے ذمہ داروں کے خلاف فوری کارروائی کا حکم دیا ہے۔

ادھر ہزارہ ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے چیئرمین عبدالخالق ہزارہ نے دھماکے کی مذمت کرتے ہوئے صوبے اور بالخصوص کوئٹہ شہر میں شیعہ مسلک سے تعلق رکھنے والے مسلمانوں کے خلاف کارروائیوں پر تشویش ظاہر کی ہے۔

انہوں نے بلوچستان کی حکومت سے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ اس قسم کی کارروائیاں کرنے والے افراد کے خلاف سخت ایکشن لیا جائے۔

Source,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/2011/08/110831_quetta_blast_zs.shtml

Quetta blast kills 5, injures 17 (Hazaras) on the eve of eid


Last Updated On 31 August,2011




A police official says a car bomb has exploded in Quetta, killing at least 5 people.

Abdul Jamil says the blast occurred on Wednesday as hundreds of people were leaving a mosque in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.


The crowd had just finished morning prayers to mark Eid al-Fitr. Jamil says at least 17 people were wounded in the attack.
No group immediately claimed responsibility. A car bomb Wednesday killed at least five people and wounded 10 others in the restive southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, police said.

The bomb exploded in a parking lot after Eid prayers, senior police official Mohammad Hashim told media.
"At least five people were killed and 10 others wounded," Hashim said.


"The bomb was planted in a car and an unidentified man parked it at the site and left."
Hashim said there had been no immediate claim of responsibility and police could not speculate who could be behind the bombing, although the blast site was in an area populated by minority Shiite Muslims.


Hospital official Rasheed Jamali said there was one woman among the five dead brought to hospital.
Witnesses said several cars parked nearby also caught fire and a house was damaged.


Live television footage showed swirls of thick, black smoke as people ran into the street, some pushing their cars to safety, while ambulances carried away the wounded.

Source,

http://www.dunyanews.tv/index.php?key=Q2F0SUQ9MiNOaWQ9MzczOTU=

At least 5 (Hazaras) die in Quetta blast: Samaa TV

Staff Report








QUETTA: At least five people were killed and 11 wounded when a powerful bomb went off outside Hazara Eidgah in Quetta on Wednesday.

The blast took place on Gulistan Road a few moments before the start of Eid prayers.

Rescue teams reached the scene and shifted the dead and the wounded to nearby hospitals. Some of the injured are reportedly in critical condition.

The blast also caused damages to several vehicles and nearby buildings.

Security forces cordoned off the area and started investigation.

Quetta Azadari Council has announced weeklong mourning against the blast.

In a separate statement, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) has condemned the terrorist attack. SAMAA

Car bomb outside Quetta mosque kills four (more than 7 Hazaras) in Pakistan; BBC

31 August 2011 Last updated at 05:58 GMT


A car bomb has exploded in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta, killing at least five people.

The bomb exploded in a parking lot as hundreds of people were leaving a mosque after Eid prayers, a senior police official said.

Police said the car with the bomb was parked at the site by an unidentified man. Nearly a dozen people are injured.

Pakistan is celebrating the festival of Eid which comes at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

News source,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14727621

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bonds of hope and hardship


Ben Doherty and Kate Geraghty
August 20, 2011



Fearful ... Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi, fourth from left, with members of his extended family in their rented home where he remains largely in hiding. Photo: Kate Geraghty


A decade after their disastrous voyage, the Tampa asylum seekers sent back to Afghanistan are still on the run. Story by Ben Doherty. Photos by Kate Geraghty.
Sarwar had been home a week when they came for him. After more than two years away from Afghanistan - on leaky boats and in refugee camps, seeking a new country to call home - he returned to his village in Ghazni province.
"He was at his home for one week when some men, some Taliban, came on motorbikes. They took him from his house and they killed him. They dragged him outside and choked him to death with barbed wire.
"His wife and children saw him killed. They fled. I don't know where they are now," Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi says.


Sohrabi carries a photo of Sarwar. It's mixed up among the meagre possessions he has from his time overseas, alongside a flimsy passport with an incorrect birth date and a Nauru stamp in it.
The shopkeeper and the metalworker were firm friends at Topside, the Australian-run refugee camp on Nauru. The photograph shows them in happy times, seated, making preparations for one of the occasional parties the detainees held. Then, they believed they would be resettled in Australia.
Eventually though, pressured to return to Afghanistan, they flew home together, "but we faced the same problems, the same people, waiting for us".


It was Sohrabi who warned his friend not to go home, that his village wasn't safe. "But he went, and he died. He was innocent, he was a very decent man. God willing," Sohrabi says, "I am still alive."
But he remains in hiding.
Over the course of the seemingly endless warring of his Afghan lifetime, Sohrabi has lost three family members to insurgent attacks. He lives in fear he will be next.
He rarely leaves his home, except to work, and worries for his children who run serious risks simply by walking to school every day.
IN THE eyes of the Taliban, the sins of Rauf* are legion.
He is Hazara, an ethnicity regarded as un-Afghan, barely human, by the Pashtun militants. He is a Christian, an abomination in Islamic fundamentalist eyes, and a left-wing political activist. But his greatest crime, perhaps, was teaching girls to read.
Rauf can no longer live in Afghanistan and is in hiding in a South Asian country. His family cannot contact him and the friends who once sheltered him have told him it is no longer safe for him to stay.
Sitting in a secure room in a foreign city far from his homeland, Rauf remains wary; he faces the door as we speak and asks that the curtains be closed.
He describes an isolation that has enveloped his entire existence: "I see only one friend. Always, always I am very lonely."
After being returned to Afghanistan from Nauru in 2003, he moved back to his village in the Jaghori Valley in the central province of Ghazni.
The schools there had been ruined, the buildings robbed of books and stationery, the teachers chased out of town.
Rauf had taught English to other asylum seekers in detention on Nauru so, using what little money his family could gather, and funds from international donors, he set up literacy centres in some of the poorest communities in Afghanistan.
In one village in Uruzgan, where not a single woman or girl could read, he started teaching girls in a tent-cum-school. "On the third day, the Taliban attacked," he says, his voice faltering.
"It was just becoming dark, they had come there by motorbikes … [and] everything they took, the stationery, the books, they burned the tents. They destroyed everything."
Other schools survived longer. From one centre in Qarabagh, 34 women were able to graduate a basic literacy course.
But last year, he was kidnapped, bundled into a car, blindfolded and beaten for five days before he was released, threatened that unless he paid off his captors they would come back and kill him.
Since then, he has been on the run, moving between houses, between cities and countries.
"I cannot return. They will come for me again, and they can do anything. No one can stop [them]. They will kill me."
A decade after his first attempt to reach Australia failed, Rauf is trying again. Now recognised by the UNHCR as a refugee, he is in the process of applying for a protection visa, having been denied one last year.
"I want to go legally. To Australia I hope, but anywhere, and I hope soon, because I cannot live like this."
SARWAR and Rauf were just two of the 433 asylum seekers, mostly ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan, who boarded the undersized and ill-prepared Palapa in Jakarta on August 23, 2001.
Barely 24 hours later, the engine failed and the stricken boat began to take on water before those on board were picked up by the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa and carried to Australian waters. So began a dramatic chain of events that would eventually see 179 of the asylum seekers sent back to Afghanistan. (See story, page 6.)
A decade on from the Tampa, the Herald has spent six months tracking Tampa returnees who had been sent back to Afghanistan from Nauru.
The group, bound together by two years in detention on the remote and isolated island of Nauru, has become a splintered diaspora.
Few keep in contact. Few can. Rumours of what has happened to others sweep across the scattered group through chance meetings and common contacts.
Many Tampa returnees have simply disappeared: walked to work one day and never come back. Others have fled again, to Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, on to Europe or back to Australia. Some - it has been reported as many as 20 - have been killed by the Taliban in their homes and villages. And some have died trying to escape again.
There is no archetype of a Tampa returnee's story. But common threads run through many. Financial hardship, near ruin, is one.
While some Tampa asylum seekers were poor, seeking economic opportunity as well as safety, many on board were people of means. Several whom the Herald met were business owners in the days before the Taliban.
They sold everything they owned - businesses, stock, homes and cars - to finance their shot at getting to Australia. And despite Afghanistan's shaky wartime economy, some have since managed to rebuild lives of relative prosperity. But most now eke out an existence on Afghanistan's crowded margins.
Mohammad Zahir Rasouli sold his farmland, his house and his partnership in a car to finance his trip to Australia. Still it wasn't enough for the people smugglers, so he borrowed heavily. A decade later, he is mired in debt.
"After all these years, I haven't paid them back. They are friends, so they never ask, but I am still in debt and I can't pay it back," Rasouli says.
He now works as a shop assistant in a grocery store, trying to feed his own family - his wife and three sons - as well as two nephews, the children of his brother who was killed by the Taliban.
"I work here as a shop assistant and I can only earn [enough to] take care of the food. What I earn, that much we eat."
Separation from family is another recurring theme.
Shir Ahmad Ahmadi's eldest child was kidnapped when the family's political enemies came to his house looking for him. He paid a large bribe to have his 19-year-old son released and then told him to flee. He does not expect ever to see him again.
"I said to him: 'you must run now … don't come back, because you know what happens to people here'."
Mohammad Naim Akbari's wife and seven children live in his home village in Jaghori.
He sends them money when he can, from wherever he is, occasionally as close as a couple of hundred kilometres.
"I have seen my family only twice in the last five years. They are in my home, but I cannot go to my village, it is not safe for me there. The Taliban will kill me.
"I personally think I have been in hell, not on earth, but I was forced to. What can I do?"
Finally, the element that appears common to almost all the Tampa returnees' stories - wherever the past decade has taken them - is the fear they are not yet safe.
They have lost family members, seen fellow asylum seekers killed. They have been kidnapped, beaten and robbed, been frozen out of jobs and reduced to begging. They have faced death threats and had their homes razed.
The salient story of Mohammad Hussain Mirzaee, told time and again to the Herald across south and central Asia, seems to haunt many of the returnees.
In 2008, Mirzaee, a Tampa returnee and a former anti-Taliban fighter, was caught by insurgents and dragged to his home village. There, in front of 35 members of his family, he was beaten and thrown down a well.
His tormentors threw a hand grenade down after him, decapitating him.
Naim Akbari was his friend.
"We all worry, because who is next? This is the ending story of all of us."
*Not his real name.

Source Article,

http://www.smh.com.au/national/bonds-of-hope-and-hardship-20110819-1j2ct.html

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Interview with Phil Grabsky, Director of The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan




Author: Rickflix — Published: Aug 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I recently had the opportunity to interview Phil Grabsky, director of The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan, a new feature-length documentary that offers an unusually intimate portrait of a young boy growing up in the remote reaches of Afghanistan over the last decade. From eight to about eighteen, we watch Mir's life unfold with his family, as they struggle to survive, distant but impacted by the battle's for Afghanistan's future. This is actually Grabsky's second feature film about Mir. The award-winning "The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan" (2004), followed Mir and his family during a single year as they struggled to survive in the aftermath of Taliban rule, living in the shadow of what had been the tallest sculptures in the world - the Buddhas of Bamiyan - which the Taliban had destroyed to international outrage in 2001.

A large part of the appeal of both films is Mir himself - an intelligent, charismatic boy facing daily hardships that force him to often interrupt his schooling to work in the fields to help sustain his family. As he grows into a teenager, his hopes dreams, humor - and even his material wishes (a bike, a motorcycle, a cell phone) will seem familiar to kids and adults the world over.

Grabsky, based in Brighton, U.K., remembers the very event that triggered both Mir films. On July 2nd, 2002, a U.S. aircraft accidentally fired on an Afghan wedding, perhaps reacting to perceving celebratory gunfire as a threat. The attack killed and wounded dozens - and haunted Grabsky, "I thought to myself, alright, step back from that. Imagine your own wedding day, my wedding day, out of the blue sky - they don't even see this plane - out of the blue sky, one minute everyone's dancing and happy, and the next minute people are literally in bits."
"I thought, who are the Afghans? They can't all be terrorists, they can't all be mute women behind burkhas. And I was just interested, and I thought I'lll just go and find out myself."
Though well traveled, Grabsky had never been to Afghanistan and didn't speak the language - yet he wanted to tell a personal story. A filmmaker with over twenty-five years of experience, he began with a guiding principle.
"I think as a filmmaker," he explains, "there comes a point when you do everything you can to get into a position where you're engineering yourself to be lucky."
In an unfamiliar - and sometimes dangerous place like Afghanistan, his first task was to find a local fixer, "but they're more than that - they're journalists, they're security advisors - your Afghan right hand man. That's absolutely key, and that was an important entrée into society. He was the one that talked to everybody. He was the one who put my questions in a way that they would understand and respond to. He organized my food, my security and my transport."

Grabsky's greatest responsibility, then - and something he feels many documentary filmmakers often "get wrong" - was to show respect. "You are not a big deal. You mustn't think that because you have the camera and you're from England, you're from the West - somehow these are "little people" and they should be grateful that you turned up. " Grabsky's subjects had been through war - they had lost relatives, and seen others tortured. They lived traumatized lives. He found that most adults by that time were exhausted and depressed - but their children - like most children - still had hope.

Still, the challenge of creating an honest film required establishing a level of trust with his subjects - and a recognition of Grabsky's own impact on his surroundings. "I think that the minute you pull out a camera you are intervening, and actually it's much more realistic to think to yourself, 'How do I manage the intervention?'"

As a camera at a demonstration might encourage some to say or do something they wouldn't do otherwise, Grabsky was acutely aware of his own intervention in Mir's life. Much of his time with the family wasn't spent filming, but talking with Mir, his family and others - building trust and getting to know his subjects - off camera.

It helped that Grabsky's crew was small - generally only himself and his Afghan colleague - and a small, unimposing camera (beginning with Sony's legendary PD-150), a couple of radio microphones, and an on-board directional microphone. There were times when his colleague, who also developed a high level of trust with the family, would shoot in situations where Grabsky's presence wasn't possible or preferable. As a result, The Boy Mir includes rare insights into the relationship between MIr's parents and Afghan family dynamics, and fascinating glimpses into common misconceptions of the western world.

Perhaps Phil Grabksy's most important consideration was Mir himself. Intervening in an adult's life was one thing - intervening in a child's life was an even greater consideration.

Early in the project, at the close of his second trip to Afghanistan, Grabsky asked Mir if there was anything he would like to have. Mir responded, "A cuddly toy." Only then did Grabsky realize that MIr had never had a cuddly toy. During the rule of the Taliban, human and animal representations of any kind - even children's toys - were banned. Returning home to England, Grabsky shared the story with his young daughter, who had a menagerie of cuddly toys. She chose one in particular - an Applalachian brown bear (an artifact of another Grabsky film about Dolly Parton's "Dollywood" theme park). When Grabsky returned to Afghanistan, he brought the cuddly toy to Mir, and "he was overjoyed when I gave it to him, to the extent that I had to say, you know what, you've got to hide that," to preserve the perceived authenticity of the film, "but he couldn't, because he loved it so much."
The greatest appeal of The Boy Mir is the director's clear respect for his subject - and it's a respect that extends far beyond the on-camera portrait and gifts of toys and clothes. It continues to this day.
After conferring with colleagues and Afghan aid experts, Grabsky decided to provide modest compensation for the family throughout the filming. While there are some documentarians might consider the practice unethical - and might consider it disruptive, Grabsky believed that "ultimately, it was the right thing to do."
He decided to provide compensation equal to three months wages, but carefully avoided a level of compensation that could encourage dependency. He also showed respect to those in Mir's village - providing funding to fix the roof of Mir's school, for example - but making it clear it was at the request of the family - and not his own decision.
Grabsky also created a trust fund for Mir, contributing to it through the years as he children's own account. As an adult, Mir will soon have access to some of the funds - which could allow him to rise out of the abject poverty of his youth to further his education if he wishes, or even go into business for himself (For more information on Mir's fund and the film, check out theboymir.com).
Though the culture and situation may be alien to most westerners, coming of age and family themes are universal. Audiences connect with Mir, perhaps, because they see themselves.
The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan, though, is about a real person - his fate now forever altered by a filmmaker who told his story - and respected his life.

Source,

http://blogcritics.org/video/article/interview-with-phil-grabsky-director-of/page-3/

Female leader shows her courage



DR HABIBA SARABI: "My thanks to the government and the people of New Zealand for sending their sons and daughters to Bamiyan."

In an exclusive interview from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, Fairfax National Affairs editor Vernon Small talks to the province's female governor Dr Habiba Sarabi.

Habiba Sarabi is possibly the bravest person in war-torn Afghanistan.

As the leader of Bamiyan province, and as a personal appointment of President Hamid Karzai, the governor is an obvious target for the Taliban.

Bamiyan was one of the first provinces where security was handed over to local control, with transition from the New Zealand-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) formally taking place in July.

That would be enough to put the governor in the insurgents' crosshairs, without taking into account Sarabi's role as a leader of the Shia minority Hazaran community, the bitter enemies of the Sunni Taliban.

The insurgents have lately switched their focus to high-profile targets such as the British Council office in Kabul, where Kiwi SAS corporal Doug Grant was killed this month.

Two weeks ago, 22 were killed and 34 injured in a suicide bomb attack on the governor's offices in the nearby province of Parwan, though the governor escaped.

On top of all that, Sarabi is the first and only woman to be appointed governor of a province in Afghanistan.

During their rule the Taliban indulged in a form of "gender apartheid", banning education for girls beyond the age of eight and preventing many women from working.

Sarabi, now 55, fled with her children to Peshawar in Pakistan to avoid the Taliban repression, but returned in secret to visit her husband, who stayed on in Kabul.

Now, sitting in her office in Bamiyan with an armed police guard outside, she is philosophical about the risks she is taking.

"If the man or male governor can be a target, I also can be a target, and more than a man because I am the only woman and so it can be a good reason for the Taliban to target me. And of course it can be a credit for them. So, we believe [in] God and God save us."

In the relative peace of Bamiyan, where even the appearance of a Pashtun Sunni contractor is reported by locals to the police as a possible Taliban, there is little risk.

"Whenever I am in Bamiyan I feel secure, but after Bamiyan, no," Sarabi says, her voice tailing off.

The road to Kabul to the east is dangerous and the province is feeling increasingly under siege from more violent neighbouring provinces.

Even in the north east of Bamiyan, where the New Zealand Defence Force has stepped up its presence with two patrols of light armoured vehicles (LAVs), the security situation is fragile. Insurgents infiltrating across the border from neighbouring Baghlan province are blamed for roadside bomb attacks on the Kiwi forces, including the one that killed Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell last year.

Sarabi is looking forward to 2014, when the Kiwi forces are due to leave, and believes that with more modern equipment and heavy weapons – and some extra training – the local forces will cope.


She is also pressing for a quick reaction force for the province and for an army contingent to be posted to the north-east when the Kiwis pull out of the "problematic area" around the Do Abe village. At the moment there is no Afghan army presence in the province.

But she does not see an end to Kiwi involvement when the troops pull out.

"We cannot say it can be at the end. It depends on the whole situation in 2014. They can work more with our police, train them and be back-up as a supporter."

In the meantime, she believes the transition process is going well, and wants to convey her personal thanks directly to New Zealand for its assistance, including aid worth $10 million a year.

"My thanks to the government and the people of New Zealand for sending their sons and daughters to Bamiyan. I fully appreciate it and I want to thank all New Zealanders for that great support."

She credits the Kiwis' success to their cultural tolerance and multi-ethnic background. New Zealand's development assistance includes $7m this year to seal the airport runway, to help attract tourists, tractors for mainly subsistence farmers and a new generator to light the bazaar. At the moment storekeepers fire up individual generators when shoppers arrive.

PRT director Richard Prendergast says there are opportunities for New Zealand to ramp up its assistance and Bamiyan is ready for full transition in the wake of the July ceremony attended by prominent and charismatic politician Dr Ashraf Ghani.

"Ninety percent of the province is now secure, the Afghan national police are undertaking a lot of patrols themselves, there is real potential for improvements in governance and development."

Sarabi is also keen for help with agricultural and livestock production. "We need some expertise to guide the farmers; how they can work better and get more products, not only for agriculture but for animal husbandry."

In the meantime she is using her position as a prominent female to promote women's rights in the male-dominated society. In Bamiyan, 44% of the 130,000 school pupils are female. There was one female police officer in 2005 when she arrived, now there are 20. She also gave her personal protection to the first woman to open a store in the bazaar.

The scale of her achievement comes into focus later at a dinner to celebrate the promotion to general of the province's police chief – a recognition of the peaceful transition to local control. Among a who's who of Bamiyan society, including police, military leaders, judges and religious leaders, she is at the head of the table ... the only woman in the room.

- Sunday Star Times

Friday, August 26, 2011

For Shia Hazaras, it’s Funeral After Funeral


By Zofeen Ebrahim




Another funeral procession of a Hazara killed in an attack.

Credit:Altaf Hussain Safdari/IPS.

KARACHI, Aug 26, 2011 (IPS) - Rukhsana Ahmed finds comfort visiting her husband Ahmed Ali Najfi’s grave. "I feel at peace there," says the 60-year-old widow, mother of four and member of the Shia Hazara community.

What disturbs her moments of peace is the increasing number of fresh graves of the Hazaras in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, where some 550,000 members of the minority community are concentrated.

"It was September of 2009. My husband was going to his factory when he was ambushed by five armed, masked men who sprayed him with bullets and then fled," recalled the widow, speaking with IPS over phone from Quetta.

The killers of 63-year-old Najfi were apprehended. They belonged to the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). "The killer admitted publicly that he killed my husband because he was a Shia," said Rukhsana. "He even flashed a victory sign!"

Shias of all ethnicities account for about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 160 million, Sunni-majority population.

The LeJ, which has strong ties with the Al-Qaeda and Tehrik e-Taliban Pakistan, is a sworn enemy of the Shia sect and considers its members to be apostates.

The LeJ has a declared agenda of ridding Pakistan of all Shias who include the 966,000 Hazaras, descendents of Mongols who were part of Genghis Khan’s armies.

Eliminating Pakistan’s Hazaras follows a pattern in which they were persecuted in neighbouring Afghanistan under Taliban rule from 1995 until 2001, when they were ousted by invading U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) forces.

The Hazaras of Pakistan fled Afghanistan some 120 years ago when they faced an earlier round of persecution from the dominant Sunni Pashtun tribes. In Pakistan, they were well received and rose to hold important positions in the government.

Today, however, the Hazaras are being persecuted in Pakistan because of their ethnicity and their history of conflict with Sunnis.

"The same game played over a century ago to force Hazaras out of Afghanistan is being replayed. Religion is used as a tool to persecute them," says Irfan Ali of the Human Rights Commission on Social Justice and Peace in Quetta.

"We are easily distinguished because of our (Mongol) features and physical attributes," says Abdul Khaliq, a prominent Hazara politician and leader of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP).

Hazaras also speak Persian, rather than Balochi, Pashto or Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.

Anti-Shia violence reached a high in July. On Jul. 10, two people were killed and 11 injured when armed men ambushed a bus carrying Shia pilgrims to Iran. On Jul. 30, 18 Shias, including a woman, were shot dead in Quetta. Eleven of the victims were Hazaras.

Earlier, on Jun. 16, Syed Abrar Hussain Shah, a Hazara boxer who represented Pakistan in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, was shot dead in Quetta.

"We are attending one funeral after another and there is no stopping it," said Khaliq, whose predecessor as HDP chief, Hussain Ali Yusufi, was assassinated by the LeJ in 2008.

Over the years, says Rukhsana, the provincial general secretary of the women’s wing of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, the cream of the community has been systematically eliminated. In the last 10 years, some 500 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan and over 1,500 have suffered injuries.

"If you look at the list of those killed, you will find it includes doctors, engineers, teachers, students, politicians and even ordinary shopkeepers and vendors. Not a single person had any political affiliation," said Khaliq.

Three months ago, on May 18, Mohammad Ali, 45, a vegetable vendor, was going to the market in a pickup along with 12 others when masked gunmen opened fire on the van, killing seven. "My father was among the dead," said Asadullah, a cobbler and the eldest of Ali’s seven children.

Today an unlettered Asadullah, who earns a mere Pakistani rupees 200 (2.30 dollars) a day, feeds 11 mouths in his family.

"We are a liberal, open-minded and educated community, compared to the Baloch and Pashtuns," said Rukhsana. According to Amjad Hussain, a correspondent with Dawn News, a private television channel, young Hazaras do not see any future in Pakistan and are steadily migrating.

"Till a few years back, many were fleeing to Australia, via Indonesia. Of late, though, the interior ministry has directed the Indonesian embassy to stop issuing visas to Hazaras," he said.

Hussain believes that pro-Taliban lobbies (including Pakistan’s intelligence agencies that backed the Taliban initially) are penalising the Hazaras for colluding with the Northern Alliance and the U.S. army in Afghanistan.

It is also possible that members of the defeated Taliban who found refuge in Balochistan province, after fleeing Afghanistan, may be taking their revenge on the community.

The Shia and Hazara killings, and growing insecurity among Pakistan’s biggest minority sect, have failed to draw the attention of the state or media.

"Hazara killings do not make headlines because Balochistan is sandwiched between the big story of Baloch nationalism and the alleged Taliban presence in Balochistan," says Malik Siraj Akbar, a young Baloch journalist.

Akbar added: "Although the HDP has always stood behind Baloch and Pashtun nationalists during hard times, they have never condemned the persecution of Hazaras."

At the same time, said Akbar, the Islamic political party, the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), an important partner in the coalition ruling Balochistan, has never condemned the killings of Hazaras or Shias.

Khaliq said his party has tried but failed to get Islamabad to act against the ethnic cleansing.

"All they come up with are hollow words of regret after each death. They can stop the killings instantly, if they want to do it. We cannot accept their words of comfort anymore," he said. (END)

Article Source,

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104900

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Assassination of Jawad Zahak. شهید محمد جواد ضحاک!

Bamiyan Cultural Heritage demining project-UNESCO/UNMACA

Reporters (France 24) - Bamiyan, the future for Afghanistan?

Australians don't fully understand what is being done in their name



Julian Burnside
August 26, 2011
OPINION


The Norwegian freighter Tampa. Photo: Reuters

Misinformation and dishonesty abounds over asylum seekers.
ON AUGUST 26, 2001, a small fishing boat called Palapa I began to sink in the Indian Ocean. Ordinarily, it would have been fit to carry 20 or 30 people.
On board were 433 asylum seekers, mostly Hazaras escaping the Taliban and trying to reach Australia.
The Norwegian cargo ship Tampa rescued them. When Tampa tried to put them ashore on Christmas Island, the SAS took control of the ship at gunpoint.

A Federal Court judge ruled that the government was obliged to bring the asylum seekers ashore and assess their claims for asylum. That decision was handed down at 2.15pm, Melbourne time, on September 11, 2001: a date which significantly altered the political calculus.
A week later, the full Federal Court reversed that decision.
The people rescued by Tampa were taken to Nauru. By early 2002, Australia was forcing Afghans to return to Afghanistan, saying the Taliban were defeated and Afghanistan was safe for Hazaras. On August 26, 2002, the Tampa refugees were preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of their rescue. One of them, 20 year-old Mohammad Sarwar, awoke that morning, cried out and fell back dead. His friends told me that he died of a broken heart: he had just been refused protection. Australia continued to force Afghans held on Nauru to return to Afghanistan.
The Tampa episode was the start of Australia's conspicuously harsh approach to boat people. The idea was to "send a message", and the message was: we do not want you asking for our help.
It is a melancholy fact that John Howard's government made political capital by its treatment of boat people. The 2001 election turned on the issue. But it depended on misinformation and dishonesty.
Ten years on, we are behaving just as badly as we did at the time of Tampa. Instead of hijacking people at sea and sending them to Nauru, we plan to divert them to Malaysia. Labor doesn't care that Malaysia has not signed the Refugees' Convention. It doesn't care that Malaysia has a bad track record with human rights generally and asylum seekers in particular. Although Malaysia has agreed not to mistreat the people we plan to send there, that agreement is incapable of being supervised or enforced. A fall-back plan is to send them to Manus Island: a malaria-ridden, northern outpost of Papua New Guinea.
To understand what has happened since the time of Tampa, we need to start with a few simple facts. Boat people are not "illegal" in any sense. There are no queues in the places they flee from. They come in very small numbers. Asylum seekers who come by plane outnumber boat arrivals about three to one. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are, historically, very likely to be assessed as genuine refugees; those who come by plane are, historically, unlikely to be assessed as genuine refugees. However, asylum seekers who come by boat are held in detention, whereas those who come by plane are not: we treat most harshly those who are most likely to be traumatised already and most likely to be lawfully entitled to our protection.
Why do we do this? What is it about our national character that explains such cruel, illogical behaviour? Simple: the politicians do it for political gain, and most Australians do not fully understand what is being done in their name. When Tampa sailed into Australian domestic politics a decade ago, the coalition was deeply worried about the drift of hard-right, anti-immigration voters to One Nation. Jackie Kelly confronted Howard with exactly this concern as he was entering the Parliament to deliver a speech about dealing with the Tampa. He waved his speech at her and said, in effect: "This will fix it."
Tampa was all about politics; it had nothing to do with "protecting" our borders, which are, in any event, virtually watertight.
Since Tampa, Australia's treatment of boat people has been all about politics. The net result has been to tarnish Australia's reputation as a nation that once valued and respected human rights.The big question is: is this really what Australia is about?
Like Malcolm Fraser on this page on Monday, I believe most Australians are better than this. We are badly served by major political parties willing to play politics with defenceless, terrified people. Let Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard tell us plainly: do they honestly think their treatment of boat people reflects Australia's national character?
I have spent the decade since Tampa wondering about these things. I cling to the belief that, if most Australians knew the truth of what is being done in their name, they would be shocked.
I believe most Australians do not support the idea of locking up innocent people for years, or mistreating them just because they tried to save their lives and the lives of their families.
I know that most Australians, if they visited a detention centre, would be appalled to see the misery that we are inflicting on ordinary people who want nothing more than the chance to live safe from the fear of persecution.
I believe that, placed in the same circumstances, most Australians would do exactly what boat people do: run for your life, do whatever you can to get to safety, whatever the risk.
All these things I believe about this country and its people. Am I wrong?
Julian Burnside, AO, QC, is a prominent barrister and human rights advocate.


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/australians-dont-fully-understand-what-is-being-done-in-their-name-20110825-1jcbn.html#ixzz1W9bDP2Z9

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How the Buddha got his wounds

On Monday Afghanistan's Taliban rulers were promising to safeguard the country's historic treasures. On Thursday they started shelling them. Luke Harding explains what changed their minds


Luke Harding
The Guardian, Saturday 3 March 2001


It had seemed like a good meeting. Sitting in one corner was Afghanistan's bearded foreign minister, Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel. On the sofa opposite, a delegation of western cultural experts who had flown to Kabul to discuss the preservation of Afghanistan's few remaining antiquities.

Over cups of green tea, Mutawakel smilingly assured the delegation that all was well. The Taliban, Afghanistan's fundamentalist rulers, had no intention of destroying what was left of the country's heritage, he said. This was at 5.30pm on Monday. Two hours later, however, Radio Sharia - the Taliban's official station - broadcast an announcement that would plunge Afghanistan into further isolation and provoke a major international outcry. Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's reclusive, one-eyed spiritual leader, had issued a new decree: that all Afghanistan's ancient statues should be destroyed.

The decision was in line with Islamic law and had been taken following a gathering of the country's most senior religious leaders, he explained. "We were just blown away," said Brigitte Neubacher of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage (SPACH). "This came immediately after our one-and-a-half hour meeting. Whether the timing was deliberate or not we don't know. I am totally horrified."

By Thursday, Taliban fighters deep in the Hindu Kush mountains started putting Mullah Omar's edict into effect. They set about what was once Afghanistan's most famous tourist attraction - two enormous statues of Buddha, 38 and 55 metres high, carved into a cliff-face. Using tanks and rocket launchers they began to destroy the two works, which had survived since the second century AD.

The magnificent colossi were built in the remote and beautiful Bamiyan Valley - seven hours' drive from Kabul - 1,000 years before the arrival of Islam in Afghanistan. They were built by the flourishing Buddhist Kushan dynasty, which had grown rich from its strategic position on the Silk Road between China and Rome.

The statues were unique. They were visited by pilgrims from across Central Asia; tended by yellow-robed priests who lived in caves carved into the sandstone hillside; and decorated with exquisite frescoes. "The buddhas are absolutely spectacular. I have never seen anything like them in my life," one awed visitor to Bamiyan told me. The statues even outlasted an attack by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. But they have finally met their match in the Taliban.

In retrospect, the international community could have spotted the danger signals. Three weeks ago, Taliban officials allegedly broke into Kabul's bombed-out museum and destroyed around 50 objects of cultural significance, according to reports.

There was not, it has to be said, much left to destroy. Rival Afghan mujaheddin factions looted most of the museum's best pieces when they fought for control of the city in 1992. But a few things were still on display when I visited last October: a couple of friezes, a limestone Islamic bowl and a rather fetching statue of King Kanishka, who ruled Afghanistan 1,800 years ago.

One observer who recently managed to peer through the locked museum's windows spotted some white marks on King Kanishka's enormous royal feet, suggesting the already headless statue had been hit by a hammer. "We don't know how great the damage is. We weren't allowed into the museum to verify the reports," one member of the SPACH delegation said.

The Taliban's decision to destroy the few relics that managed to survive 20 years of war and Soviet occupation can only be explained by recent political events. In February, the UN imposed fresh sanctions on Afghanistan. The Taliban's office in New York was closed down by the United States, a country obsessed with capturing the Afghanistan-based Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. Within the Taliban, a dialogue of sorts had been going on. Moderates, such as the Taliban's culture minister Abdul Rahman Hotaki, advocated a degree of co-operation with the west. But after the most recent wave of sanctions Mullah Omar appears to have concluded that a policy of engagement was entirely pointless. Instead, he has thumbed his nose at the international community. "All we are breaking are stones," he shrugged. "I don't care about anything but Islam."

Since the Taliban swept into Kabul four years ago, imposing the world's most extreme brand of Islam, portrayal of the human image has been forbidden. Painters, for example, are now confined to depicting landscapes; Kabul's art gallery is hung with innocuous Victorian pastorals. In September 1998, a renegade Taliban commander blew off the head of the smaller Bamiyan buddha using dynamite. He also fired rockets at the large buddha's groin, damaging the luxurious folds of the statue's dress.

But the Taliban then decided to take a more pragmatic view of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past. In July 1999 Mullah Omar issued a decree that said the Bamiyan buddhas should be preserved. There were, he pointed out, no Buddhists left in Afghanistan to worship them. But he added: "The government considers the Bamiyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors. The Taliban states that Bamiyan shall not be destroyed but protected."

Then, over another cup of green tea four months ago, Hotaki assured me that the Taliban had no intention of damaging the statues. To suggest as much was "foreign propaganda", he said. Sadly, though, the rumours have proved all too true.

The Bamiyan valley, with its serene mountain views and pastel colours, is also an unwelcome reminder to the Taliban of their own vulnerability. Opposition fighters from Afghanistan's Northern Alliance seized the valley last month and were dislodged only after a massive battle. The Taliban have now sealed the valley and have rejected all requests by foreign observers to visit.

It is not just the buddhas that face annihilation: 20 tin trunks that may contain the Kabul museum's celebrated Bactrian treasures are currently stored in the vaults of the presidential palace and the Taliban's culture ministry. They have not been opened, so no one is sure what they contain. The only certainty is that after Monday's edict, they are likely to be lost to the world for ever.

"I consider myself a friend of Afghanistan. I have spent 15 years trying to help the country," one western cultural expert said this week. "But it is becoming an island of madness."

Article Source,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/mar/03/books.guardianreview2

The Teenage Years in the Tumult of Afghanistan




Mir in the documentary "The Boy Mir: 10 Years in Afghanistan."

By MIKE HALE
Published: August 11, 2011

In 2002 Phil Grabsky went to Afghanistan and made “The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan,” a documentary about a year in the life of Mir, an 8-year-old with boundless energy and a blinding smile. His family, dislocated by war, lived in grinding poverty in a cave near where the Taliban had destroyed centuries-old stone Buddhas; the family granted Mr. Grabsky an alarming degree of access, and the resulting film had a sharp focus, a fluid rhythm and a touch of strange beauty, abetted by the towering cliffs with their empty alcoves for statues.
More About This Movie

Mr. Grabsky returned and documented Mir’s life through his teenage years, a noble endeavor that has resulted in an interesting but much more ordinary sequel, “The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan.” The first 22 minutes of the new film is footage from the earlier one, so drastically edited that it feels slightly surreal if you’ve seen the original. The story then picks up in 2005, with Mir back in his peaceful home village in the north.

Over the next five years he dips in and out of school, acquires and neglects a bicycle and a motorcycle, weathers his parents’ increasingly exasperated complaints and hopes he won’t have to join the army. Despite the abject conditions and the not-so-distant war, his story starts to feel like a typical rebellious-teenager narrative. And the compressed time frame means there is less of the acute observation that distinguished “The Boy Who Plays” and more scenes of the family members, now practiced performers, talking to the camera. Still, if you’ve seen the first film, you’ll want to come back to see Mir’s progress through life. And no matter what happens, it seems, the smile remains.

THE BOY MIR

Ten Years in Afghanistan

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Phil Grabsky; directors of photography, Mr. Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi; edited by Phil Reynolds; music by Richard Durrant; produced by Mr. Grabsky and Amanda Wilkie; released by Seventh Art Productions. At the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village. In Dari, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is not rated.

Source,

http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/movies/the-boy-mir-by-phil-grabsky-review.html

UNHCR Praises Iran's Generosity toward Refugees


TEHRAN (FNA)- Deputy Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Veronica Irima praised the efforts made by the Iranian government and nation to host foreign refugees over the past years.

"I appreciate you, as an official of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for hosting such a large number of the world refugees," Irima said in a meeting with the Deputy Governor of Isfahan province in Political and Security Affairs Mohammad-Mahdi Esmaeili.

Pointing out that the Iranian nation's hospitality is internationally renowned, he reiterated, "Iran's viewpoint about the refugees differs with that of the other countries, and is very particular and unique."

Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have sought refuge in Iran, either directly across the Afghan border or by a long detour through Pakistan. Some are Shiites from Hazarajat, the central, largely Shiite district of Afghanistan which has been virtually autonomous since 1979. Others are Tajik and Turkmen from the Northern provinces of Afghanistan. Many come from the neighboring province of Herat.

No one knows the exact number of the refugees. But the Iranian authorities and the UNHCR estimate there are between 1.5 and 2 million.

The refugees are dispersed throughout Iran. According to UNHCR estimates, there are 600,000 in North Khorassan, South Khorassan and Khorassan Razavi provinces - 250,000 in the capital, Mashhad, alone - 150,000 each in the provinces of Isfahan, Kerman, Tehran, Fars and Yazd, and 120,000 in Sistan and Balouchestan province.

Many work in construction, agriculture, or in factories or small shops.

In 1979 the Iranians created the Council for Afghan Refugees (CAR), which is part of the ministry of interior. The CAR has grown increasingly alarmed at the growing number of Afghan refugees, and at the health and security problems they pose.

Report Source,

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9005110350

Split over Dandenong's Afghan Bazaar plans




PLANS to redevelop the Afghan Bazaar to reflect its cultural identity have divided the community.

Greater Dandenong Council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship have been consulting with Afghan traders to design a streetscape reflecting the culture of the Thomas St precinct.

But Shamama Association secretary John Gulzari said he felt some groups were ignored when the council dubbed Thomas St the “Afghan Bazaar”, complete with camels as mascots, in 2009.

Dandenong’s Afghan community is primarily made up of three ethnic groups, the Hazara, Pashtun and Tajik.

Mr Gulzari said camels had negative connotations for some traders, and did not represent all the ethnicities.

“This is Australia and every law-abiding citizen has the freedom of speech to express their opinion,” he said.

Hazara refugee and Dandenong resident Zakir Hussain suggested Hazara patterns and images of Bamiyan Buddhas - sandstone statues from the Hazarajat province destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 - be worked into the Thomas St art.

Mr Hussain said he didn’t call himself Afghan, and would prefer something less divisive, such as Bamiyan Bazaar.

But Afghan Pamir Restaurant owner Rahimi Baryalai said calling the area the Afghan Bazaar encompassed all ethnicities, and the camel was an important symbol.

“Hazara is a small minority group in Australia,” he said.

“We are Afghan, we should be united under the same Afghan name. We shouldn’t have any division.”

Afghan Australian Philanthropic Association chairman Dor Aschna supported a unified front for the bazaar.

“We want to keep the Afghan flag and logo representing the whole Afghani, not just one ethnic group.”

News Source,

http://dandenong-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/split-over-dandenongs-afghan-bazaar-plans/

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bit By Bit, Afghanistan Rebuilds Buddhist Statues


by JOANNA KAKISSIS

July 27, 2011
When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan a decade ago, they were fanatical about eliminating everything they considered un-Islamic.

Their biggest targets — literally and figuratively — were the two monumental Buddha statues carved out of the sandstone cliffs in central Afghanistan. One stood nearly 180 feet tall and the other about 120 feet high, and together they had watched over the dusty Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century, several centuries before Islam reached the region.

Despite international opposition, the Taliban destroyed the statues with massive explosions in 2001. At the time they were blown up, the statues were the largest Buddha carvings in the world, and it seemed they were gone for good.

But today, teams from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are engaged in the painstaking process of putting the broken Buddhas back together.

Up to half of the Buddha pieces can be recovered, according to Bert Praxenthaler, a German art historian and sculptor, who has been working at the site for the past eight years. He and his crew have sifted through 400 tons of rubble and have recovered many parts of the statues along with shrapnel, land mines and explosives that were used in their demolition.

But how do you rebuild the Buddhas from the rubble?

"The archaeological term is 'anastylosis,' but most people think it's some kind of strange disease," said Praxenthaler.

For those in the archaeology world, "anastylosis" is actually a familiar term. It was the process used to restore the Parthenon of Athens. It involves combining the monument's original pieces with modern material.

On a recent day, Praxenthaler was leading a group through a tunnel behind the niche where the smaller of the two statues once stood.

"We are now on top of the Buddha," he explained. "There was just a wall and a small opening to sit on the top, or the head, of the Buddha. But now there is no head."

The workers were busy removing scaffolding after months spent reinforcing the wall where the Buddha's head once was.

Mixed Feelings About Project

Bamiyan is an extremely poor and remote land in one of the world's most underdeveloped countries. The Buddha statues were once a major tourist attraction, but Afghanistan has been at war virtually nonstop for more than three decades. The fighting drove away the tourists years before the Taliban blew up the statues.

The restoration project is designed to rebuild the historic site, as well as bring back the tourists. The project has the support of Habiba Sarabi, the popular provincial governor. And there are reasons to be hopeful. Bamiyan is now considered one of the less dangerous places in Afghanistan.

Yet others, like human rights activist Abdullah Hamadi, say the empty niches where the Buddhas stood are a reminder of the Taliban's fanaticism, and should be left as they are.

"The Buddha was destroyed," said Hamadi. "If you made it, rebuilt it, that is not the history. The history is the broken Buddha."

Hamadi is from the nearby district of Yakawlang, where the Taliban massacred more than 300 members of a minority group, called the Hazaras, in 2001. Those killings took place just two months before the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues.

While Bamiyan is much safer today, the Taliban can still strike. Recently, Taliban insurgents kidnapped and beheaded Jawad Zahak, the head of the Bamiyan provincial council, while he was driving his family toward Kabul, about 150 miles to the southeast.

Some in Bamiyan say they would rather see the money for the restoration project go toward services like electricity and housing, which are in desperately short supply.

Homeless Take Shelter In Caves

In fact, the caves at the site of the Buddha statues are the only shelter some Bamiyan residents can find. Homeless villagers like Marzia and her six children are living in one of the caves, while the family's goats bleat nearby. Marzia, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said she has no use for the statues.

"We don't have a house, so where else can we live?" she said.

A few enterprising villagers have found ways to make money off the story surrounding the Buddhas. One is Said Merza Husain, known around town as the man who was forced to help the Taliban blow up the statues.

He said he had no choice but to obey the Taliban a decade ago. If he had resisted, they would have killed him. One of his friends refused to take part, and the Taliban shot him.

But that is the only information Husain will share for free. To hear more of the story, he charges anywhere between $20 and $100.

Meanwhile, Bert Praxenthaler's team was about to halt their work temporarily during the scorching Afghan summer. One longtime worker, Ali Reza, was picking up his pay. He signed his name and received a wad of Afghanis.

Praxenthaler also handed him a certificate and thanked him first in Dari, then in English. Piecing together Bamiyan's Buddhas will take many more years. After a summer break, Praxenthaler's team plans to resume their work in the fall.

This story was partly funded by a Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global
Religion.

Article source,

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/27/137304363/bit-by-bit-afghanistan-rebuilds-buddhist-statues

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Letter from a refugee: ‘This is not tolerable for any human being’



Friday, August 19, 2011


The following message was received by Indymedia from within Curtin Detention Centre with a request that it posted on the site. Please circulate this cry for help and solidarity amongst your networks.

* * *

It is known to all and history has also proven that Hazaras have always and systemically been target of national, religious and ethnic oppression and cruelty and yet thousands of people including women and children have lost their life and thousands of families have lost their guardian and thousands of children are now orphan, who do not just have access to education but also experiencing a horrible and miserable life.

Taliban, predominant Pashtuns, are the very actual face of national, religious and significantly ethnic oppression and cruelty who have taken the annihilation of Hazaras serious and have declared that killing of Hazaras is according to rules and regulations of Islam and hence mandatory.

Looting Hazara’s properties is same as their worship therefore consider it a gift from God and continue to their systematic oppression and harassment of Hazaras at any corner of Afghanistan with their barbaric attacks, counting it as their daily pray for god.

The media has always been reporting about the barbaric attacks of marauder Taliban, which have cost several lives and demolitions for Hazaras.

By passing each day, the situation for these people (Hazaras) is deteriorating.

These people whose way of living is becoming harder tried to continue life and along with their families they have left their birthplace and sought refuge from other countries to just survive from the barbaric attacks of Pashtuns/Talibs.

Hazaras, as seen in majority of European countries and even Canada have been seen to have requested for refuge and are now living in peace.

For the last three years that Australia has again opened the gate for asylum seekers, Hazaras traveling thousands of miles and going through 100% serious risks have escaped death to request protection from Australia and yet not every individual has conquered this deathly journey and even tens of people have lost their lives.

Most of these people have sacrificed their life and are now spending in Malaysia's appalling prisons with plenty of calamities and agony, a huge number is jailed in Indonesia and sadly a considerable number of them while carrying lots of hopes on this journey lost their life in depth of the ocean just like Boat SIEV 221 in a very sorrowful, painful and horrible way while sailing across Malaysia, Indonesia and Australian waters and turned into sea animals’ meal.

Luckily after spending three to eleven months of imprisonment in Malaysia and Indonesia, when we arrived in Australia, we thought Australia would embrace us and listen to our stories and treat our long time grief by granting protection, therefore we thought ourselves lucky and fortunate.

Since we deserved to be granted protection, we requested for protection from Australian government. But, after a while in contrary to its prior policy, Australia granted protection visa to a very few number and rejected most of us saying that: ‘The living condition for Hazaras in Afghanistan is fine now’.

While we had already explained the serious risks we are facing during our Immigration interviews.

We need to know that:
1. Is Australia not aware of how we (Hazaras) are being targeted in the most atrocious ways in Afghanistan?
2. Does Australia really don't know that Qarabagh-Jaghuri Express way is still blocked to Hazaras and traveling on this destination equals to death for us?
3. Does Australia really don't know that every day our children's faces are fogged with misery, deprivation and orphanhood?
4. Does Australia really don't know why Pashtun gave birth to Taliban and what was their target?
5. Does Australia really don't know that few months ago Taliban beheaded a number of Hazaras just like sheep?
6. Does Australia really don't know how Hazaras are being targeted in Quetta of Pakistan just for being Shia and Hazara.
And Does.... ? Does.... ? Does.... ? Does....?

Considering all these issues, how could Australia not grant us protection? This matter has turned into enigma for us which is never solvable.

The only good news we have been given by immigration department is that we may have more chances of granting protection visa in second stage called IMR (Independent Merits Review).

As we have escaped death from Afghanistan and returning to Afghanistan is just like suicide for us, we don't have any alternate choice but to suffer in detention centers.

Now that we have spent considerable amount of time taken from 3 to 20 months in detention centers, we still suffer from the amount of time and only God knows how much more time we have to spend here for no reason and without destiny.

Source,

http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/48559

The Marabar Caves complex (The targeted Killings of Hazaras in Balochistan)


By Ejaz Haider
Published: August 3, 2011

Balochistan is like Marabar Caves. No matter what one says the echo turns it into a monotonous ‘boum’; and while something always happens, no one gets to the bottom of it. Allegations, defence, theories, nothingness and more of the same. Forster was asked what happened at the Marabar Caves. He said he didn’t know. In Balochistan, on all sides of the conflict, everyone seems to know everything and yet, scratch deeper and one realises that fact and fiction intersect with such bewildering frequency that sifting the grain from the chaff becomes an exercise in deep frustration.
Take the example of recent sectarian attacks. I sat thinking about them as the plane began the descent to Quetta Airport. The narrative is rather simple: the peaceful Hazara community is being targeted by a sectarian terrorist organisation. I remembered visiting, last December, what the Hazara call the Martyrs’ Graveyard, close to the Marriabad locality where Koh-e Murdar begins to get diminutive. The expanded wing of the graveyard has more graves of people killed in subsequent sectarian attacks. Finding: the Hazara have suffered and continue to at the hands of Deobandi sectarian terrorists.
But wait. Take a look at another set of ‘facts’. On July 28, as Abdul Karim Mengal, a Deobandi prayer leader at Jamia Albadar comes out of a mosque near Pishin Bus Stop, two motorcyclists kill him. Sources on both sides of the divide and in the police say there’s strong suspicion that the killers were linked to Allama Maqsood Domki, the chief of Balochistan’s Jafaria Alliance, and belonged to Dera Allah Yar, Allama Domki’s birthplace.
Domki himself was attacked in 2009 and his guards killed one of the assailants. In June this year, about 170 people from the Hazara community were invited by the Iranian government to attend the death anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini. “They were feted by the Iranian government. We don’t know what they were told but this year’s Shab-e Barat saw the biggest-ever celebration known to Quetta’s Shia community. They cut a 40 lbs cake, a novelty. It was an aggressive show,” a Hazara told me.
The chairman of Hazara Democratic Party, Abdul Khaliq Hazara, was even more forthcoming as I sat in his baithak sipping kehwa and talking to him. A man with a sense of humour, he criticised both Deobandi terrorists and Hazara and other Shia religious leaders. “They play in the hands of Iran, our religious leaders,” he said. Not one to mince words Khaliq has quite often fallen foul of Shia clerics for objecting to their sectarian sermons and being close to Iran. “Funds come from Iran through their consulate and we see this action-reaction pattern which takes toll of Hazara life.”
Law enforcement officers corroborate the Iranian connection but are more squeamish about the LeJ terrorists. How did Usman Saifullah Kurd, the LeJ terrorist, manage to escape from a high-security ATF prison situated in Quetta cantonment? What about Daud Badini? One source alleges that the night Kurd escaped, some Hazara guards were relieved from duty and the roster changed. It is difficult to corroborate this story especially if the duty roster was indeed changed unless one could compare it with the original roster. It would be naive to think that would still exist. But the question remains: how did Kurd escape?
Hazara clerics seem convinced the LeJ is supported by some elements in the establishment. This is the terrain of allegations which is utilised by all sides in Balochistan. The Deobandi side alleges that former General-President Pervez Musharraf had a policy of placing Shia officers in key positions, another allegation.
The problem with these allegations is that they are based on the group’s own narrative and draw on some elective fact(s) to weave a tapestry that is then mouthed and written about regularly until it is accepted as the gospel truth within that group. The Baloch think they have been deprived while a Pashtun journalist said to the army chief during a function in Quetta on August 1 that the Pashtun think the entire thrust of development is directed towards the Baloch because the latter have picked up the gun – “Should the Pashtun do the same to make their voice heard?”
The army has its own narrative; but equally, within the army, there is much scepticism about the policy of ignoring Baloch sub-nationalist groups. Recently, Commander Southern Command, Lt-Gen Javed Zia, a thinking officer who has worked very hard in the province, was criticised for saying that he didn’t think those who burnt the flag were traitors and should not be engaged. But on the Baloch side ask anyone and they would convincingly tell you that the army thinks as a monolith and its one agenda is to kill the Baloch.
It has become a war of narratives and everyone persists with theirs, deepening the existing fault-lines.

Article Source,

http://tribune.com.pk/story/223437/t%E2%80%A6/

On Ejaz Haider’s ISPR press release on Hazaras of Balochistan – by Farrukhzad Ali


BY ADMIN

Ejaz Haider recently visited Quetta with the purported agenda of meeting Hazara tribal and religious leaders and Deobandi/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders to inform his readers about the situation in Quetta. But what he has finally produced as a result of his Quetta sojourn is nothing short of an ISPR press release. Athar Abbas has most certainly lost credibility, and needs new faces to deliver his messages.

To be honest, Ejaz Haider didn’t have to visit Quetta to write what he did at the end of the day. He knew what he had to write even before he had left. After having formally consummated his relationship with the ISI, he has proven himself as one of the most treacherous spokespersons of the agency.

In his August 3 article published in Express Tribune, Ejaz Haider tells us that the situation in Quetta is not as simple as it might seem because Hazaras are actually not a persecuted lot, but an Iranian proxy in Quetta who are funded by Iran and operate for Iran’s interests. The miseries of Hazaras are therefore self-inflicted, and they fully deserve the fate they have been subjected to.

The justifications Ejaz proffers to substantiate this buncombe are: the Iranian government invited 170 members from the Hazara community to commemorate Ayatollah Khomeini’s death anniversary this year; the Hazaras celebrated Shab-e-Barat this year by cutting a 40 lbs cake; Allama Domki is accused of being involved in a Deobandi prayer leader’s murder on July 28; Shia clerics indulge in sectarian sermons; and happenings in Quetta are of an action-reaction pattern. These are the reasons which according to Ejaz Haider have resulted in the killings of Hazaras ever since it commenced in the late 1990s.

Let me take each of his claims one by one.

For Ejaz Haider’s information, the Iranian government has been inviting Pakistanis from all backgrounds (including Hazaras) to attend Ayatollah Khomeini’s death anniversary for two decades now, and the list of invitees includes politicians, army officers, journalists, members of several religious parties, as well as ordinary citizens. The list of the invitees also includes names such as Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Munauwar Hasan, and Gen. Hamid Gul. So should we accept Ejaz Haider’s apology that Hazaras are being killed because Iran invited 170 of their members to attend Ayatollah Khomeini’s death anniversary in 2011? By the way, most of the 170 Hazaras who visited Iran this year were actually women and children, for whom the visit entailed no political connotations.

Shab-e-Barat celebrations in Quetta are as old a story as Hazaras themselves, and have never included sectarian sermons. Shab-e-Barat in Quetta, like elsewhere, is celebrated by using firecrackers, holding poetry recital gatherings and cutting of cakes – including one 40 lbs this year, which according to Ejaz Haider, was funded by Iran and resulted in killings of Hazaras. For his information, this wasn’t the first instance of a 40 lbs cake being cut – it is a tradition which has continued for quite a while now. And a 40 lbs cake in Quetta costs something like Rs. 6000, which doesn’t necessarily have to come from Iran. Half a million Shias in Quetta can afford to pool that much money. Ejaz probably mortgaged to Khakis his mind along with his character to become their spokesperson.

Allama Maqsood Domki’s involvement in Maulana Karim Mengal’s murder seems far from possible for several reasons. First of all, Domki – a Baloch – is not a native of Quetta and is therefore disliked by the somewhat ethnocentric Hazaras. During the past decade in which he tried to find footholds in the Hazara dominated areas of Quetta, not only did he fail, he was driven out of the Hazara localities. Assuming that the assassin was indeed Domki’s accomplice and hailed from Dera Allah Yar, can Ejaz Haider educate us as to where could he perish instantly after the attack keeping in view the fact that due to Hazaras’ distinct features and their abhorrence for Domki, he couldn’t seek refuge in the Hazara dominated areas which are the only Shia populated localities in Quetta? Does Ejaz Haider even know that Jaffaria Alliance is dysfunctional in Balochistan and doesn’t even command a dozen followers?

In fact, why should we not assume that Mengal was actually murdered by ISI spooks in order to put the onus on Shias of Quetta (hold all of them responsible), present the situation as an ‘action-reaction process’, and deprive them of even the niggling sympathy they have recently received. Is it too far-fetched an assumption keeping ISI’s track record in view? Is it not rather plausible considering that Ejaz Haider visited Quetta right after Mengal’s murder and followed it up with a lousy article? Should the fact that the incident happened at only a few hundred yards from the FC headquarters be ignored? It adds to the suspicions that no arrest has so far been made in connection to Mengal’s murder, although Ejaz Haider has hurled wild accusations against Domki. If our sleuths can instruct Ejaz to accuse Domki for the murder, they wouldn’t have hesitated a moment before arresting him in case there were evidences of his involvement.

While Ejaz Haider has mentioned that Allama Domki was attacked by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists in 2009 in which his guard (who happened to be a Hazara policeman) killed one of the attackers, he has carefully eschewed the details that followed the incident. The killed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist was later presented by the state as an ordinary citizen, and Domki’s guard was charged for manslaughter and obviously so – he had killed an ISI strategic asset.

Ejaz Haider’s claim of indulgence of Shia clerics in sectarian sermons is perhaps the most ludicrous of all. While this may be construed as either their spinelessness or diplomacy, Shia clerics in Quetta do not indulge in sectarian rhetoric. Even while carrying dozens of corpses, instead of sloganeering against any other sect, they conveniently blame either some unknown enemies of Islam, or US and Israel – the easy punch bags. If Ejaz Haider insists he is right in his claim, I throw him a wager to name a single such cleric, or produce a single such sermon (which should most certainly be recorded by the ISI, and will be in easy access to him).

Ejaz Haider’s equation of the death of over 500 Shias of Quetta with the assassination of a Deobandi prayer leader, killed on July 28 is appalling, and characteristic of the cold and inhuman Khaki behavior. Ejaz Haider’s simplistic khaki logic deduces that the situation in Quetta is in fact a two-sided sectarian war, in which both the antagonists are killing each other. He conveniently ignores that Shia killings have been taking place for over a decade now, and during all this period, not a single act of violence can be traced back to them. This is not a sectarian war, but systemic genocide of a single sect. Isn’t it ridiculous to say that Shias in Quetta were killed between 2001 and 2011, because a Deobandi prayer leader was killed on 28th July 2011 by unknown assailants? This is exactly what Ejaz Haider is telling us.

Since Ejaz Haider has heavily relied on Abdul Khaliq Hazara’s views to buttress his hogwash, it is important to introduce the fellow to the readers. On the face of it, Abdul Khaliq Hazara is a secular nationalist Hazara leader, who assumed the chair of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) after Hussain Ali Yousafi’s assassination.

Ridiculous it might seem, but not so when ISI is involved. I have stated previously that while the duplicitous ‘deep state’ has crushed every genuine secular movement in Pakistan, the secular/nationalist Hazaras of Quetta have had the privilege of receiving maximum state support ever since the Iranian Revolution. During the Soviet War, Hazara nationalists served as ISI’s secure channel to the Hazara factions of Afghanistan, more specifically, the self-professed Maoist groups. They have enjoyed a cozy relationship throughout this period, and what keeps them closer is a magnified Iranian influence in Quetta. The nationalists project it to remain relevant to the deep state, which in turn uses it as an excuse to ruthlessly use Hazaras as bait while pursuing its grand project in Afghanistan. Suffice it to say that Abdul Khaliq Hazara is the incumbent ISI blue-eyed among Hazaras in Quetta.

As previously stated, Ejaz Haider’s purpose of visiting Quetta and penning a concocted version of the happenings there is to allay even the marginal feelings of sympathy for the peripheral Hazaras, in mainland Pakistan. He serves the agenda of his Khaki masters well by telling his readers that Hazaras are not innocent citizens under fire, but Iranian agents who are under strict control of war-mongering Shia clerics involved in murders of Deobandi clerics. By presenting the situation as an action-reaction binary, he tries to deprive Hazaras of the higher moral stead, and reduces them to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s level and holds them equally responsible for violence.

By trying to prove Iran and Hazaras as the main culprits who have provoked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for violence, Ejaz Haider has absolved the Pakistani state, especially the ISI, of any culpability. By doing so, he is insidiously arousing the sentiments of the common Pakistanis against the Shias of Quetta, and sedating their consciences with the allegations of treason and violence against the latter.

Article Source,

http://pakistanblogzine.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/on-ejaz-haiders-ispr-press-release-on-hazaras-of-balochistan-by-farrukhzad-ali/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Tragic Tale of a Hazara Child

Targeted killings of Hazaras


The rise in sectarian violence in Balochistan is forcing its Persian-speaking Shia community to flee to safer places in the country.




Photo: Metrix X, flickr
After a brief pause, sectarian violence is once again on the rise in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan province in Pakistan. In the last few months, at least 41 people, all belonging to the Hazara minority which follows the Shia sect of Islam, have been killed in separate targeted attacks.

A few days ago, 14 Hazaras were gunned to death in the city in two separate attacks. In mid-July, two Hazara government officials had been shot dead by unknown assailants, while a month before that Director of Pakistan Sports Board, Syed Abrar Hussain Shah, a three-time Olympics representative from Pakistan, had been similarly murdered. The month of June saw two dead and 11 others injured when a group of armed men ambushed a bus carrying Hazara pilgrims to Iran. In May, 14 Hazaras, including a little baby, were killed in two separate attacks, one of which was a well-coordinated rocket attack. An independent news source states that over 200 Shias have been killed in Balochistan in the last three years.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a banned sectarian organisation, allegedly linked with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), al-Qaeda and other Afghan Taliban groups, has claimed the responsibility for these killings. After the death of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, the LeJ vowed to avenge his killing by targeting not only Pakistan’s government officials and security forces but also its Hazara community. Recently, threatening letters have been widely distributed in Quetta, warning the Hazaras to prepare for more fatal attacks, which the LeJ calls a jihad similar to the one carried out against Hazaras in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule.

The Hazaras in Afghanistan, the third-largest ethnic group in the country, were heavily oppressed during the Taliban regime. Massacres in large numbers were carried out in the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghazni and Balkh, as the Taliban suspected that the Hazaras collaborated with the Afghan Northern Alliance, an organisation fighting the Taliban regime at the time. Experts on militancy issues believe that the Taliban had help in the killings from the LeJ and its mother organisation, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

Hazaras in Balochistan, however, had been left alone at the time, with the onset of targeted killings seen only after the Taliban were ousted from power. When the Taliban rule collapsed, so did the al-Qaeda-linked Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other jihadi groups, the blame for which was placed on the Pakistani Hazaras for allegedly colluding with the Americans and aiding in their ultimate downfall. As the city became a major hub for the defeated Taliban groups, it also provided a new vent for the expression of the Taliban hatred towards the Hazaras.

‘Apart from being ideological opposites,’ says Abdul Khaliq, head of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), ‘the Taliban have historic bitterness against the Hazaras, killing, according to an Amnesty International report, some 12,000 Hazaras in central Afghanistan.’ This bitterness, coupled with mere conjectures on the Hazaras’ collusion with the American and NATO forces, he adds, is now leading the Pakistani militants groups, especially the LeJ, to murder the Hazaras in Quetta.

Poor government response
The LeJ is regarded as Pakistan’s fiercest Sunni extremist outfit and is accused of killing hundreds of Shias since its emergence in 1996. Usman Saifullah Kurd and Dawood Badini are believed to be heading the LeJ network in Quetta. Both of them had been apprehended by the Karachi police (Kurd in 2002 and Badini in 2004) and subsequently handed over to the Balochistan police. However, in 2008, they managed to escape from the Anti-Terrorist Forces headquarters at the Quetta cantonment. Apart from their involvement in suicide attacks on Shia religious processions, mosques and on Shia imams, the two are accused of killing dozens of professionals, police cadets and political activists, a majority of whom belonged to the Hazara community.

‘The Hazaras have been at the receiving end of violence for almost a decade now,’ says Amjad Hussain, a senior journalist, ‘but, not surprisingly, their plight remains largely unknown. And the culprits remain at large, and are encouraged by either the state’s participation or its indifference.’Abdul Khaliq agrees, saying that the increase in militancy in Balochistan is not solely the result of social unrest but also a clear indication of bad governance. ‘The LeJ claims the killings of Hazaras, and the government claims to have arrested the suspects, but the alleged attackers are never brought before the public or any court of law,’ he says. In 2009, HDP’s then-chairman Hussain Ali Yousafi was assassinated and the killers are yet to be identified.

The government’s failure at tackling the militants involved in sectarian violence has forced the Hazara community members to leave Quetta city for safer places like Karachi and Islamabad. Apart from threatening letters issued by the LeJ, which order them to leave Quetta city by 2012, the Hazaras have been the subject ofvitriolic speeches against Shias by religious clerics belonging to banned militants’ outfits. The intelligence agencies are believed to be aware about the whereabouts of all militant outfits including the LeJ, and yet the banned outfits publicly operate under new names. It is also believed that members of the Afghan Taliban leadership council are based in Quetta and/or in the neighbouring areas, but the Pakistani government continues to deny such reports.

Despite a long history of sectarian killings in Balochistan, especially in Quetta, the government has failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. Whatever the ultimate motive is, and whatever the politics involved, fanning such sectarian violence in Balochistan is destroying the centuries-long ethnic harmony. The recent killings only further widened the gulf between the Sunnis and Shias, pitting the Shia Hazaras against the local Pashtuns and other Baloch ethnic communities. While the government and its law enforcement agencies might not condone such attacks, their inefficacy in prosecuting the guilty displays a sense of lack of urgency in defeating the terrorist outfits. And this only serves these organisations’ objective of converting progressive and liberal Balochistan into a religious and Talibanised province.

~ Zia Ur Rehman is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Karachi.