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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The colour of my blood


Mubashir AkramThursday, June 21, 2012
From Print Edition

The definition 2(b) of the word Callousness in Merriam-Webster dictionary reads: “feeling or showing no sympathy for others.” And this precisely is what describes the state of the majority in Pakistan toward the Hazara community in Balochistan.

They are more interested in “bigger issues” such as the Malik Riaz case, the disqualification of Yousuf Raza Gilani, NRO and loadshedding etc, as the patriotic and peaceful Hazaras are targeted systematically.

According to the leaders of the Hazaras residing in Quetta, there are a little over million ethnic Hazaras residing in Pakistan. Majority of them is concentrated in Quetta where their estimated population is around 450,000.

A vast majority of Pakistanis, and particularly Punjabis, do not know much about them. For them, they are population from some other planet and hence, perfectly ignorable - even if they are brutally killed.

Hazara as a community hovers around the middle and lower-middle class stratum and claim to have nearly 90 percent literacy rate. Though ancestrally peasants, hardly any Hazara in Pakistan is in agriculture. They choose becoming small traders, businessmen or prefer joining government jobs.

I have this very strong feeling that probably 90 percent of the Punjabi population would not know that General (r) Muhammad Musa, the commander in chief of the Pakistan Army from 1958 to 1966 was a Hazara.

He also governed West Pakistan from 1966-69 and Balochistan from 1985-91. A true son of the soil, he served his country with pride and left a legacy for his community, and Pakistan, to take pride even after 21 years of his death.

Hazaras’ plight is nerve-racking, really, and as these lines are being written, 783 Hazaras have been killed with thousands injured in Balochistan. Ninety-nine percent of the violence has been committed only in Quetta district. Their crime is that they belong to the Shiite sect of Islam and hence are direct targets of the sectarian terrorists operating with impunity in Balochistan.

They have been attacked in more ways than one could count: indiscriminate firing on the Moharram processions/imam bargahs, kidnapping and decapitation, random firing on their vehicles, targeted killed, identify-and-kill incidents in passenger buses, raids at their homes, storming their shops and burning them subsequently.
The degree-fame chief minister of Islamabad, err, Balochistan, Mir Aslam Khan Raisani, has essentially worked merely as an extension of what his party’s government has been: poor governance and political and administrative failure.
His critics and friends alike say that he prefers to spend most of his time in Islamabad, “shopping for shoes,” as Amir Mateen eloquently put on May 27, 2012 in The News.

He could be full of humor but he is empty of many things including political wisdom, administrative vision, the will to govern, creative thinking and most particularly working hard while considering Baloch “his people” beyond statements.
When would and how could this end? Governing Balochistan, 44 percent of Pakistan’s geographical mass, could be a problem but what about Quetta alone? Quetta has a population of 1.5 million and once was a sleepy little cantonment. No one truly pondered over the unruly and disorganised growth of this martial-town in all irregular directions possible. Now, it is a melting pot of all kinds of intrigues and forms of violence from local to international.

On June 9, 2012, Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, head of the judicial commission on missing persons, blamed “foreign agencies” for deterioration of law and order in Balochistan. My question is very simple: should we, the Pakistanis, ask the Martians to come and police Balochistan?

Quetta has a corps headquarter. The FC is omnipresent. Police is ruthless, and with full authority. Every other day we hear stories of the intelligence operators running amok, at will. We hear that the inspector general of FC, Maj-Gen. Ubaidullah Khan Khattak refuses to appear before the court and then getting away with it until now. A small-sized, restless capital city slipping out of the hands of the Pakistani state is shameful. More shameful is the absence of any coherent strategy to bring peace to the people living there.

Seeing the “performance” of the incumbent federal and provincial governments, I am tempted to say that they have failed themselves - and the people of Balochistan.

There could be any number of reasons, and conspiracy theories, but the fact remains: the PPP’s federal and provincial governments lacked the political wisdom and administrative will to control situation in Balochistan.

I fear the day when an otherwise peaceful Hazara community decides to shun peace and respond to violence. I fear the day when their youth would refuse listening to their community leaders and take things in their hands.
“I am tired of this violence and have lost many relatives. I do not have much reason to believe that the government would ever catch these terrorist. How do you want me to react and respond if the violence knocks at my door? What do you think the colour of my blood is?” an enraged Hazara friend said in a wounded voice.
I know, but do the government and the state apparatus know the colour of the Hazara blood? I doubt that they do!

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