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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

HUNTING THE HAZARA

MAR 11 2014 
BY KHALED AHMED



Minhaj Ahmed Rafi—Newsweek
IF THERE EVER WAS A SIGN OF THE DEMISE OF THE PAKISTANI STATE, IT IS THE KILLING OF THE HAZARA COMMUNITY OF QUETTA.

In Pakhtun-dominated Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, they look different. Fair skinned but clearly mongoloid, they arouse curiosity and primal hatred. They belong to the Shia sect among a hardline Sunni city where the presence of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban has produced a terrorist mix seldom seen elsewhere in Pakistan. The Hazara of Quetta are in the crosshairs of the sectarian manifestation of the Taliban-Al Qaeda dominion in Pakistan.

On Jan. 21 this year, a bus carrying Hazara youths returning from pilgrimage to Shia shrines in Iran—many mixing business with faith—were blown up by a suicide-bomber’s car in the Mastung district approaching Quetta. Over 24 mangled bodies were extracted from the wreck of the pulverized bus. The Hazara of Quetta went through their routine of laying the dead bodies out on Alamdar Road and refused to bury them until the state of Pakistan pledged to take action against the killers. They pointedly rejected any assurances from the provincial government, which they have long perceived as impotent.

Two days of vigil by men, women and children alongside the limbs collected from Mastung produced results: Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, accompanied by Sen. Pervaiz Rashid, the information minister, flew to Quetta and vowed to take action. Accordingly, on Jan. 24, the paramilitary Frontier Corps and police swept through Mastung with a 350-strong force and arrested dozens of suspected “militants.” Special military flights were arranged for the rest of the Hazara pilgrims stranded on the Pakistan-Iran border post to avoid another bloodbath.

This was not the first target-killing on Mastung Road. In the past months, the Hazara were repeatedly offloaded from buses by gun-toting men, stood before a firing squad, and executed as the non-Hazara passengers stood aside and cowered. The Mastung Road approach to Quetta is a deathtrap despite the fact that the district contains a cadet college supplying Baloch manpower to the Army. (In the other stricken province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the district of Bannu, too, has a cadet college, but is entirely at the mercy of the Taliban.)

But this year’s massacre recalled the biggest act of mass murder in the city of Quetta. On Jan. 10, over a hundred Hazara, including women and children, died after a vehicle full of a quantity of explosives not seen in the country before destroyed a market town where the Shia have become ghettoized.

The mourners refused to leave the street where they had assembled the dismembered bodies of their families until the government ensured action against the killers. The Hazara didn’t believe a word of what the politicians said because their extermination, often referred to as genocide, had become routine. This routine began years ago with the rise of the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian outfit whose name appears on the Al Qaeda flag along with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jandullah.

In 2011, at least 26 Hazara were shot dead execution-style on Mastung Road. Terrorists had intercepted a bus going to Taftan, a town near the Pakistan-Iran border, had singled out all Hazara men, and shot them dead. Terrorists stayed at the scene for 10 minutes firing with AK-47s to ensure no one survived. Then they ambushed and killed several Hazara rushing to the scene to take their dead relatives to hospital.

From 2008 to 2012, Balochistan witnessed 758 Shia killed in 478 incidents. Of these, 338 victims belonged to the Hazara community, indicating that the Hazara remain the prime target of this violent schism....Continue Reading... 

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