From Hazarajat to Quetta: A sorry tale of Quiet Genocide of Hazaras – by Maisam Ali

 The book said that my people had killed the Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women. The book said part of the reason they had oppressed the Hazaras was that they were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lot of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned. The following week, after class, I showed the book to my teacher and pointed to the chapter on the Hazaras. He skimmed through a couple of pages, snickered, handed the book back. “That’s the one thing Shi’a people do well,” he said, picking up his papers, “passing themselves as martyrs.” He wrinkled his nose when he said the word Shi’a, like it was some kind of disease. – ‘The Kite Runner’ (Ch: 2, Para: 24)

Swirling winds traveling from the central highlands of Afghanistan when knock at the doors of Quetta city, the inhabitants of Hazara town and Alamdar road are the ones who can sniff the odor of blood the winds bring along. Blood that has been spilled relentlessly over the centuries has become the essential part of common consciousness of Hazara people. They have seen it being spilled, they have sensed it coming from the barbarians, they have smelled it arising from mass graves of their brethren in Afghanistan. The last decade has seen shift of altar from the steeps of Bamyan to the grounds of Quetta where the sanguinary ritual of slaughtering Hazaras is being performed now with the zeal getting more and more intensified with each passing day.

A rational analysis of frightening assault on Hazara Shias of Quetta would not be possible without taking into consideration the history of Hazaras in Afghanistan that is their native land. Hazara people are Turkic people and descendants of the Kushans. There are also Mongol influences in ten percent of Hazaras. The Hazarajat is the homeland of the Hazaras, and lies in the central highlands of Afghanistan, among the Koh-i-Baba Mountains and the western extremities of the Hindu Kush. Buddhas of Bamiyan are symbol of Hazara culture, art and history in Hazarajat. Buddhas of Bamyan were two 6th century monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, that were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were “idols” (which are forbidden under Sharia law). Hazaras are third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, forming about 9% of the total population. Over half a million Hazaras live in neighboring Pakistan (especially in the city of Quetta) and a similar number in Iran. They are predominantly Shia Muslims, mostly of Twelver sect and some Ismaili. Hazaras converted to Shi’aism during the reign of the Il-Khanate ruler Oljeitu (1304–1316), and during the first part of the 16th century, in the early days of the Safavid Dynasty.

Hazaras have centuries’ long history of subjugation and persecution for being adherents of minority sect and being minority ethnic group. Apart from the medieval days, in their modern history, Hazaras have faced persecution and forced displacement during the reign of Abdur Rahman Khan, who was Emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901, when from the period of 1888-1893 thousands of Hazaras were massacred since Abdur Rahman Khan had declared ‘Jihad’ against infidel Shiites. Some 35,000 families fled to northern Afghanistan, Mashhad (Iran), Quetta (Pakistan), and even as far as Central Asia. It is estimated that more than 60% of the Hazara population were massacred or displaced during Abdur Rahman’s campaign against them.

S.A.Mousavi writes about that period in “The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study”.

“Thousands of Hazara men, women, and children were moved to Mountain area from their land and Kabul and Qandahar, while numerous towers of human heads were made from the defeated rebels as a warning to others who might challenge the rule of the Amir.”

With the Taliban’s capture of Kabul in 1996, all the Hazara groups united with the new Northern Alliance against the common new enemy. However, it was too late and despite the fierce resistance Hazarajat fell to the Taliban by 1998. The Taliban had Hazarajat totally isolated from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor, Wardak and Daykundi. During the years that followed, Hazaras suffered severe oppression and many large ethnic massacres were carried out by the predominately ethnic Pashtun Taliban and are documented by such groups as the Human Rights Watch. These human rights abuses not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all areas controlled by the Taliban. Particularly after their capture of Mazar-e Sharif in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared that the Hazaras would be targeted. Mullah Niazi, the commander of the attack and governor of Mazar after the attack, similar to Abdur Rahman Khan over 100 years ago, declared the Shia Hazara as infidels:

“Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi’a. They are kafir [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras… If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses, and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan… wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair.”

Let’s, without going into details of May 2000 massacre at Robatak, and January 2001 massacre in Yakaolang, by Taliban regime, analyze the predicament of Hazara Shias in Quetta.

Historically, Balochistan has remained a secular and tolerant society. It has remained home to Muslims belonging to all sects of Islam, Hindus and other religious minorities. Most glaring evidence that can be put forward is that at the time of partition it was only Balochistan province that was not abandoned by the Hindus. As with the overturn of Taliban regime in Afghanistan by NATO, dregs of Taliban and Al-Qaeda started taking shelter in tribal belt of Khyber Pukhtunkwa and Balochistan with complicity of state of Pakistan who had already done a lot to kill infidel Shias by collaborating with Taliban when LeJ and SSP, the proxies of infamous ISI, fought side by side with Talibs in Mazar-e-Sharif. Critical analysis of spate of violence against Hazara Shias reveals that first major onslaught against them was during February, 2001 when five Hazaras died in terrorist attack on a Passenger van. The year of 2003 proved more fatal for Hazara Shias when on june 8, 2003 ‘unidentified’ terrorists killed 12 Hazara policemen in Quetta and then that worst attack of its own kind when on July 4, 2003 two suicides bombers blew themselves up in Hazara mosque killing about 60 people. The inhumane attack was perpetrated by the hardliner militant outfit LeJ with the support of dregs of Taliban who had taken sanctuary in Balochistan, as vengeance against Shia Muslims since the Shias of Pakistan by and large had kept away from the street protests against the US bombing of Afghanistan because they had not forgiven the massacre of the Shias of Afghanistan (the Hazaras) by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  The TEJ (the Tehrik-e-Jaffria, the main Shia political organisation of Pakistan) and the Sipah Mohammad  (the TEJ’s militant wing) had maintained a studied silence on the invasion. These were the Shia Hazaras most vulnerable to such onslaught who bore the brunt given the centuries’ long history of persecution and presence of Talibs in Balochistan who could have proved most instrumental in contemplating massive attacks in collaboration with sectarian outfits against Hazaras.

The years ahead proved more dreadful for Hazaras. Targets had been set and resources were readily available given the complicity of security agencies in Balochistan. On March 2, 2004 a group of suicide bombers attacked a Muharram procession killing 80 Hazaras and critically injuring another 150. Years ahead saw unabated spate of violence against Hazara Shias and target killings of them motivated on sectarian bases. Had the violence been ethnically motivated, there wouldn’t have been ethnic harmony between Balochis and Hazaras in Quetta over the period of almost one hundred years when first Hazara came to Quetta in 1890. There are ulterior motives of state hell bent on inciting and assisting the sectarian violence in city. This is what Syed Nasir Ali Shah, A Hazara and member of national assembly, has to say about it.

“Those who are carrying out these assaults are trying to create sectarian disharmony between the Sunni and Shia sects in Quetta,” he said, adding that the target killings were meant to widen the gulf between the Sunnis, Shias and Hazaras against the local Baloch and Pashtuns.The killings are not Hazara-specific. The slayings are religiously motivated, Shah said, adding the acts were being carried out by forces that wanted to convert Balochistan into a ‘Talibanised’ province.”

In the last couple of years, almost on every average day, there is a Hazara targeted-killing of high-profile personalities, professionals and other times ordinary citizens. Here’s an excerpt from editorial of Daily Times published after attack on Hazara Shias on May 6, 2011 that killed 8 innocent people.

“Preliminary police investigation reveals it was a sectarian attack. The audacity with which this attack has been carried out boggles the mind. In a highly coordinated assault, after firing rockets from the nearby mountains, about a dozen terrorists appeared on the site in vehicles, lobbed hand grenades and started indiscriminate firing…  It is alarming that, despite being banned, these outfits are operating with impunity in the length and breadth of Pakistan. Strangely, in a highly sensitive area such as Quetta, which is in the grip of an insurgency, no prior intelligence was available to law enforcement agencies about this attack… Frontier Corp and intelligence agencies have gained notoriety for their highhandedness in dealing with Balcoh activists, whom they illegally detain, torture and murder. How is it possible that they did not know of the presence of sectarian outfits and their activities in the area? Where was the police when this was happening? It is time the law enforcement agencies revamped their priorities and focused on protecting the citizens by rooting out militant sectarian networks and remaining vigilant about any such presence in their area.” –Source

Here for setting the record straight for armchair pseudo journalists who are in habit of ‘revealing’ connections between Iran and each and every Shia movement in Pakistan, be it political or religious, by exhibiting utmost intellectual and professional dishonesty. The HDP (Hazara Democratic Party) is a liberal, social democratic party which overwhelmingly represents Hazaras of Quetta. The HDP traces its roots to “Tanzáim-e nasl-e naw-e Hazara”  that was a party of Hazara nationalists and secular intellectuals based in Quetta during the last half of twentieth century. Hussain Ali Yousafi, the founder of HDP, who was assassinated by LeJ in 2009, was also an executive member of “Tanzáim-e nasl-e naw-e Hazara” for several years during 1980s. “Tanzáim-e nasl-e naw-e Hazara”   is the same political party that had fought against the rival Hazara political faction backed by pro-Khomeini Islamic regime during the soviet war in Afghanistan.  By 1979, the Iran-backed Islamist groups liberated Hazarajat from the central Soviet-backed Afghan government and later took entire control of Hazarajat away from the secularists. By 1984, after severe fighting, the secularist groups lost all their power to the Islamists. For further consolidating the fact here’s press release of Hazara Democratic Party issued on April 2, 2011 which is strongly critical to Iranian Islamic regime.

This Eid has seen thirteen of them drowned in their own blood while entire country was busy in celebrating the festive. The blood was probably cost of their faith they have been paying for long ago to live in societies ruled by savages. The blood screamed and yelled for a while amidst the deafening silence of corridors of power but at last had to perish. The very next day bodies of ‘infidels’ were buried wrapped in coffins printed with ‘Labaik Ya Hussain’ instead of the green flag. Whatever, they were not the ‘martyrs of nation’ but the dead of darkest lanes. End of story leaving behind a surreal question: Is this the one thing Shia people do well “Passing themselves as martyrs”?



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