Troy Media – by Abbas Daiyar
Hundreds of Afghan civil society and human rights activists held a demonstration in Kabul on Friday protesting against the ethnic cleansing of the Hazara ethnic and sectarian minority group in Pakistan.
According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 600 members of the Hazara minority have been slaughtered in the last couple of years by the Al-Qaeda-linked sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The latest attack was reported on October 4. According to the New York Times, “. . . attackers riding in a pickup truck intercepted the bus carrying mostly Shiite day laborers traveling to a market. The gunmen forced non-Hazara passengers to get off the bus, then opened fire on the people remaining inside.”
Fourteen people – all vegetable vendors going to a market – were killed. Just a week before that attack, another bus on the way to Quetta-Taftan was targeted. According to a statement by the Human Rights Watch, “On September 19, near the town of Mastung, gunmen forced about 40 Hazara who had been traveling by bus to Iran to visit Shia holy sites to disembark, shot 26 dead, and wounded six. Although some Hazara managed to escape, another three were killed as they tried to bring victims to a hospital in Quetta. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the . . . attack.”
Barbaric attempts at ethnic cleansing
The Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams said that “these targeted attacks are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.”
In reaction to the October 4 attack, a statement from Amnesty International said, “Sadly, this is only the latest in a long line of brazen attacks against Quetta’s Shi’a population. Sectarian violence has been a feature of the general breakdown in law and order in Pakistan, but these recent attacks seem to indicate a new targeting of the ethnic Hazara community”.
According to Pakistani media reports, more than 600 members of this ethnic and sectarian minority have been killed in Quetta since 2001. Though the targeted-killing of Hazara Shias in Quetta started in 1997, about a hundred have been killed execution-style in 2011 alone.
All the attacks since 1997 have been claimed by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant outfit and breakaway faction of the Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan, founded by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi in Punjab in 1996. The banned group is a lethal sectarian outfit active in anti-Shiite attacks in Pakistan, whose government has failed to crack down against its members. In fact, known LeJ leader Malik Ishaq was released by a Pakistani court in July. Since his release, the attacks on the Hazaras in Quetta have increased.
Pakistani journalist Amir Mir, LeJ, in a report for Asia Times Online, translated a letter warning that it is time to “purify Pakistan” of the Hazaras. His translation read:
“All Shi’ites are worthy of killing. We will rid Pakistan of unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure and the Shi’ites have no right to live in this country. We have the edict and signatures of revered scholars, declaring Shi’ites infidels. Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shi’ite Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission in Pakistan is the abolition of this impure sect and its followers from every city, every village and every nook and corner of Pakistan.
“Like in the past, our successful jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta, is ongoing and will continue in the future. We will make Pakistan the graveyard of the Shi’ite Hazaras and their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we will be able to fly the flag of true Islam on this land of the pure. Jihad against the Shi’ite Hazaras has now become our duty.”
Why did Pakistan law enforcement agencies fail to crack down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi? Because Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and its military are more focused on the Baloch separatists in Balochistan, while Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, operate freely in the province.
40 dead no big deal
Prominent Pakistani journalists such as Najam Sethi, Mushtaq Minhas, Javed Nusrat and others are now calling the continuous attacks on Hazaras ethnic genocide. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement last week called upon President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani “to take immediate, direct and personal initiative to prevent the killing of members of the Hazara community in Quetta and ensure action against all those who have failed to protect citizens’ lives.”
Despite the continuous attacks, and calls by rights groups, the Government of Pakistan and its security establishment have turned a blind eye and deaf ear. Shamefully, the Chief Minister of Balochistan and member of the Executive Committee of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Nawab Aslam Raisani, was making jokes out of the massacre in Quetta. In a statement referring to the attack in Mastung that killed 40 Hazaras, he said, “of the millions living in Balochistan, 40 dead is not a big deal. I will send a truckload of tissue papers to the bereaved families. I would have sent tobacco if I was not a politician.”