A tale of tragedy


For Hazaras, a third century of persecution

Continuously under attack from Lashkare Jhangvi (LeJ) and spurned by the Baloch nationalists, Hazaras of Balochistan suffer from double jeopardy in the province. From 2003 to 2009, more than 260 members of the community were killed in Quetta and over 100 injured. According to the HRCP records, 211 more had died in bomb blasts and shooting by October 2011 taking the tally to 471.

The victims belong to all categories: traders, government officials, lawyers and prominent citizens. Pakistan’s top boxer Ibrar Hussain, who represented the country three times at the Olympics and won gold at the 1990 Asian Games, was shot dead in the city in June last year. Quetta has turned into the killing fields for the Hazaras.

A small group of the Hazaras from Afghanistan settled in Quetta in late 19thcentury. They were asylum seekers who had fled during the reign of the Shia baiter Amir Abdur Rehman known for his relentless use of despotic authority. Abdur Rehman had earlier forced those living in Afghan Kafiristan to adopt Islam, rechristening the district as Nuristan. He then conducted several campaigns against the Shia Hazaras and massacred thousands of them. Their wives and children were sold in Kabul as slaves. There was a massive migration of the community to several countries in the region. The persecution continued in various ways till the reign of Zahir Shah who imposed a special tax on the Hazaras. A state sponsored campaign to Pakhtunise Afghanistan led to the emergence of revolutionary groups in non Pashtun districts. Prominent among these were Sitame Milli (National Persecution) group and Shulae Javed (the Eternal Flame).

As immigrants Hazaras were hard working people and prospered as they found peace and opportunity to work in Quetta. Some joined the British military and civil administration. A few like Gen Musa Khan and Air Vice Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi reached the upper echelons of the armed forces. With around 91 percent literacy rate, the community has produced several prominent figures who have served the country with distinction. Saira Batool, one of the first women pilots in Pakistan, being one.

Despite the presence of a vibrant nationalist movement in the province, both in the Baloch and Pashtun areas, the Hazaras faced no discrimination because the community was small, helpful and unassuming. The situation, however, underwent a major change with the arrival of the Afghan refugees of various ethnicities after 1979. The Pashtun Afghans who came in thousands tilted the fragile ethnic balance against the Baloch who started resenting the presence of all outsiders. This section of the Afghan refugees was, however, welcomed by the Pasthun nationalists who maintained that they were brothers who had just crossed from the other one side of the divided Pashtun land. The Hazra entrants, however, were looked at with resentment by both the Pashtuns and the Baloch.

The Pashtun refugees brought their age old sectarian prejudices to an otherwise secular Quetta. These were exacerbated during the civil war that raged in Afghanistan in the 1990’s, particularly after the Taliban started their jihad against the Iran supported Northern Alliance. The Hazaras in Afghanistan were an important component of the Northern Alliance. The Taliban subjected them to horrible ethnic cleansing, particularly after capturing Mazare Sharif in August 1993. In a dispatch weeks later, Ahmad Rashid maintained that 4,000 to 6,000 Afghan Hazaras were brutally massacred in the city.

The Taliban regime in Kabul had allowed Pakistani LeJ terrorists who also fought against the Northern Alliance to set up their camps in Afghanistan. Mullah Umar spurned the request of the PML(N) government in late 1990’s to hand over LeJ masterminds like Riaz Basra. With the fall of Taliban, the LeJ shifted its HQs to Pakistan’s tribal areas. Henceforth, they decided to concentrate on the Shias inside Pakistan. They targeted especially those in Kurrum Agency, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi and Quetta. The TTP provided them full support.

Throughout the 1990’s, sectarian terrorists killed scores of Shias in Punjab, NWFP and Karachi. However, secular leaders in power in Balochistan kept the province a peaceful haven for Hazaras. Prominent among others these leaders were Akbar Bugti and Akhtar Mengal. Attacks on the community started only two years after Musharraf’s coup. These coincided with the period when agencies were directed under a master plan to give religious parties and militant groups a free hand. Hazara killings became all too frequent after the killing of Akbar Bugti when the agencies diverted full attention and resources to brutal suppression of the Baloch nationalists. Henceforth, providing security of life to citizens was considered no more a responsibility of the state.

The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.


  1. wait and see how these small bandits of terror turn on each other and then turn on the silent majority who seems to be enjoying the fate we shias are in….shias are just the side tragedy…the calamity will be pakistan….blacken your women and maim your men as wrathful is the vengeance of God on People who oppress the weak…even if the opressed is the most sinful in this world and the opressor the most pious…..and wallahi God is swift in retribution on the screams of the opressed….

  2. Very good written! A informative article about the situation of shias in Pakistan, and specially about Hazara people.

  3. there r many gapes in it. the author did not mention about British policy in late 19th century to promote every rival of Afghanistan. it was Britishers who not only settle shia rivals of Afghan kings but also settled non shia bangishs in kuram and kohat too. for Britishers it was a policy to fix amir abdur rahman. similarly afghan kings were against all those people who were against ruling elite. it was british historians or some sectarian histographers who promoted sectarian angles yet in reality Afghan kings fought against all type of rebels either shia or sunni or etc. after settling them in quetta, britishers helped hazara people to joined government services. till 1947 hazaras were heavily inducted in government jobs esp with respect to fellow baochs and pukhtoons of Baluchistan. after 1947, no hazarra visionary ever touch that issue. it created a gape between hazara people and rising nationalist balochs and pukhtoons. that gape was exploited in 1980s. the fact is all hazarras are not shia, they belongs to numerous other sects too. but in media hazzara killing means killing of shias which is a wrong perception. no one can support killing of any community , no one can support target killings yet one should also place the truth along facts.

    • I believe Amir you haven't studied Hazaras. 99 % of Hazaras are shias and they are killed for two reasons, first they are Hazaras and second, they are shias. Due to their feature, they can be easily identified and hence easily be targeted.

      You have also mentioned that Hazaras were heavily inducted in govt jobs especially with respects to baloch and pakhtoon brothers. It is a shame to post your comment without knowing the history. Hazaras were only in British Army before partition and some govt positions. There is no conflict with Pashtoons or Balochs due to resources as Hazaras are well known for their professionalism and most Baloch and Pakhtoon High officials prefers to work with hazaras!

      It is not indeed target killing of Hazara shias anymore, it is a systemic Genocide of Hazara shias in Pakistan. More than 700 innocent people killed and unfortunately they have their supporters not only in Govt Offices, but in Provincial assembly too and the truth is that media has neglected killing of hazaras. On many occasions, I have seen on TV an RTA has been given coverage of Breaking News for many hours, but killing of hazaras do not find any attention to them!

    • Dear you are right that Hazara's are not only Shia but there are some Suni Hazaras but they are in low percentage. They are not killed despite they live with in the other suni communities. The major reason they have been killling Hazaras since last century is that they are Shia and nothing…………

  4. i am happy that still there are voices are being raised against brutality!
    Very honest article

  5. 62% of Hazaras were killed by Abdul Rehman under a religious decree by 40 sunni Pashtun ulema that Hazaras were non-muslims and therefore it was right to kill them or sell them as slaves. Their property, including their lands, was treated as spoils of religious Islamic war. Thousands of Hazara women were sold by Pashtun mullas in adjoining India and central asian states. All their lands in Chora, Dai Chopan, Kemso and Uruzgan, comprising 60% of Hazara lands were forcibly taken from them and distributed among Pashtuns. It is the darkest part of Afghan history. The Pashtun hate for Hazaras is proverbial. It is Pashtun elements in the army in Pakistan which is believed to be behind the military’s support to the terrorist outfits LeJ, Taliban and Al Qaida, who are busy in the massacre of Hazaras and other minorities in Pakistan..

  6. The auther did not mention that it was First British who settled them in Quetta and the subsequent Paki establishment like them because they were unlike Pashtuns n Baloch who were/are living on the ancestral lands.The Ethnic landscape of Quetta was changed -settlers mostly Punjabis and then Hazaras..It was proverbial in Quetta in afghan jihad n beyond that when a Hazara leave Hazarajat,His/her NIC has been already prepared here in Quetta.The Afghan refugees other than Hazaras are bad but Hazaras Refugees came in 19th century.
    Agreed about the persecution of Hazaras through history but interestingly there is no Pashtun leader of LEJ or Sipah e Subah from Baluchistan. go and watch the video of 26 Hazaras killed near Lakpas and all those were speaking balochi.
    Lastly Quetta is the only city with Basic amenities and basic infrastructure and 99 percent Hazaras live in Quetta

  7. Honest article, but what if state had itself decided to follow this policy of Hazara killing, but I hope that voices and articles like these will help strengthen civil society. Hazara's are honest and dedicated human beings for Balochistan and Pakistan, mentioned in this article as well. People try to built connection with Afghanistan and Iran, yes that was a history, the present is that IF Hazara's of Quetta had some connection with Iran or Afghanistan then these countries would issued some statement against Hazara killings, but you can see both iran and afganistan are silent means.. We salute to Pakistan's civil society, political parties and media who are still raising voice against this injustice. Its only Hazara killing, IF it was shia killing or Afghan killing then till day irani and Afghani counselate officials freely roam around in Quetta city, there is NOT a single report of any attack on these officials by this so called brave Lej,….my simple question is that why Hazaras are under attack…

  8. I agree with Brother Indigenous, we are thank full to Pashtoons and Balochs who are showing solidarity with us..Infact pashtoons and baloch are also under attack in Quetta and vicinity..the other thing is all sad incident are taking place in Baloch dominated areas. Though Baloch civil society and political parties totally condemns such acts… this is interesting where they themselves are going through this MISSING PERSONS tragedy..

  9. Hazaras were mostly Shias. Some of their fraction turned into sunnis under the coercion of Abdur Rehman. Yes, it is right that British colonial power exploited Abdur Rehman; yet, Abdur Rehman was himself extremist as well. He had sectarian hatred & jealousy against the Shias.
    Being neutral, I can only say that yes Hazaras are being targeted these days with full impunity. Until date no action has been taken by the state against LeJ. This is the clear evidence of the fact that state herself is involved in their killing. If she can fight with India so how couldn't she take action against the target killers.

  10. Its time to realize and comprehend the Pashtun fascism, skillfully and carefully committed by Pashtun fascist Heads. The Pashtuns having massive control and influence in Law and Enforcement agencies are running serious organized campaign not only against the minorities but also against the major ethnicity the Baloch people. The Pashtun fascist Heads have of-course long term planning which may fully benefit them in the next 3 to 5 years. The Pashtun fascist Heads will have strong cross border support in their campaign as they are quite expert in operating and benefiting from cross border support as they have been doing for more than a century in their actual land Afghanistan. The Pashtun fascist Heads have both academic and historic strategy to play dangerous politics not only in Balochistan but Karachi as-well.

  11. I condenm the PPP Government and their supporters, everytime these group of thieves come in power, they just get busy in making money for their graves, what did Mr.Z.A Bhutto take with himself in the grave or his daughter BB Bhutto, her husband AA Zardari planned to kill her just to get in power, and we can see inshallah sooner his son Bilawal will make a plan to clear all these rubbish from his way to get the power as PM or President of Pakistan while on the other side of coin Sharif family are getting prepared to take the power from thies robbers, now they think its their turn to rob the country.
    I request every Pakistani to do no vote in next coming election these parties, who have been already given the chance to serve ( Robbed the Pakistan).
    Not even religious parties should be given a chance to come in power, because they work on foreign agendas as wel.
    Vote those who work for the country not their own family.
    Think and think again before vote to a wrong person.

  12. thanks sir for your effort for hazara. we are really thankful of you, because you tried to say the truth. pakistani establishment is directly involved in genocide of hazaras in pakistan. we are pro pakistani and again we are paying the cost of this. changes are coming and i hope one day our sacrifices will bring result. if pakistani establishment does not change its policy believe me it will be harm full of pakistan.

    we hope that you will keep saying truth. may Allah Bless you

  13. Hazrat Umer said that "If even an animal dies on the bank of river furat because of thurst then Umer is reponsible for its death". So it is the government to be blamed first for the kiiling of these innocent, hard working, potential, loyal, peacefull and educated Hazara people all over pakistan specially in Quetta. The writter is appreciated for his efforts. "THE TRUTH IS ALWAYS ON THE SIDE OF THE OPRESSED".

  14. Its not about PPP only, non of the Government in Pakistan can work themselves. Know a truth that Pakistan is a military state and the military has always the license to do anything anytime. What Nawaz Sharif did, what was Asif Ali Zardari, what about Chaudri Iftikhar, what is going on with Gilani, these people were all culprits before they come to power, who brought them into ruling positions, of-course the establishment, because these retarded people will always be in Establishment's control. This time the establishment has decided to bring Imran Khan to do some new experiments. God bless Pakistan, we can only pray.

  15. Thanks for your piece of writing for the Hazara community. Hazara people are not only killing because of their sect but also due to their business, shops and on high government jobs too. It is systematic genocide of Hazara nation in Quetta, Pakistan too.

  16. it is very painful to listen such news. May Allah give us wisdom n we realize that forces which are instigating various sects are not friends but enemies. we have to realize this then we can prosper well. we have to accommodate every 1 according to the constitution of pakistan. however, it is only Pakistan where illegal immigrants are sttled without any hesitation n check. so we have to stop this practice n let ourhomelamd be saved from criticism

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