The Hazara genocide often frequents headlines, but the situation is yet to improve or even change. In Pakistan, being a Shia is often enough for an unofficial, yet persistent, death warrant.
Haji Muhammad Musa, a 90 years old Colonel who hailed from Hazara and had served in the Pakistan Army fought bravely with external forces – who would have thought that he wouldn’t be martyred on the border but within the very country he spent his life protecting.
Musa, who had a shop at Liaqat Bazar Quetta, was gunned down on May 25, 2015, along with three other people, including two more Hazara Shias and nine others, including two women, were injured in three separate incidents of ‘sectarian’ violence in Quetta that day.
“Since the beginning of 2015 there have been 42 attacks on the Shia communities resulting in hundreds dead and injured. Freedom to practice one’s religion without fear of intimidation is a fundamental right,” International Association of Human Rights Chair Rubab Mehdi H. Rizvi said while speaking to Pakistan Today.
She added that there is a genocide happening right now and the government seems to be doing nothing about it. Over 22,000 Shias have been killed since 1968 simply for their faith. Pakistan is a signatory to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The society itself does not consist of violent people, verily people are not hitting each other with bricks and sticks. However, trucks full of explosives and highly sophisticated weapons are able to cross all security points for the massacre of defenseless people.
“Banned militant groups are banned in name only. They are free to carry out genocidal campaigns where they are calling people not only infidels but worthy of being killed. The Government must be held accountable and provide security to its citizens,” said Rizvi.
She added that it is no coincidence that just one day before, on May 24, 2015, an outlawed organisation held a public demo where they called for Shias Muslims to be put in camps.
Acclaimed Human Rights defender Ali Raza shared figures with Pakistan Today which showed that from November 2012 till July 2014 there were 359 terrorist attacks in the country that targeted 2,054 Shias, of which 833 Shias were killed and 1,221 were injured.
Of these figures around 40 per cent of the people were gunned down, and another 35 per cent lost their lives in suicide attacks, while 24 per cent were killed in bombings.
“43 Shias are killed every month on average, and these figures are high enough to fall in the definition of a ‘systematic genocide’,” said Raza.
He added that the cities in which Shias are targeted the most include Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar. These are the places where the attackers easily manage to attack the besieged community without any fear of law enforcement agencies.
“These attacks are well-planned as more than 87 per cent of these attacks were target killings and the victims included some very talented professionals like doctors, professors, educationists and engineers,” Raza told Pakistan Today.
In January, a blast was carried out at a Shia Imambargah in the Shikarpur district of Sindh which left 60 dead.
In February, a Shia Imambargah in Peshawar was attacked with grenades, which resulted in at least 20 deaths.
On February 18, 2015, another bomber killed three people as he tried to enter the main hall of an Imambargah in Islamabad.
Talking to Pakistan Today, renowned columnist and activist Marvi Sirmed said that Shias have been under attack by banned organisations like LeJ, SSP, ASWJ etc. They have their operational collaboration with TTP and Al-Qaeda. “The strange and worrisome observation is that these organisations are working openly in Pakistan and collecting funds through the charities managed by them and ASWJ is still organising rallies in big cities,” she said.
She added that recently in Quetta, ASWJ’s Balochistan head Kabeer Baloch threatened not only the Chief Minister Balochistan, but his entire cabinet, too. The law enforcement agencies instead of taking action on his hate speech were providing him security. These are the glaring realities and state’s either complicit or incompetent.
Talking to Pakistan Today about the measure taken by Balochistan Police for the security of Shia community, Inspector General of Police Balochistan Muhammad Amlish said that entry and exit points of two main localities – Murree Abad and Hazara Town – are manned by Police and FC.
“The Imambargah and majalis procession are well protected. Movement of Zaireen to and from Quetta – Taftan is escorted by the police,” said IGP Amlish. He added that the collective movement in the city is also given police cover, like going to fruit or vegetable market daily. “Police is maintaining a close liaison with the Shia leadership,” he said.
Answering the question about the threats, IGP Amlish said that no specific threat has been received by the police.
On late Wednesday night (May 27, 2015) during a press conference after a high level meeting, which reviewed the series of attacks and targeted killings of the Hazara Community, Balochistan’s Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced that security forces have launched an intelligence-based operation in Quetta and surrounding localities against the targeted killings.
“The terrorists used weapons with silencers while attacking the Hazara community,” Bugti had said. He added that a joint raid against the terrorists will be conducted by the police, levies and Frontier Corps (FC).
“The operation was carried out without any discrimination and would continue without any discrimination. Some hands are trying to wage sectarian and ethnic clashes in Balochistan, but we will defeat them,” Bugti asserted.
Whether the Hazaras will stop being targeted in the midst of this war is yet to be seen, however.