Plight of Hazaras

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The need to separate religion from politics

The other day voices were heard in the British Parliament regarding the sad plight of minorities in Pakistan following recent incidents of killing of members of Ahmadiyya community and what is alleged systematic genocide of Shia Hazaras of Quetta.

As a Pakistani who has held twice the distinguished position of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the Court of St James covering nine years, often I have to hang my head in shame when I sit face-to-face meeting members of British Parliament now and then. I don’t have an answer when I am asked what is happening to minorities in Jinnah’s Pakistan!

When PPP was in power under President Asif Ali Zardari and there was trouble in Quetta we used to have a strong Hazara Community in London protesting outside the PHC. My doors were always open for them. I used to talk to them and instantly convey their grievances to the President and the Prime Minister.

On some occasions realising the gravity of the situation I would even ring up the President, Prime Minister and the Interior Minister late in the night in the presence of Hazara community leaders. Credit must be given to President Zardari that action used to follow immediately, heads rolled, peace and confidence of the community restored. I am sure Hazara community leaders in London will bear me out.

Unfortunately, times have changed. We don’t know whether the government is coming or going. Everybody knows the plight of the current Interior Minister Rao Ahsan Iqbal who cut a sorry figure the other day when he found Rangers in siege of the NAB court without his knowledge and orders.

To add insult to his injury when he wanted to go in the Rangers did not allow him entry. Obviously, the Minister lost his cool and threatened he will not rest in peace until he gets to the bottom of the conspiracy as well hold those responsible accountable. He threatened to resign if he can’t have control over his own department.

As poet Ghalib said there was no show of flying pieces of his resignation so far. Rao Sahib continues in office on the same old salary. His was much more of the same resignation mantra that previous Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan had become notorious for.

Somebody rightly remarked the ‘problem with the PMLN ministers is that they are virtually CNG mobiles- full of hot air that would bloat their egos beyond their imagination’. With such an ineffective Interior Minister as Rao Ahsan Hazaras cannot expect any relief nor any action against the culprits.

Poor peace-loving Shi’a Hazaras have no option other than to shift to save their lives from organised mayhem by the extremist organisations that have deep ingress within the government including F.C. in Baluchistan.

They have failed to draw the attention of the law enforcers to their miserable plight as such now their appeal for redress is directed towards Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa since he is commander-in-Chief of Army, FC, Rangers, ISI and MI. If he cannot provide them protection and security to life/property Hazaras will have no option other than to migrate to safer pastures that offer them peaceful co-existence.

In this background I re-read Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s categorical declaration – as a sort of assurance to people like Shia Hazaras or other persecuted members of minority communities-that religion is a private affair.

Indeed General Bajwa would be remembered for long as voice of sanity in a country that has become a cauldron of sectarian hate. Without mincing words that religion is a ‘private affair’ he put it straight what Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had enunciated as the ideology of Pakistan.

General Bajwa’s re-assertion has been the need of the hour especially in an atmosphere vitiated by Capt(r) Safdar, son-in-law of the ex- prime minister and a devotee of a murderer — Mumtaz Qadri. Whatever non-sense Safdar blurted out in the National Assembly in his poisonous speech was more of a well-calculated method for madness that he thought would save the Sharif Clan from punishment for mega corruption.

It is easier desired than achieved. More than most of the politicians know that MAJ wanted Pakistan to be a secular democracy where religion was to be very private affair but are scared to say so due to the fear of violent retaliation by the religious extremists that somehow have deep ingress in powerful quarters who are still in the stranglehold of General Ziaul Haq’s Tafkiri religious mindset. Unfortunately not many-except leaders of PPP and ANP — can dare say what General Bajwa unequivocally declared that religious is a private affair.

However, in the prevailing acrimonious circumstances statement that religion is a private affair is not enough He should lead the way and others should follow in reviving the great spirit of MAJ’s secularism to honour sacrifices of those millions—irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender– who left their hearths and homes and gave their life and blood for Pakistan.

The Tafkiri poison injected by General Ziaul Haq in his constituency and others needs a drastic brain washing or purge to get rid of the despicable elements.

Maybe they are a negligible minority — they are afflicted deep with Ziaist mindset of Tafkiri bigotry. Unless this evil is buried deep for all times and religion not allowed to be used as a crutch to political power — we cannot even hope to save Pakistan from an inevitable and shameful denouement. Key to moving forward on path to peace, progress and prosperity is to separate religion from politics. It is matter for now or never.