The ugly face of sectarianism in Balochistan
By Yousaf Ajab Baloch
The people from Hazara community once again became victim of sectarianism, when on 21 January 2014, a suicide bomber blew himself near the pilgrims’ bus and bus caught fire. This ugly attack caused death of more than 28 people and wounded 39. The injured and dead ones include children and women. The fresh attack proved that nothing has changed in Balochistan; Hazaras and Baloch have same luck for shouldering dead bodies.
The relatives of killed ones and a large number of people belonging to Hazara Shia community staged a sit-in on Alamdar road Quetta against the incident for more than 40 hours. The affected families, Hazara political parties and religious organizations refused to bury the dead bodies calling for arrest of culprits. They continued their protest in subzero temperature until Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Information Minister Pervez Rasheed reached Quetta as per directives of the Nawaz Sharif, and assured Hazaras to take action against the perpetrators. After a successful negotiation the thousands of protesters agreed to bury dead the victims of Mastung detonation.
It is worth mentioning that the New Year in Balochistan began with an attack on Shias in Balochistan on January 1, when a bus being escorted by police van, was attacked in Akhtarabad area of Quetta. At least two people were killed and 26 were seriously injured in the passenger bus of Shia pilgrims, which was coming from Iran.
It is assumed, alochistan has been put up with sectarianism, where Hazaras are being killed systematically, but all along the government has failed to protect them, whethere the regime is of Mushrraf, PPPP or Muslim League (N). The aforementioned governments remained unable to control intensified attacks on Hazaras, despite their protests in a democratic way. Hundreds of the people have been killed and thousands wound in the deadly attacks in last years. A banned Militant organization claims responsibility but government only suffices with promises rather than taking actions against perpetrators.
2013 remained a bloodstained year for Hazaras, when more than 325 people lost their lives and some 700 hundreds injured. Apart from Hazara children, women and policemen, journalists also became victim in the attacks. Aside from minor attacks, no one forgets the day when on 10th January 2013, a suicide attack killed at least 115 people and a total of 270 were wounded and in February a car bomb near Quetta killed 73 and wounded at least 180 people. In 2013 following the deadly suicide attack in January, Hazaras staged a sit-in on Alamdar road and later their protest led imposition of governor rule in Balochistan and ended Nawab Aslam Resani’s government. Unfortunately, the protests of Hazara community have never been result oriented.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 2012, “Hazaras have been uprooted from Loralai, Machh and Zhob (small towns in Balochistan province around Quetta city) and over 800 had been killed since 1999 and at least 550 Hazaras have been killed from February 2008 until May 2012.For the last five years, more than 50,000 Hazaras especially youngsters have left Quetta city, majority of them have managed to take refuge in other countries and nearly 300 lost their lives off shores of Australia when the boats capsized.”
Treating of the Hazaras in Balochistan and the increase in violence directed at them remains unchanged. Hazaras are the victim of sectarianism. Because the government claims to enforce security measures to protect this community, the government has a responsibility to forestall further violence directed at them. Although the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on the systematic killing of the Hazaras, no notable developments have improved their security.
The state and responsible authorities have never been serious to aim at taking measures for protection of Hazaras in Balochistan. Hazaras have been let down and they hold the state and security forces responsible for failing to protect them, however, some of them say that institutions have not failed but they do not intend to protect them. It is time for the central government to take actions against outlaws seriously and offer as much security as needed to protect this vulnerable ethnic group, and change the ugly face of sectarianism in Balochistan.
The writer is a Baloch author and human rights activist. Currently, he is a sub-editor at the monthly Bolan Voice Quetta, Editor at The Balochistan Point and a freelance online columnist. Yousaf is the author of ‘A Battle field for Balochistan’.