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Forced out of Quetta by ethnic violence


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An ethnic Hazara man is comforted by community members, after he arrived to the local hospital in Quetta to find a family member shot dead, May 6, 2011. Suspected Islamist militants on Friday opened fire on a group of Pakistani Shia in the southwestern town of Quetta, killing at least eight and wounding 15, police said, the first attack since the killing of Osama bin Laden in the country by US commandos. - Reuters Photo

KARACHI: Aly Khan fled Quetta city, provincial capital of the southwestern province of Balochistan, after several of his family members were attacked in inter-ethnic violence perpetrated by extremist groups, and moved to Islamabad to start a new life.

"It was a decision between choosing our lives or our homeland," he said. "Balochistan is our home, but we have been forced to leave the place where our elders have lived because of our sects. The Shia-Sunni conflict was exploited by Gen Zia ul Haq and later by the Taliban. The Wahabi elements have created so much terror. To save our lives, we left our home town."

Khan's relatives included a cousin who was a senior pathologist and was killed in 2009, and a professor who was attacked twice in 2005 and 2010. "Check the backgrounds of the victims and you will see that they were peace-loving citizens who were contributing to the society," he told IRIN. "They were doctors and professors, not warmongers."

Balochistan has been caught up in a nationalist insurgency for decades, with militant Baloch nationalist groups seeking autonomy for the region, and in the process targeting minority groups they believe do not support their thinking. Clashes have also occurred between militant Sunni Muslim groups and Shia Muslims over the interpretation of Islam.

On 6 May, six members of the Hazara Shia minority community were gunned down in an incident that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), an extremist sectarian Wahabi organization, later claimed responsibility for. On 18 May, another seven were gunned down, and once again the LJ claimed responsibility.

Last year, 65 Shias were killed in Quetta when a procession became the target of a bomb blast on 3 September. Two days earlier, a blast in Lahore killed 35 others. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's report entitled State of Human Rights in 2010, 418 people were killed in various attacks on Muslim sects, including 211 in suicide bombings last year.

Over 200 Shia have been killed in Balochistan in the last three years, the report said "The Lashkar has given us the deadline to leave the province by 2012 and have warned of further attacks," said Awab.* "Even the police are helpless in this regard as they too have been under attack by these rogue elements."

Awab, an ethnic Hazara, is in the process of moving his family to Karachi. Seven members of his family, including a brother, an uncle and a cousin, were killed in last year's bombings.

Ethnic attacks on police

Contacted by IRIN, a senior official of the Balochistan police, who requested anonymity, said security had been tightened around Immambarhs (Shia mosques) and Shia graveyards for Friday prayers.

"We have been under attack not only by the separatists but also by the militant outfits," he said, adding that his colleague Deputy Inspector-General Wazir Khan Nasir had been targeted in April. "Though Khan luckily survived, we lost a constable.

"A number of our low-ranking policemen have also been targets as they belong to the Punjab Province, which the Balochs consider an enemy. How do I protect the Hazara Shia from Balochs and the Taliban, when my men can be hit and killed due to their ethnicity and no one will shed a tear because they are 'Punjabis'?" he added.

A spokesperson for the Hazara Democratic Party, who preferred anonymity, said the increasing violence against members of his community was in part due to its relative wealth, but he noted that Balochistan had been experiencing conflict between the state and Baloch separatists for some time. "We paid the price when we lost our leader, Hussain Ali Yousafi, who was killed in 2008."

Balochistan has historically had a tense relationship with Pakistan's government, in large part due to issues of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploration, and a consequent sense of deprivation, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Education hit

The violence has also affected education, according to HRW. In 2010 many teachers sought transfers, out of fear for their lives, further burdening what was already the worst educational system in Pakistan. At least 200 teachers and professors had already transferred from their schools to the relatively more secure provincial capital of Quetta or moved out of the province entirely since 2008.

The rights watchdog attributed the upsurge in violence to the 2006 assassination of the prominent Baloch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and 35 of his close followers, and the murders of three prominent Baloch politicians in April 2009 by assailants believed to be linked to the Pakistan military.

The matter, according to Aly Khan, has been fuelled by religious differences. "Balochistan Province has Balochs and Pathans in the majority when it comes to ethnicity [while] Hazara are a minority," he said. "Then come the religious minorities. The Balochs and Pathans follow the Sunni sect, while most Hazara are Shias and most of these are residing Quetta.

"The Hazara and the Shias are a peaceful community and generally well settled," he added. "While earlier they were victims of kidnappings and robberies, now religious extremists threaten them."

Comments (33) Closed

dpd May 27, 2011 05:57pm
Pakistan was created for the MUSLIM. It is SAD to see ethnic conflict dividing the country.
Agha Ata (USA) May 27, 2011 06:29pm
I have old cherished memories with Queta and Hazara people, General Musa Khan, the then Governor of West Pakistan (One unit) was Hazara. And so were so many friends of mine. The younger brother of Mr. Baluchistan (Body builder) Mr. Barat Khan was my best friend. I am talking of early fifties. Hazaras are the handsomest people in Pakistan. They look Caucasian, but their features are so beautiful. It took me a few years to know that my friend was Shia. Just imagine the beautiful friendship Hazara people had with non-Shias or non-Hazaras.
jssidhoo May 27, 2011 07:01pm
Intolerance, dont these people realize we are human beings first then comes our nationality and religion .Avval Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday, Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe
Taatya Singh May 27, 2011 07:54pm
The terrorists are using the fact that Pakistan is "Islamic" to say that XYZ is not islamic enough. In that sense, they appeal to their followers patriotic zeal. Is there a universal interpretation about what being a Muslim means? If not, is the "Islamic" adjective helping Pakistan or hurting it?
AR May 27, 2011 07:59pm
I just want to utter deep condolances and want every one to understand the danger of wahabism and the Gen ZIA like ideologies! We have to start cleaning up our neighbourhoods before pointing finger at US of A! Even if most of these killings are sponsored by foreign elements!
Babar Khan May 27, 2011 08:06pm
This intolerance is a cancer that must be removed. We see it in our daily lives. People who grew up very tolerant have been shaped by our recent history and the hijacking of our religion into intolerant, prjudiced, bigoted people full of conspiracy theories and confusion. We must start to look in the mirror.
mhr May 27, 2011 08:27pm
Its sad to see security agencies not controlling this targeted blood shed of the shia community in Quetta, Karachi ,DI Khan, ParaChinar, Hungu who has made great contributions for establishment, stabilization and progress of Pakistan. How far can this go unchecked?
ImFarida May 27, 2011 08:50pm
sad but true. govt is not doing anything for safety of Hazara or anyone. Hazaras are among one of the most peaceful people, with countless examples of their sacrifice for the beloved Pakistan. Where one can find a safe place in Pakistan ? Govt and Anti Pakistan groups trying hard to make living impossible for a common person, which is bitterly getting closer to success. May Allah protect Pakistan and All from evil designs and intentions. Ameen
Khan May 27, 2011 09:16pm
This never the work of Muslims i am a Pushtoon and a Sunni and have never had any grievance against my Muslim Shia brothers nor do i feel any Pakistani sunnies brothers do. It sounds like a bigger game for a much bigger purpose. To break you and beat you like what is happening in the rest of the world. Therefore i would simply remind you all of the Ayat of Quran " Hold tight to the rope of Allah and do not fall in Taforoqah" Let no one break you up as that is what our enemies wants us to think and act upon.
Fazal Zaidi May 27, 2011 09:30pm
That's precisely what the problem is ... it was created for muslims ... not humans !!!!
mike May 27, 2011 09:52pm
Pakistan is a fragile country where problems linger on and never get solved.The so called leaders are not interested in the betterment of pakistanis but their ownselves.I feel even Alah can not solve Pakistan's problems.
danial UK May 27, 2011 10:41pm
I used to in quetta once, and it was a very peaceful place for every one including Hazaras. As an ethnice hazaras myself, my close families are thinking to move to Islamabad due to target killing. We love Pakistan and hope to see better and safer pakistan for every pakistanis.
Ali Zaidi May 27, 2011 11:22pm
its sad how baised our society has become, whether its shia sunni, punjabi mahajar, or provincial diputes. however the worst part is that many channels are not focusing on this. how can some one kill on the name of Islam. Our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (P.B.U.H) who should be our Ideal was a peacefull, and forgiving Man. he did not win hearts by sord but by his conduct, the pureness of his nature, his good being. I hope someday we can unite against this evil
Murtuza Babrawala May 28, 2011 01:00am
It is a sad state of affairs when Muslims are killed by other Muslims. Pakistanis must end and eliminate all Wahabbi inspired extremist whether they be Taliban, Al-Qaida, LJ, LeT or any other organization with extremist ideas. These extremist and terrorist want to destroy Pakistan. Moderate Pakistanis must destroy them before they succeed.
AA May 28, 2011 02:40am
It is very painful to know that there is something very wrong. I grew up in village where suni and shia. I am ahmadi muslim and my 60% relative are shia and other are suni. We kicked out from mosque we sahre eith suni for years in 1974. Debating strengths of each sect was a norm of life. We never abused anyone based on our sects. It was never heard. Our focus then and now to compete in good deeds. How many non beleiver were killed by the master prophet peace be upon him just they are non beleiver, none. What right we have to kill shia or suni or ahmadi. The real founder of this devide was Bhutto and zia fullfilled his master bhutto
Abbas May 28, 2011 04:16am
Finally some news emerged in the media about the sufferings of the shia community of Hazara. I am surprised how media and the government remained silent about these atrocities and finally when we have decided to talk about it, we call it ethnic conflict. No, it's not ethnic. Let's be open about it. It is sectarian violence. Shia muslims of Hazara are being killed. Why?
Ahmed May 28, 2011 06:52am
What took Dawn so long to report on this issue. The issue of sectarian violence has a long history in Pakistan. It is required that publications that prize themselves for their neutrality raise their voices on this issue. What is amazing is that the bomb blast referred to in the article that killed 65 people on September 3rd was actually targeting a peaceful rally for the support of the Palestinian people. I think Dawn as a responsible publication needs to report more on this issue.
khalid Rahim May 28, 2011 07:14am
I,am very sad to hear these news. I was raised /educated in quetta, went to grammer school and govt college , left pakistan 1971 , now I live in canada. Ihave lot of friends from quetta, though some of them have moved out , for jobs, and other reasons. I am still in touch with them . and when I visit pakistan I see them. some of them they come and visit me in canada. The life was very different, when Iwas iquetta.
Saf May 28, 2011 08:52am
It's pretty much now a systematic ethnic/sectarian cleansing and a slow totalitarian take over, it seems...minorities are the most vulnerable, but even the majority aren't safe. Sadly extremists gained critical mass, because of the same old prejudice, bigotry and discrimination by the majority and elite, that once alienated the likes of Bengalis and Ahmadis, pre-Wahhabi ills, which has been newly fermented once again and tolerated again for so long in our society... "First They Came For..."
Wade Nelson May 28, 2011 08:53am
The Bible wisely states that a house divided cannot stand. From what I see of Muslim on Muslim violence, I wonder how it will survive.
reader May 28, 2011 01:03pm
its a report by the UN information unit, READ people, CAREFULLY.
Qayyum Rasheed May 28, 2011 04:17pm
i see religious intoleration as a major threat to our national security.we have to controll extremism.we need to work upon it.
Njog May 28, 2011 06:17pm
Such problems come up when we divide humanity on name of faith ,caste,region or religion.Look at India,despite many odds ,it maintain peace and harmony.You can see an Italian Sonia is most powerful leader and chief of ruling coalition,a woman is president and a Muslim is vice-president,a Sikh minority is prime minister ,a Christian is defense minister and all Indians respect such leaders.
Agha Ata (USA) May 28, 2011 06:22pm
Is it still too early to speak of "Secularism" or are we still evolving? Secularism is not against religions. SOME MUSLIM COUNTRIESB ARE SECULAR! and they still have good Muslims, and other people belonging to other religions. I am sorry IF it was too early to mention this.
true May 28, 2011 08:39pm
Quetta is small ethnic city where Hazara people plays main role to maintain city peaceful.
Ahmed Hajeer May 29, 2011 12:22pm
Its Not Shia Muslims Of Hazara ... It is Hazara (Shia) Muslims. Hazaras are An Enthnic Group Living In Quetta, Not HAZARA Division...
Hussain May 29, 2011 01:28pm
It is good to see educated people stepping forward from brotherly-community of Pashtoons (Sunnis) condemning the atrocities. My brother, we need to stand united against those who want to destroy our collective home, the Quetta. Being a Quetta-citizen, u must have noticed regular and one-sided attacks carried on peace loving Hazara community who are contributing to the society more than their population !!
Abhijit May 29, 2011 02:54pm
It is utterly unfortunate and a sad news that is coming out of Pakistan's provinces lately. Being a largely homogeneous Muslim state, it is a surprise to see such heightened violence used against its own people. Hatred and false Nationalism combined by mutant religious teachings is certainly going a take a toll on this wonderful country. Had Mr. Jinnah knew this before-hand and predicted before-time, he wont have resorted to "conceiving a new state". Hatred sells bcos people are ready to buy. Even Media, to some extent, has supported by presenting convoluted analysis instead of presenting facts.
Naveed May 29, 2011 03:39pm
reference to Bible reminds me of how Galileo was persecuted and tortured by the then church officials merely because the fact that he claimed that Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. of course we do not blame the Bible or the Christianity for it. its all about the interpretation of religion and people who stereotype Muslims.
ACHAKZAI May 30, 2011 01:33pm
I am a Pashtun from quetta and can proudly say that I love hazara people ... Allah help you guys and us all to be united for ever ... whatever is happening is just not good ... no one can predict whats gonna happen after all these catastrophes ... Peace be on you my Muslim Brothers
These people killing May 31, 2011 12:38am
These people killing other Muslims, are not Muslims, they are Barbarians, the worst kind or Human on earth.
aman Jun 01, 2011 11:10am
this all about govt polices. there is no other element killing hazaras. no media coverage no arrest even they were killed infornt of police check post but non of police came to get action. what will u call it. they are our security agencies. no body can arrest then and no one can get action against them. in 1 month 3 attacks on hazara nation and no media coverage. no action from police no action from govt of Baluchistan even the parties did not condemn this action. what does it mean we are ready to sacrifice our lives but never leave our home land Quetta. we are Pakistani and we love Pakistan. we served Pakistan and we will few elements are there in agencies who do not like us but not all of them. we love our country. inshallah our sacrifices will bring result.Pakistan Zindabad
vnaryan Jun 02, 2011 03:37am
Dear Shri Zaidi, how true, to be secular is to respect all religions and let all beliefs flourish Pakistan needs to be secular