IT has been a dark spring for the minority Shia Hazara in Balochistan. On Monday, at least six people from this community were killed and three others were injured in a drive-by shooting for which the banned group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility.

A group of people had been sitting in a shoe shop when four assailants on motorcycles opened fire on them, and then escaped. This was the third such incident in the past 10 days.

On March 29, eight people had been killed in separate incidents of firing around Quetta. In the first attack, assailants opened fire on a bus full of passengers travelling from Hazara Town towards Quetta city. They managed to flee even as people lay injured and dying on the street.

The attack on the bus was a grim repetition of another that is etched on the bloody landscape of Balochistan. In September last year, a group of men and women from Quetta’s Shia Hazara community travelling to Iran were stopped by armed assailants. The attackers told the women, children and the driver of the bus, who was not Hazara, to remain inside.

All the men and boys were taken out of the bus, lined up on the road outside and shot. When the bullets stopped flying, 29 lay dead or dying on the highway where the massacre took place. The place was Mastung, near the border with Iran, and it took the attackers half an hour to accomplish their grim mission.

Yet not a single one of the murderers has been caught. Nearly a month later, on Oct 19, a Crimes Investigation Department report submitted before the Balochistan High Court said that while an important clue had been found regarding the massacre, details could not be disclosed because that would affect further investigation.

And still the killings continue. In the months between last September and now, there have been repeated attacks on the Hazara, who can be physically distinguished from the other people of Balochistan because of their resemblance to their Central Asian and Mongol ancestors.

Again and again the Hazara Shia have been targeted, from poor daily-wage labourers living in Hazara Town to former Olympic athletes leaving their workplaces. They have been assassinated in full view of anonymous onlookers as part of the project of exterminating the Shia from the area.

Edicts issued by the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Balochistan, and published in local Urdu and Hazara newspapers, label members of the community as wajib-ul-qatl, or deserving of death. The community has been warned that its settlements in Hazara Town and on Alamdar Road will be transformed into graveyards as the war against them continues.

The words are grim and true; the war against the Hazara has continued in the days following the Mastung attack, with the latest set of killings representing just another episode in this macabre saga of death. Unsurprisingly, the Hazara community — that has not aligned itself with either the Baloch nationalists or the more recently settled Pakhtuns in the area — has become increasingly dejected about its future.

Just days before this latest incident of violence, a report issued by the Balochistan Home Department failed to note with any specificity the lethal conditions faced by the community.

Last week, during a hearing conducted by a three-member bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry expressed his alarm over the silence, asking members of the Balochistan administration to explain why no one suspected of dumping mutilated bodies or shooting down innocent people is ever apprehended.

Undoubtedly, the Shia Hazara are victims of the ineptitude that so incensed the SC justices last week. But there are other specifics that make the Hazara community particularly hapless among the many suffering people of Balochistan.

First, their small numbers and long-standing loyalties to the Pakistani state, displayed in the military service records of community leaders, puts them at odds with the Baloch nationalist movement.

Second, the location of their enclave in Quetta, sitting close to both the southward road to Karachi and the highways leading to Iran, has in recent years become the centre of global strategic interest which has created incentives for others to drive them out.

The extermination of the community, either through targeted attacks or through the massacres, thus accomplishes not just sectarian aims, but also forces scared Hazaras fleeing the area to either abandon property or sell it at low prices to waiting land-grabbers.

The lack of local avenues of recourse for a festering human rights issue is exacerbated further by the complexities faced abroad. In previous decades, small minorities such as the Hazara, who have few local options for saving themselves in a milieu wracked by conflict, were able to avail the international human rights platform to draw attention to their plight. Even on this count, the Hazara face a particular disadvantage.

In the United States, last February’s introduction of a resolution by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has promoted the idea that all those fighting for justice in Balochistan are automatically inimical to the Pakistani state. This misperception is particularly harmful to the Hazara cause since it inaccurately conflates a human rights issue — their right to be free of religious persecution — with a nationalist cause that seeks secession rather than accountability as a solution.

All around the world, it is always the smallest, most peace-loving, least politically connected groups that are selected as targets by those seeking to scare the populations they seek to control.

For the Shia Hazara of Balochistan, who are seeking not independence but their rights under the Pakistani constitution, the dearth of local sympathy and the brashness of global generalisations have colluded to produce a landscape where hope seems as elusive as justice.

The writer is an attorney teaching political philosophy and constitutional law.

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Comments (16)

shah zaib
April 12, 2012 12:48 am
Mame...what a piece of writing , really i am so wondered that how do you think so pure and so clear.....what a clarity....really impressed i"m now....Wish you all the best of happy luck.....
Rajab Ali
April 12, 2012 12:56 am
very well done , ur analysis is the first of it's kind bringing all the aspects into play ...!!!
Cyrus Howell
April 12, 2012 12:02 am
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. . . The People cannot be safe without information. When the press is free, and every man is able to read, all is safe." -- Thomas Jefferson "If once (the people) become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions." -- Thomas Jefferson
Cyrus Howell
April 11, 2012 11:50 pm
Couragous politicians are more important than sincere politicians. It the politicians cannot take action Pakistan will have another Army general as president,
Riyasat ali
April 11, 2012 10:31 pm
thank you rafia for mentioning serious issue.....
Abbas Babul
April 12, 2012 11:34 pm
A ramarkable piece of writing beyond any prejudice. Being a Hazara, it's really a gloomy spring fomented in blood & dismay-- for me and my community members. History will never forgive those responsible for the massacre of innocent people in name of caste, creed & religion,
P N Eswaran
April 11, 2012 9:25 pm
"All around the world, it is always the smallest, most peace-loving, least politically connected groups that are selected as targets by those seeking to scare the populations they seek to control." This is a sweeping generalization which is correct only when applied to the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular.
Ghulam raza
April 11, 2012 9:15 pm
thanks alot Rafia Zakaria i m so thankful to you n i have a request from you to invite other journalist to come forward and the write about this cruelty which is going on Hazara people. to be honest its the time for people who belong to media to come forward and do their duty be raising the voices of innocent people. it is the demand of every member of the families who are effected by this inhuman act of cruel people.
April 11, 2012 6:13 pm
Why don't our sincere politicians like Imran Khan and Nawaz shareef speak out against this genocide?????? Will anyone do anything to stop this menace? May Allah help the helpless
April 11, 2012 10:50 am
First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me." --Attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller
April 11, 2012 12:53 pm
@ jaffery Well said! @ Rafia Thanks a lot for being impartial! May God bless you..
peace lover
April 11, 2012 11:25 am
A very good analysis put by Rafia Zakira in this article and has depicted the plight of Hazaras in Quetta. The current situation in Quetta and the attitude of government as well other political parties towards Hazaras is heartening. I request Ms Rafia to also highlight those people who are behind this genocide. The head of Lashkar-e-Jangvi, Malik Ishaq was released last July by Punjab government. Where is Chief Justice of Pakistan. Why don't he take suo moto action on this. Is this not double standard of judiciary that to take immediate action of the slap of Wahida Shah and to remain silent on massacre of Hazaras. Are we waiting for the repetition of Bosnia in Quetta or repetition of Holocaust by Nazis?????
Samiullah Shah
April 11, 2012 11:41 am
@ Rafia Zakaria: From the core of my heart I value your courage & audacity on writing on this unabated but unpardonable cleansing of Hazara community in Quetta. …
Saadat Ali
April 11, 2012 7:24 pm
Very well said, peace lover. I think we are not waiting, but already witnessing the genocide of Shias all over Pakistan. Be it Quetta's Hazaras, Dera Ismail khan, Karachi, Gilgit-Baltistan etc. etc. etc. We can count thousands of Shias killed. Kudos to Ms Rafia Zakaria for the courage to write on this. Very rare for Pakistani journalists. Where's the so-called free media and Mighty Chief Justice............................!
April 12, 2012 2:57 pm
we always try to punish the culprits after they committed crimes, but never take action while they are committing heinous crime. The Hazara are one of the most most talented, peace loving and progressive people. They are very hard working. However the situation in Baluchistan put them in the line of fire. To curb the separatist movement of Baloch independent fighters, Pakistani govt trying to play a foul game to hide the reality of day to day killings of innocent Baloch people, turning the situation into a sectarian conflicts. Hazara are small minority in Quetta and never been involved in any anti pakistan activities but they are bearing the cost of Baloch independent war. The Baloch people should know this fact and stand should to shoulder with their Hazara neighbors.
June 29, 2012 11:06 pm
the first line you wrote, says that all
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