THE Hazara people are an important segment of Balochistan’s demography, besides Pashtuns and other non-Baloch communities. The history of Hazaras having settled in the province of Balochistan is not very old. As a matter of fact, they were declared indigenous tribes of Quetta during the early 1960s.
With the passage of time, the Hazaras felt their presence as conspicuous in the British army. General Muhammad Musa was one such soldier who later became the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army.
The majority of the Hazara community -- the ancestors of the Mongols as they claim -- is the followers of Shiite faith and, therefore, remained mostly aloof from the indigenous population in their social, religious and political activities.
Today, the Hazara community has become one of the leading partners in the body politic of the province of Balochistan, with a number of its people holding portfolios as important as education, planning and development and other public sector departments, vis-à-vis representation in the parliament. Over the period the Hazaras have established settlements within and outside Quetta and as far away as Mastung, Machh and Loralai.
Over the past one or so decade, however, the community is confronted with ever-increasing sectarian-related acrimony on the part of non-Shia religious parties and banned outfits.
The brazen attacks on innocent people and mass killings of Iran-bound pilgrims every other day, with the law-enforcement agencies having totally failed in tracing the killers, is a case to ponder.
The recent past has witnessed a surge in the exodus of the Hazara community, especially its youth, to Australia and other western countries seeking asylum through legal and illegal channels -- many of them succumbing to harsh weather conditions, inhospitable surroundings and human smugglers. Equal numbers are leaving their businesses and jobs and resettling in other parts of the country, mostly in the Islamabad capital.
On the part of the authorities concerned there is little, if any, serious effort coming forth in addressing this grave situation. The writ of the government is nowhere and the killers are all over, playing havoc with the lives of innocent people, with impunity.
Equally responsible, in the fray, are those religio-political parties on the sidelines cashing in on such tragedies for their politically-motivated agendas.
There was a time when people all over the country irrespective of their sects, clans or race entities would live side by side in the same vicinity and supported political parties on the basis of manifestos and democratic programmes.
Comes the Zia junta, however, and the entire fabric of the national scenario changes. Now people of the same ilk or colour, religious or language loyalties would assemble and dwell on the basis of this phenomenon, even socialising with each other and with other segments of society on these lines.
As a layman, one can easily assume that the discord among different social classes is because of this aloofness. Until the 1970s the Baloch, Pashtun, Hazaras and the settlers (people from Punjab and Urdu-speaking community) used to cohabit to the extent that Sunnis would attend Shias’ Muharram rituals and exchanged offerings to each other.
However, Balochistan, today has become a battlefield where the indigenous Baloch are pitched against the law-enforcement agencies, on the one hand, and the banned religious outfits have found in Hazaras a soft belly, on the other.
The settlers are living a dreaded life whereas the state and non-state actors allegedly have unleashed a reign of terror, abducting and then dumping the mutilated bodies of Baloch activists.
In the given scenario, the only option to restore normality to Balochistan is the political process involving the stakeholders but foremost responsibility lies with nationalist parties such as the BNP (Mengal), National Party, PMAP and Hazara Democratic Party, which have considerable say among the local people.
Last but not least, there is trust deficit on the part of state functionaries whose role would have least impact on putting things in order.
MUNIR AHMAD JAN Deputy Secretary (Coordination) Establishment Division Islamabad