Hazara – Is it Just a Sectarian Killing … ?
By Adeel Danish
Continuously reading the news of violence and terrorism is not a very alien thing to Pakistanis. We Pakistani people have been going through this turmoil for last three decades, sometime in the name of Afghan Jihad ; we suffered terrorist activities from KGB , KHAD and RAW , sometime in the name of ethnicity in Karachi we became sandwich between govt and militant wings , sometime suffered from proxy wars of our neighboring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia , sometime while persuading “war on terror” along with western world we infused cancer of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in our country …. We never wanted to be the part of any such wars but somehow ended up in “Key- Ally” positions .So it’s a long story of always finding ourselves unknowingly with red capes in an arena of bull fighting.
Since last six months there is a sudden increase of violence against a peaceful community of Pakistan i.e; Hazara of Quetta . Yes , Baluchistan which is already going through an insurgency of foreign backed ethnic militant groups is hosting the stage again .
Who are Hazara by the way ? Well briefly, as per wikipedia
“The Hazara are a Persian-speaking people who mainly live in central Afghanistan. They are overwhelmingly Shia Muslims and comprise the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, forming about 9-18% of the total population. Over half a million Hazaras live in neighboring Pakistan (especially in the city of Quetta) and a similar number in Iran.”
A Hazara family
Hazara considered themselves as of Mongolic origin, came to Afghanistan as a part Gengis Khan’s Mongolian Army. They can be easily recognized among native afghans due to their east Turkic facial structures. Traditionally they are very peace loving ,cultured , accommodating , neat and clean , followers of healthy life style, sporting music activities and of course intellectually superior to other Afghan ethnicities .
But unfortunately every time they were ruthlessly subjugated in Afghanistan by less tolerant pashtun tribes , who historically is a major ethnic group in Afghanistan . Specially hazarajat ( 10 central provinces of Afghanistan having most hazara population) has always been surrounded by hostile pashtuns . It does not matter that who is the ruler of Afghanistan , whether Dost Muhammad Khan , Ameer Abdur Rehman , Zahir Shah or Talibans ; If he is Pashtun than it’s a bad news for Hazara .Though its true that major part of this ethnic animosity have roots in sectarian sunni-shiite violence but in Afghanistan , this Pashtun-Hazara rivalry is not against `the Shiite hazara only but it revolves around all the religious factions of Hazara people including minorities of sunni hazara and ismaili shia hazara .
Map of Hazarajat in Afghanistan
It is been said that 60% of Hazara population were massacred by Pashtun King Ameer Abdur Rehman. Historians record that the incident started from a small rebellion by Hazara tribal leader whose wife was raped by Pashtun soldiers . King Abdur Rehman refused to punish pashtun soldiers after which all the hazara tribes who before this incident were the part of his govt, turned against him and started a strong rebellion against pashtuns of Afghanistan . Kind Abdur Rehman severely threatened by this rebellion , cashed the sensitive issue of Shiite-Sunni rivalry and gave this war a slogan of “Jihad against shia kafir hazara” . He got success in his evil pan and managed to get the support of whole pashtun sunni population turning them against whole hazara population which was pre-dominantly shiite. This was the first time when Hazara suffered in Afghanistan in the name of ethnicity cum sectarianism. Due to this massacre , thousands of Hazara fled to neighboring countries of Iran and British India and settled in Mash-had (Iran) and Quetta (British India –Later Pakistan).
During the invasion of Soviet forces , though all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan fought under a unanimous agenda of “Jihad Against Communist Soviets” but still each ethnic group had a separate militant wing , so as Hazara who formed a religious political party with the name of “Hizb-e-Wahdat” , Muhammad Muhaqqiq and Kareem Khalili were two of its prominent leaders , but as soon as soviet retreated from Afghanistan , ethnic afghans started a civil war among themselves for control of country. At that time Pakistan wrongly supported only one ethnic group of Afghanistan , that was pashtuns , majority of whom were lead by new revolutionary forces of “Talibans” . That was the time when all the other ethnicities of Afghanistan formed an alliance against “Pashtuns Talibans” , named it “Northern Alliance” and took the help of foreign powers like Iran , India and USA to dismantle Taliban regime. Naturally they also got against Pakistan as we as Pakistanis were fully helping Taliban Pahtuns to get full hold of Afghanistan during civil war. Since then Pakistan has very stringent relations with Afghan Tajiks , Uzbeks and Hazara .
Now that was a historical background Hazara Struggle in Afghanistan. Let’s move on to Pakistani Hazara Community.
In Pakistan around 70% of Hazara population lives in Quetta , almost all of them practice twelver’s shia islam, rest of them are geographically distributed in some northern Pakistani areas like chitral giligit baltistan and practice ismaili shia doctrines.
A panoramic view of Quetta , Pakistan : Major city of Hazara community
Traditionally , Pakistan has been a safe heaven for Hazara ., not only safe but Pakistan also presented the most favorable socio-economic environment for Afghan migrated Hazara people. Even Pakistan had better reputation in asylum seeker Hazara community comparing to other neighboring country of Iran who was repeatedly alleged by Hazara asylum seekers for mistreatments. In fact whole Hazara community once asked the help of international mediators like Mongolia to intervene and ask Iran to stop persecution of Hazara community in Mash-had. As Hazara are among the most educated and forward minded people of Baluchistan , We have many prominent personalities from this beautiful community e.g; former Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Musa Khan , Pakistan first PAF woman pilot saira batool , famous boxer and Olympian Ibrar Hussain , Agha Abbas famous businessman are the few name of Pakistani Hazara community .
Since 1979 , we have seen some dramatic events which led to severe sectarian violence in Pakistan . It all started with two events which occurred at the same time. First one was related to Iranian Shiite Revolution after which Iran started propagating revolutionary ideas to all neighboring countries having considerable Shiite population . Local Shiite of those countries like Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan also got affected from this revolution . In fact Iraq and Iran got engaged in sectarian war on this issue . Here in Afghanistan & Pakistan and many Shiite leaders formed organizations to replicate the same Shiite revolution , Remember In Pakistan and Afghanistan , Shiite only constitutes to 10-15% of whole population , even if we say its 20% then again asking for such minority sect based revolution was not a desirable call for rest of the Pakistani and afghan nation . In Pakistan , these shiite movements were offensively & violently tackled by Sunni extremist militants which started the first season of sectarian war in Pakistan. In Afghanistan the second event occurred at the time due to which nothing of such sectarian violence happened . Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet Union and those soviets were ruthlessly crushing afghans without having any interests towards their sects and believes. In Afghanistan all the ethnic or sectarian communities formed their individual militant groups with very fragile unity at the top of all militant groups to counter soviet aggression . But in Pakistan a different ball game was started.
Shia crescent as perceived by Iranian after 1979 revolution
After Iranian Revolution and soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 , Pakistan became a fierce battle field for all sorts of violence . That’s another story that how CIA was helping Pakistan and Afghan militant groups to counter soviet forces and how KGB , RAW and KHAD were spreading terrorism in Pakistan. But if we only talk about sectarian militancy , Pakistan suffered a huge set back in terms of Shiite and Wahhabi Proxy wars . As stated , After revolution iran started propagating Shiite revolutionary ideologies to neighboring countries which also involved arab countries like Iraq , Lebanon , Bahrain , UAE and Saudi Arabia who have considerable Shiite population but under sunni rulers . So definitely those Sunni arab rulers got threatened by this wave of revolution . One of those rulers , Saddam Hussain choosed the path of open war but other choose the more clever and more hidden approach of fighting their war with iran on Pakistani soil .
In 1980’s , CIA was fully supporting arab extremist and afghan freedom fighters to fight against soviets , they were gathering all hard liners from all parts of muslim world to gather in Pakistan and start holy war “Jihad” against communist Kafirs . As CIA also had bad relations with iran so they were using these militants against both enemies , against soviets primarily (say 95%) , and also against Iran (say 5%) .
CIA mujahedeen camps in Pakistan for extremist Arab & Afghan fighters
Now before going further it’s very important to understand the religious mind-set of Pakistani people.Most of the Pakistanis , almost 75% belong to Hanafi school of thought , out of which almost 50% belong to Hanafi Barelvi school of thought which usually do not support the idea of global Jihad . 10-15% Shiites do not believe on need of jihad before the reappearance of their 12th holy imam Mahdi. 5% other Ismaili , dawoodi etc are also like to stay away from Jihadi ideas . So Pakistan had only 30-35% population who truly believed on need of Jihad against Soviet Union , and it comprised of 20-25% deobandi hanfi and 5% Wahhabi-Ahle Hadees muslims .
Now as CIA wanted to utilize the Jihadi mind-set of those 30% pakistani people , they brought arabs in Pakistan to support the religious concept in local Pakistanis . CIA communicated to Akhwan-ul-muslimoon of Egypt , Syed Qutub followers (who believes in very strict Wahhabi sunni ideology) to come to Pakistan with their followers and not only do jihad by themselves but also propagate jihadi ideas in Pakistani locals to get constant manpower support . This was actually the first time when Pakistani nation was first introduced with militant islam and radical ideas , Syed Qutub followers believed on Takfeeri ideology according to which everyone who is out of sect is non-muslim and allowed to kill , specially Shiites ,” Killing a Shiite can get you a ticket of Heaven” that was the main advertisement of militant islam at that time. Similarly as we have discussed earlier that Iran was In honeymoon dream of its Shiite revolution and was thinking to have few more shiite states in its neighbor so Iranians were also fully propagating their sectarian hateful ideologies in sunni neighboring countries like Pakistan. So now you can imagine the situation , at one hand we have very extremist minded sunni arab militants training other afghan and Pakistani individuals on religiously and militarily issues , and on other hand we have Iranian guided agents cum intellectuals guiding and provoking local Shiites for a similar Iranian revolution.
Arab and Afghan Mujahedeen during soviet Afghan war 1979-89
So , as expected , eventually this sectarian war broke out between sunni arabs/afghans/locals and Iranian backed local Shiites . during the period of 1980-1989 several sectarian incident happened in Pakistan causing huge causalities to both sides . Militant sectarian organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba , Sipah-e-Muhammad , Tehreek Nifaz-e-Fiqh Jafariya came into being and they all started killing each other associates without any mercy . Target killing of ulamas of both sides , bomb blasts in Shiite and Sunni mosques , bomb blast in arab and Iranian diplomatic missions were very common . Hateful literature used to be distributed at mass scale provoking sectarian communities to kill each other people. Though its true that due to minority population Shiite of Pakistan suffered most as compare to sunni militants but even than both were equally responsible for escalating this sectarian rift.
But a very important point to note over here and which is also the topic of my essay is that during this first wave of sectarian war “No Such sectarian violence ever occurred against Pakistani Hazara Community” . Yes that’s true there is not a single major incident against Hazara Shiites living in Quetta which had sectarian roots. Also another point , Quetta received so many refugees from Afghanistan in form of Pashtun during 1980-89 , but those pashtun never tried to take law and order situation in their hands as far their ethnic hatred for Hazara people are concerned , those pashtuns knew about Pakistani Shiite hazara community but they totally neglected them and we have not witnessed any major sectarian or ethnic militant activity against hazara in quetta during this soviet-afghan war period.
So how everything changed so bad for Hazara community? Well the answer is 2nd Invasion of Afghanistan . We have already discussed earlier that during 1990-2000 , Afghanistan was ruled by Ethnic pashtuns who had become cynical mad about Shiite due to hateful teachings of CIA sponsored Akhwan-ul-muslimoon takfeeri ideology. Talibans , the major militant force of Afghanistan were extremely harsh towards local afghan Shiites (majority of whom are Hazara) , they threw them out of their homes , cities , fields and properties . It was totally intolerant attitude by Pashtun Talibans towards Shiite Hazara , Farsibaan and Qazilbash. Talibans has this harsh attitude towards all other non-pashtun and non Shiite communities , so all local afghan minorities formed a new alliance and named it “United Islamic Front OR Northern Alliance” .Afghan Hazara became an integral part of this alliance who were against Pashtun sunni Taliban . After 9/11 , when USA targeted Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda (old Wahhabi Mujahedeen who fought against soviets with the help of CIA) , and this weak northern alliance came into artificial power in Afghanistan. All non-pashtun minorities were united on this platform against pashtun talibans . So naturally again a wave of ethnic violence spread out in Afghanistan , when against Hazara shiites , this ethnic violence takes a holy war shape and pashtuns thinks as an holy act to wage a war against Hazara Shiites who helped USA in dismantling their so-called “Islamic Emirate” in Afghanistan .
Afghan Hazara Shiite Soldiers with invading US Army
So , now after 9/11 , equation was fairly simple for Afghan Pashtuns , Hazara were Shiite Kafir , and after their alliance with biggest Kafir USA to shatter Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan , those Hazara Shiite had become superior Kafir with no option of mercy .
Several Pashtun flew to Pakistan borders after 9/11 , which include militants and civilians both.Quetta used to be the best place of such pashtun so they decided to stay over there again , but now things were quite changed for them , for those local pashtun who flew from Afghanistan , for them local residents of Hazara community in Pakistan was the same culprit as that of Afghan Hazara community .
Those Pashtuns may not be affiliated with Afgan Talibans but ethnically and on sectarian basis they had severe animosity against Hazara who were living in Pakistani Quetta for hundred of years and had no involvement what so ever in Afghan conflict , neither these Pakistani Hazara had any linkages to Afghan Hazara community but for illiterate Pashtuns , it was just a revenge from Hazara community , they damn care whether or not it’s the same Hazara people who are living in Afghanistan or who fought against Pashtun Taliban of Afghanistan , they just know they look like same , they have same language and of course they are also Shiites. Prosecution done and its time for Hazara Killing .
Since 2002 we have seen a tremendous increase in sectarian violence in Pakistan against Shiites , but for the first time in Pakistan History , Hazara community also came under this anger of Afghan Sunni Pashtuns and their local Pakistani allies like Lashker-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba .
Pakistani local sectarian sunni militants were very happy due to this new target as it can serve double purpose , it can give satisfaction to their militant allies of Afghan Pashtuns who are fighting against Hazara(NATO backed Afghan Army) in Afghanistan and they can also satisfy their own blood thirsty thoughts of killings Shiites.
Though at this point let me add that Pakistani agencies completely disagree to the theory that there might be any involvement of Afghan Talibans at any level in these incidents . According to them either its purely local extremist groups or perhaps foreign agencies who wants to malign Pakistan of hosting Afghan Taliban as “Quetta Shura” responsible for Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan causing an almost defeat to US and NATO forces. We will discuss this point later in this article .
Anyway Hazara community of Quetta became the sitting ducks for these extremist militants of Lashker Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba and they suffered huge causalities just because of their sect and ethnicity.
Bomb blast on Eid at Shiite mosque Quetta
Let me list few grave incidents against Hazara community which took place during this period of last 9-10 years.
ü In 2002, 12 Shia Hazara police cadets were gun downed in Quetta.
ü In 2003, the main Shia Friday Mosque was attacked in Quetta, killing 53 worshippers.
ü March 2, 2004, at least 42 persons were killed and more than 100 wounded when a procession of the Shia Muslims was attacked by rival Sunni extremists at Liaquat Bazaar in Quetta
ü On June 16, 2011, Pakistan’s Olympian boxer and a Hazara icon, Syed Ibrar Hussain Hazara was gunned down
ü On Aug 31, 2011, an explosive-laden truck drivin by a suicide bomber targeted the Hazara worshippers after the Eid prayers in the heart of the Hazara area known as the “Alamdar Road
ü On Sept 23, 2011, another three Hazaras were taken off a van/bus and executed in cold blood. No terrorists were caught.
ü On Oct 4, 2011, another 12 Hazara laborers were forced off from a bus, made them stand in a line and sprayed them bullets.
Some example of Hazara intellectuals killed includes :
ü Jan 14, 2009 – Police officer (DSP) Hassan Ali
ü Jan 26, 2009 – Writer, Producer, and Chairman Hazara Democratic Party, Hussain Ali Yousafi
ü June 22, 2009 – Syed Talib Agha Member District Government of Pakistan
ü Sept 7, 2009 – Prominent businessman Engineer Ahmed Ali Najafi
ü Oct 1, 2009 – Senior Lawyer of Balochistan High Court Walayat Hussain
ü Oct 12, 2009 – Chief Mining Engineer Balochistan Govt Ashraf Ali Changezi
ü Oct 15, 2009 – Businessman Asif Ali
ü April 16, 2010 – Police Officer (DSP) Ghulam Muhammad
ü April 16, 2010 – Police Officer (DSP) Zahid Shah Kazmi
Now walking towards end of this article , let me address a very important question , and it is Who is actually behind this terrorist activities , from where they are getting funding and Why they are doing it , I mean what is their achievement or their goal by doing sectarian/ethnic killing of Hazara Shiites in Quetta.
Well we have partly discussed it , of course on ground its local Pakistani militants of Laskher-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba who are carrying out these sectarian activities , but there is a major concern about who is asking them to do so , Is it Afghan Taliban OR its again their old masters who trained them militarily and religiously during Afghan Soviet War.
For Pakistani law enforcement agencies , its actually 3rd party (as they are reluctant of taking names of CIA , RAW based out in Afghanistan and RAM-Afghan govt. Intelligence) who are supporting some Pakistani extremists to carry out activities within Pakistan . As per Pakistani sources , these agencies are already working against our national interests and definitely working towards achieving a bigger goal of snatching Pakistani nuclear technology , in doing so they want to destabilize country with every sort of activity , they raised , funded and nurtured Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to fight against Pakistani forces who rather than going to Afghanistan and fighting invading armies are actually fighting with Pakistan Army , similarly these foreign agencies supported Baloch militants in Baluchistan to fight against Pakistan Army , these are the same agencies who are supporting militant wings in Karachi to spread ethnic violence thus engaging Pakistan army on every front , they want to see Pakistan Army being stretched out from eastern to western borders , from northern to southern sea coast .And after weakening this army they can certainly make a propaganda in world that this cant survive on its own thus international community needs to “help Pakistan Army” in safe guarding their nuclear arsenals paving a way to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear capability .
As per Pakistani agencies , there is also another side of such incidents and it is to prove the existence of “Militant Pashtuns” (Talibans) in Quetta targeting Hazara community due to linkages with Afghan Shiite Hazara , once if these 3rd party foreign agencies get success in delivering a message to world community that there are extremist minded Pashtun Taliban who are targeting Hazaras due to their Afghan rivalry than they can strengthen their case of “Quetta Shura” which according to them is responsible of all the Taliban activities inside Afghanistan. Now this could be the very serious charge against Pakistan after 2nd May Abbotabad incident where US forces killed Osama Bin Laden. So according to Pakistani agencies , this matter is not very simple and it’s NOT JUST SECTARIAN KILLING but it has some bigger motives than just to kill Shiites . At the end terrorist wants to destabilize Pakistan and Pakistan Army so that pakistan may lose its nuclear power.
And if you see following images after considering above opinion of Pakistani Agencies , than you might think for a while that this clever tactic of 3rd party agencies might not be just a hoax but a truth , after these incidents Hazara community all over the world has been maligning Pakistani state and govt , asking to eradicate all Talibans or Taliban minded militants from Quetta , thus giving weghtage to western world argument about “Quetta Shura” of Taliban.
Worldwide protests of Hazara Community against Pakistani state & govt asking them to take action against “Quetta based Pashtun Taliban Minded Militants” , Interesting thing to note here is their focus is ethnicity , not sect , thus linking it to Afghan Taliban residing in Pakistan
The other opinion comes from rather emotional Shiite school of thought simple denies any foreign linkages in these incidents , according to them its just another incident of Shiite killing which has been going on for past 1300 years in all Islamic world , they see it as a purely sectarian issue , targeting Shiites , their religious believes and their life style here in Pakistan . They also do not reject involvement of Afghan Talibans in these incidents as according to them both Lashker-e-Jhangvi and Talibans have same ideology and militant approach towards Shiites.
Pakistan Shiite thinks that these killings are just part of Shia Persecution
So , in the last , it is very difficult ot analyze without proof that who is responsible for designing all these terrorist activities against Hazara people in Pakistan , its definitely obvious that its Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba are the culprits on the ground who are doing these criminal activities ,but who is funding them and what is the real goal of those designers behind these Hazara killings , this is a very important question and not so easy to answer until law enforcing agencies catch involved criminals and presented them to judiciary with the reports about their master minds. If we don’t manage to identify the root causes early than we should not be very hopeful about things getting safer for Hazara community in Quetta. Pakistani intelligence agencies should be very agile and proactive in this case , it could lead to a potential threat against Pakistan if proven that there is any Quetta Shura connection in such incidents .