Atrocities and discrimination against minorities in Pakistan continue unabated. These had started soon after Pakistan came into existence in 1947 but got intensified during the eighties of last century. Initially atrocities were mostly confined to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians. But later these got extended to Shias, Ahmediyas, Muhajirs, Hazaras, Seraikis and other similar sects and groups living in different parts of Pakistan.
These atrocities and discrimination assume the form of abductions, murders, mass-killings, religious conversions, threats of violence, extrajudicial killings and killings on allegations of blasphemy. The motivating force behind atrocities against these minorities is generally ideologically faith oriented. Whereas Ahmediyas have been already declared heretics, there is a deep religious cleaveage between the majority Sunni population of Pakistan and the Shia minority.
In the latest incident of persisting atrocity, eleven Hazara coal miners in Balochistan were identified and abducted by terrorists and later killed. In Pakistan, Hazaras live mostly in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunwa (KPK) provinces. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this act of perfidy. In Pakistan, Hazaras are suspected of loyalty towards Iran as most of them are Shias. The incident has again drawn attention of the world community and has been condemned globally. Thousands of Hazaras have been killed in Pakistan in repeated atrocities in recent years, but nobody has been ever prosecuted for these persistent crimes in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was unable to visit members of the Hazara community, who have refused to bury the 11 miners killed. Protests against the killing have spread to other parts of Pakistan.
Mr. Khan has urged the protesting members of Balochistan’s Shia Hazara community to bury the bodies of the miners in the Mach coalfield. He has promise to visit the affected families “very soon”. But his assurance has not helped and protestors led by a group called the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen
Roads blocks have been enforced in Karachi and other cities like Quetta as protests are continuing. The Pakistan authorities have stepped up security and vigil at places of worship that are used by Shias.The Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) insists that Imran Khan should visit Quetta where the dead bodies are placed. The site has become the centre of the protest. The MWM wants written assurances for the safety of the Hazara community. The organization has threatened that it would extend the protests to other cities in Pakistan. The move does not augur well for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government that is already facing flak from the combined opposition of Pakistan. A number of Shia organisations too are taking out protests throughout Pakistan, they are also demanding measures that would ensure their safety.
It was the first major attack on the Hazara community since April 2020, when a suicide bombing in a Quetta market killed 18, mostly Hazaras. There have been many attacks on the Hazara community by various militant groups. Though the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, the Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups especially the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have carried out attacks against the community in the past. In 2013, three bombings killed more than 200 people in Hazara neighbourhoods of Quetta.
Various advocacy groups, like the Hazara People International Network have been formed to publicise the situation and promote opposition to such attacks. The Hazara diaspora in Australia, Western Europe and North America have also joined these protests online. Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the Hazara community in Afghanistan, has also expressed solidarity with the Hazaras of Quetta.
The persecution carried out against the Hazaras have been documented by the many international organizations. The situation is so bad that Hazaras have asked the Pakistan government to deploy soldiers in Quetta to provide them protection. Many Hazaras have demanded that Pakistan army should take control of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkwa provinces.
It is high time that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan lives up to his promise of delivering a “naya Pakistan”. The way it is going, it appears there’s nothing new in the scheme of things that Mr. Khan had said he would change.
Script: J.L.Koul Jalali, Freelance Journalist