VIEW : Hazaras, the children of a lesser god — II — Mehboob Qadir

Source: Daily Times |

Our unpardonable insensitivity and acute lack of courage to stand up against the sectarian monsters and Taliban demagogues is chronic and sickening

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, its society quickly disintegrated into a number of resistance groups, disjointed and disparate. While most of the Pashtun resistance regrouped in Pakistan for a guerilla war, the Hazaras reached out to Iran, which effectively disentitled them to material and financial help from the US-Saudi-Pakistani troika. However, by 1984, the determined Hazaras liberated Hazarajat with Iranian help much before the displaced Pashtuns could reclaim any significant territory inside Afghanistan. They went on to align themselves with what came to be later known as the Northern Alliance, and thus, were planted in a hostile politico-military camp against the Taliban/Pashtuns. The Taliban extracted their revenge by butchering Hazaras in Hazarajat and Mazar-e-Sharif when they came to power in 1994. More migrated to Quetta. Tragic errors were piling up in a conspiracy of manslaughter against the Hazaras.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the Zia-sponsored Shia-Sunni divide had become bloody and militant. The Sipah-e-Sahaba (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s mother party) and Sipah-e-Mohammad had already arrayed against each other countrywide and were contaminating the whole society. As a result, the persecuted and hunted Hazaras were not safe in Pakistan either.

The Taliban were defeated and dispersed by US forces in 2001 with the help of the Northern Alliance and forced to seek refuge in their old haunts in FATA and Quetta. That united the deadly ire of the Afghan Taliban with that of hostility to Shias by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Hazaras in Quetta were an easy and hapless prey in their miserable and isolated refuge with nowhere to go. This was a very unfortunate coincidence of circumstances and utter oppression of history against the Hazaras, completely and criminally missed by governments in Pakistan. Simultaneously, the Hazaras were unable to apply course corrections to their centuries-old ethnic orientation. Meanwhile, for the successive civil and military federal governments in Islamabad, Balochistan had become a political and administrative backwater unworthy of any serious, long-term attention. For this national myopia and culpable neglect we are going to pay a horrendous price as much more is still to come. Sorrowfully, no lessons seem to have been learnt. Of this extensive national criminality, abandoning the Hazaras to defend themselves against the unholy alliance of bloodthirsty Taliban and the sectarian blind bats is but one element. Thus it seems the stage was set for a fresh round of Hazara persecution, this time in Pakistan.

Deobandi militants and sectarian killers began to infiltrate into Balochistan, setting up bases at strategic locations while the weak-kneed administrations, both at federal and provincial levels, either acquiesced or simply colluded. Another unfortunate factor that added to the deadly brew has been that these sectarian barbarians were able to prevail upon secular-minded Brahuis to join their evil fold and began to operate from their areas with an unprecedented liberty of action. There is reported to be a Middle East-funded madrassa of radicals right at the mouth of the Mastung valley just as one exits the Lak Pass. This sectarian rattlesnake pit is most likely responsible for squad-like repeated executions of the Hazara pilgrims travelling in buses through the Mastung plain to and from Iran in the recent past.

The continued Afghan war glued the US and west’s focus on Afghanistan. That naturally drew their attention, among other things, to the sad plight of the Hazaras in and around Afghanistan. They were quick to realise that the Hazaras were not only hunted for their ethnicity and religion but were also geographically locked in. That meant their extermination was almost guaranteed. Pakistan, their foster country, had already achieved the dubious distinction of being minority-intolerant as a result of the venom spewed by Zia’s mullahs. Hindus were slowly migrating to India and Ahmadis to Canada and the US, but the Hazaras had practically nowhere to go. This must have caused a powerful pull on the west’s collective conscience, and mercifully, they opened their doors to this talented but threatened race. Today, the Hazara Diaspora is found in the US, UK, Australia, Iran, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway.

While travelling to Malaysia in 2011, I touched down at Bangkok airport. There in the departure lounge I found a bunch of Hazara families awaiting a flight to Australia: all ages of men, women and children huddled together. They sat there with a sense of relief but their faces were still distressed. Their body language was that of disbelief, apprehension and caution, their glances betrayed the pain and pangs of years of persecution, killings and displacement, but also a longing for a secure future in an alien land. I could well be imagining too much but that is how I sensed what they must have felt. Quietly, I bade them farewell and a safe journey into an uncertain future in Australia. Once there, they are not going to be the same ever, but will surely enrich Australian society.

With the exodus of this hardy, responsible and sociable people will also depart our already bankrupt constitutional, moral and human responsibility to protect and help our fellow citizens regardless of their race and creed. Our unpardonable insensitivity and acute lack of courage to stand up against the sectarian monsters and Taliban demagogues is chronic and sickening. These daisy cutters will soon turn inwards and then fence sitters like us, and those feeling otherwise cosy, will also be cut down as mercilessly as the Hazaras today. Terrorists have become used to spectacular massacres like the ones they perpetrated against the Hazaras on Alamdar Road last month and in Hazara Town on February 17. They would sadistically like to re-enact it wherever possible.

In this hugely sorry state of affairs, conduct most unbecoming had been that of the provincial government and in that its chief minister whose brain seemed as incoherent as was his speech. This man had been a patently deplorable character who had literally thrown the whole province to the wolves. He seemed to have no love lost for the Hazaras and non-locals, and made no visible attempt to protect them either. There could be nothing more heartless than that he did not return to Quetta from London when the bereaved Hazaras in Quetta were sitting in protest under the open skies along with close to 100 dead bodies slain in a terrorist attack at Alamdar Road. The going temperature in Quetta then was nearly sub-zero and weather bone-soaking rainy. His indifferent attitude epitomises our own pathological national insensitivity.

Has anyone ever bothered to listen to the very strong hum in the crowd, which seems to say that for every other kidnap for ransom and forcible occupation of property in Quetta, the trail invariably leads to the Raisanis? It was also common knowledge that the former chief minister’s kinsmen were running kangaroo courts to settle, for a hefty sum, disputes of property, inter-family feuds and shady business transactions in and around Quetta. The crowd also disdainfully questions how the palatial houses came up within the last five years inside the otherwise humble Raisani compound. Who in his right mind could expect these robber barons to protect the life and property of the already besieged Hazaras? The Pakistani state had lost its moral authority to rule long ago when it abdicated its constitutional responsibilities to the likes of Raisani and knelt before the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi barbarians.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan army and can be reached at

The following two tabs change content below.