“The State Should Establish its Writ in Balochistan”

Abdul Khaliq HazaraEditor’s note: In the backdrop of increasing attacks on the Hazara, Shia community in Balochistan, The News on Sunday published an exclusive interview of Abdul Khaliq Hazara, the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party. We are republishing the interview, which was conducted by journalist Aoun Sahi,  for our readers’ interest with special thanks to The News on Sunday

The News on Sunday: Do you think imposition of the governor’s rule in Balochistan would help the cause of Hazaras?

Abdul Khaliq Hazara: In fact, imposition of the governor’s rule was not a demand of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP). We are not in favour of army control in Quetta.

However, after the killing of 100 people on Jan 10, our ulema and elders demanded the governor’s rule. The main purpose of this demand was to get rid of the Raisani government in Balochistan. We want a targeted operation to be launched in Quetta under army because we do not trust police and FC.

Quetta is a small city. If the army is serious it can locate and arrest the terrorists in Quetta within a week. Our main demand is that the government should establish its writ in Balochistan.

TNS: Your views on the targeted killings of the Hazara community…

AKH: We do not see targeted killings in their current context, where a particular mindset, with support from provincial government and the elements of state security agencies, kills Hazaras. The targeted killing is also a product of failed policies of the state as successive governments were reckless in the last three decades in the region. Pakistan’s role in the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, when the state promoted ‘jihad’ in the country and sponsored terrorist groups, resulted in numerous problems. It gave rise to the Kalashnikov and drug culture in Pakistan. Quetta became the hub of these activities in the last three decades because of its geographic position. Today, we are reaping the results of those policies.

The Hazara community in Quetta is concentrated on its western and eastern sides. We need to travel thorough the city to go from one side to the other. The first incident of targeted killing happened in 2001 when terrorists attacked a van, killing 10 Hazara passengers. Again, 12 Hazara police cadets were gunned down when terrorists attacked their vehicle in June 2003. The first suicide attack against the Hazara community occurred in July 2004 when terrorists attacked a Friday congregation at Imambargah Kalan. In 2008-09, attacks against our people increased and then from 2011 onwards our people started getting targeted inside the city. Doctors, professors, students, businessmen and sportsmen have been targeted and killed. The motive behind these terror acts is simple — push Quetta into a hell of sectarian violence as all Hazaras in Quetta belong to the Shia sect. So far, more than 1000 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan in the last one decade.

In September 2011, the buses in Mastung near the ancestral village of ex-CM Balochistan, Aslam Raisani, were stopped and after checking their ID cards, 26 of them were killed on the spot. In April 2012, more than 30 Hazara people were targeted in 10 days. In 2012, more than 120 Hazara people were killed while in the first 10 days of 2013 more than 100 Hazaras have been killed. Everybody knows the killers as they do not hesitate to claim responsibility. After the last incident, in which more than 100 people of our community were killed, LeJ phoned journalists in Quetta and openly claimed responsibility. They said they had asked Hazaras to leave Quetta by the end of 2012 or they would be wiped out.

TNS: But why are Hazaras under attack?

AKH: Hazara community in Balochistan overwhelmingly belongs to the Shia sect and they are also easily recognisable because of their features. It is true that after the Iranian revolution some elements among Hazaras and other Shia communities in Pakistan were enthusiastic about spreading their message. They tried to convert people from other sects. The ‘Saudi Arabia element’ resisted this move strongly and pumped in billions of rupees to strengthen anti-Shia forces in Balochistan. The first wave of sectarian tension in Balochistan started in the mid-1980s while the second started after 9/11. It was time when anti-Shia forces had become so strong that they could operate at their will.

We strongly condemn Saudi Arabia and Iran’s proxy war in Pakistan. It was the duty of our state to stop this war but, unfortunately, strong elements of state have become part of that war. Extremism, sectarianism, and terrorism are being promoted in Balochistan with the help of elements in our state institutions. On January 11, the LeJ once again threatened they would either kill or get killed to wipe out Hazaras from Quetta. The LeJ, in fact, wants to provoke us, so we start attacking our innocent Sunni Pushtun and Baloch brothers in Quetta.

TNS: How difficult is it for you to keep the Hazara youth peaceful?

AKH: Hazaras are peaceful people. It is true that after 2004 attack on a Shia procession, Shias also turned violent and burnt some shops. But there are other Shias than Hazaras in Quetta. We have Shias from different ethnicities from Punjabi, Urdu speaking, Pashtun, Balti, etc. We always tell our people that the LeJ and its supporters want to push us in a situation which leads to civil war in society. We still believe in peaceful protests.

After the January 10 incident, we had two sit-ins in Quetta — one at Alamdar Road while I, alongwith my party activists, demonstrated in the red zone, in front of the IG office. But not a single incident of violence occurred from our side. Most of our youth have been deprived of education; some of them have also started joining religious elements. People have lost their businesses and jobs. They cannot move freely in their own city. More than 30,000 Hazaras have already migrated out of the country. Parents have been forcing their sons to leave the country. Our PhDs have been working as labourers in Australia and other countries. Still, an overwhelming majority of our community believes in peace. We still want to solve our problem peacefully.

TNS: You talked about involvement of some state elements. Do you have proof?

AKH: So far, more than 1000 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan but not a single killer is in police custody. It arrested the masterminds of these attacks in the past, including the LeJ head of Balochistan, Saif Usman, and his deputy, Dawood Badini. Both were awarded death punishment from a terrorist court in 2003. They escaped from jail situated in the high security zone in Cantonment, Quetta. Even when they were in jail, they were treated like special guests and allowed to carry on their activities from jail. The performance of the Interior and Home Secretaries, IGP Balochistan and heads of other law enforcement agencies are abysmal as they have failed to provide protection to the people. People have lost confidence in police and other law enforcement agencies as terrorists always succeed in evading arrests. In several incidents of targeted killings of Hazara community, motorbikes of local police were used while many of the attackers were in FC uniforms. They attacked people close to FC checkposts but were never apprehended. I strongly believe that some elements in our security agencies help terrorists to identify the targets and then also support them reach their targets with ease.

TNS: What is the solution?

AKH: Our rulers and state departments need to take the situation seriously. They need to establish their writ. They need to give confidence to people — that the state cares about them. At one point our main demand was that our cases be pursued. I appeal to all the democratic, liberal, political and progressive forces to come ahead and perform their responsibility for protecting the society from falling into the brutal hands of extremists in the country. (Courtesy: The News on Sunday)

Republished in The Baloch Hal on January 20, 2013