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The hazard of being a Shia Hazara in Balochistan – by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa

ANOTHER 80 Hazara-Shias were killed in Quetta in a suicide attack on 17 February. This is not the first or the last attack against the Hazara-Shia community in Balochistan or Shias in general. It was just a few weeks ago that Hazaras had finished burying 95 bodies after a suicide attack. The bodies lay there for more than 72 hours with the living protesting their deaths and those yet to happen. It seems that nothing seems to bring respite to the Hazaras or Balochistan despite the suo moto action by the Supreme Court or even the publicity done by human rights organisations.

At the recent Karachi Literature Festival, a booklet about the missing people in Balochistan written by renowned novelist Mohammed Hanif was launched. Compared to those that have disappeared, the dead Hazaras are probably the lucky ones as they have been relieved of their pain. The same goes for families of the dead who at least know that their loved ones are no more.

But part of the problem is that we tend to clap at a book launch, read and get thrilled by reports of such inhuman injustice, condemn the imaginary killers, and feel brave because it gives us a sense of achievement. The elite in Pakistan, like their counterparts anywhere else in the world, especially in developing countries, feel elated and satisfied thinking that their participation in an event indicated their bravado. Surely, a lot of the people at the book release felt like Che Guevara.

The Twitter feed from the session was expressive of the overall catharsis of the local elite in terms of feeling relieved of their responsibility of doing something positive to support the suffering people from Balochistan. After all, this is what an elite audience can do. Talking about Balochistan without doing something has become fairly fashionable in Pakistan. The fact that the State allows the narrative relieves people in positions of power from the larger responsibility of providing actual relief.

The few protests by a handful of people are not sufficient as they don’t generate enough pressure that may force someone in the government to come to the rescue of the Hazara-Shias. One of the reasons for any lack of action is that opinions of those who otherwise sympathise with the Hazaras is divided in terms of apportioning blame on the ideology that targets the Hazara-Shias.

For example, in the protests organised by the Hazaras in Islamabad, some of the participants were willing to wipe the tears of the Hazaras but shied away from blaming those behind it. They were definitely not willing to blame the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) or criticise its old and new linkages with the security forces. In the minds of such people, the Hazara killings is a foreign conspiracy. It is part of the US-India intelligence game to create instability in Pakistan.

Another explanation pertains to Sunni Baloch killing the Shias. In a recent report from Quetta, journalist Wajahat S Khan, who has good military contacts, highlighted the fact that people in Quetta blame the Deobandi LeJ. However, he added that most of the LeJ members in Balochistan, known as the Jhangavis, are Baruhis, which is a sub-clan of the Baloch. The Hazara-Shias that I spoke to, including students at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, talk about a conspiracy by the Deep State to pitch the various communities against each other so that the battle against Baloch nationalists can be won. The internal hatred is bound to result in internecine fighting.

The Hazara-Shias also claim that they have wisened to the conspiracy. The Baruhis killing the Hazara-Shias is an argument that builds on another claim that poverty is one of the major drivers of extremism and terrorism. After all, the LeJ has received enough funds from Saudi Arabia, especially in the recent months. In any case, the LeJ leadership gets a lot of money and support from the Punjabi leadership of Nawaz Sharif and his faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. So, since the LeJ has started to move into Balochistan along with other militant outfits, it has enough resources to buy people and use them for killing minorities. The impression created then is that poor Baruhis would like to kill the Hazaras with whom they have a historic problem. The Hazaras came from Afghanistan and are considered outsiders. But sources that I spoke with from the province also talked about a conspiracy by State actors to create this misunderstanding among the communities. They argue that the LeJ is being used to create an impression of internecine warfare.

The narrative that the LeJ is divided into two — the friendly and the unfriendly — counters the people’s conspiracy theory. While the friendly faction sits in Punjab, the unfriendly bunch is based in the restive North Waziristan province and creates violence. Such an argument tends to absolve the State’s military machine of any responsibility.

THE MORE important fact is that the LeJ or other militant outfits are nothing but conduits to carry out a policy or shoulder blame for a certain policy perspective. Baloch politician and Senator Hasil Bazenjo was of the view that such killings mirror the Saudi Arabia-Iran Cold War. This is certainly an important argument. However, the Cold War theory does not necessarily explain the sudden upsurge in Hazara-Shia killings in Balochistan or other parts of the country, especially Gilgit-Baltistan (in PoK). The Saudi-Iran Cold War dates back to the 1980s. It resulted in the creation of many of the militant outfits, including Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and the LeJ.

Nevertheless, this is not a new war. The real question no one wants to ask is, what has propelled the sudden spike in Hazara-Shia killings?

Some of the sources I spoke with talked about the endgame in Afghanistan as being a possible reason. Since conthe State wants to have its share of the Afghan pie, it has deployed these outfits in Balochistan and the violence is, in fact, an inadvertent result of the militant presence. This could be a possibility. However, considering that Pakistan is trying to work out an arrangement with the US for a future role in Afghanistan, it would not try to draw attention by creating trouble for the US or in the region.

The fact that the Pakistan Army has remained relatively silent on the recent Line of Control incident or Afzal Guru’s killing and even kept its other assets like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e- Toiba silent indicates the GHQ’s unwillingness to rock the boat.

The only remaining explanation pertains to the military’s discomfort with Iran and a strong suspicion that Tehran is funding and supporting Hazara-Shias and Shias in Pakistan. In the past, some of the journalists close to the military have expressed suspicion of the Hazaras. The fact that Hazaras now have the money to buy bigger cakes for Shab-e-Barat celebrations or are invited to Iran for Ayatollah Khomeini’s birthday celebrations is cited as evidence of this community being Iran’s proxy in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Army has been suspicious of Iranian Shi’ism for long, especially since the early 1980s. Once close to Iran, Pakistan has drifted away from Tehran due to increased association with Riyadh. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, Saudi Arabia invested funds in fostering militancy in Pakistan to secure its position vis-à-vis Tehran.

Right now, many powerful stakeholders, including the US, would want to see Iran weakened. This means that major power brokers in the area may sympathise with the Hazaras, but none would play an extensive role in saving this community from extinction, especially if the Pakistan Army has evidence or strong suspicion of these people working as Tehran’s proxies.

There is certainly a close linkage between the State and non-State actors as far as violence in Balochistan is concerned. Unless people are willing to understand this equation and ready to protest the State’s linkage and peculiar perspective, no relief will ever come to the Hazara-Shias. Their’s is the blood that will continue to flow.

Source: Tehelka –

Video: Dr. Siddiqa’s analysis of Shia genocide (Farrukh Pitafi’s talk show)

شیعوں کو پاکستان میں کیوں قتل کیا جاتا ہے؟ آخر آرمی کاروائی کیوں نہیں کرتی؟ دہشتگردوں کو کون پال رہا ہے؟ اسٹبلشمنٹ کس طرح اپنا گندہ گیم کھیلتی ہے؟ ایران سعودی خاموش جنگ کسے کہتے ہیں؟ ملک اسحاق کو کیوں رہائی دی گئی؟ ایجنسیاں دہشتگردوں کو کیسے استعمال کرتی ہیں؟ محترمہ عائشہ صدیقہ کا تجزیہ

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    Pakistan’s ‘strategic’ backwaters
    By Ayesha Siddiqa

    Published: February 20, 2013

    The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.
    It seems that Balochistan is no one’s responsibility when it comes to dealing with crisis but everyone else’s responsibility when it is a matter of taking critical decisions. Thus, no one wants to deal with the law and order problem but the province’s natural resources are just another matter. Eventually, no one does anything meaningful for the province. One of the biggest examples of the above-cited attitude is the federal government’s signing of a deal with China to develop and run Gwadar port or the MoU signed with Iran for the gas pipeline through Balochistan. Both the projects are great and will hopefully bring some level of prosperity to the region. However, it is the manner in which both actions have been taken, which must be questioned; the federal government signed off control of the port without any major involvement of the provincial government.
    Was it that the provincial government was too absorbed in dealing with the Hazara killings of last month and thus it could not attend to such an important matter? Or is it that the federal government thought it was in a better position to negotiate interests? Such behaviour is odd especially after the much-propagated Eighteenth Amendment to the 1973 Constitution, under which major ports and shipping falls under the list of subjects that are shared responsibility of the federal and provincial governments. This means that the Balochistan government should have been included in the negotiations and part of the signing process. Surely, there are many who would draw attention towards the capacity issue. They would argue that a government that cannot protect its citizens, like the Hazaras, does not have the capacity, hence the right, to be part of the process. However, capacities don’t grow on trees and unless people are made to take responsibility, they will never learn. Pakistan’s 66-year history has also been that of crowding out of regions and institutions by the more powerful ones, so in the end things remain where they are because those who are supposed to do the work don’t know how to do it. In any case, there shouldn’t have been any fear of opposition from a fairly pliant provincial government. According to an expert, who works on devolution of power from the centre to the provinces, with a pliable government in Quetta, there was no likelihood of anyone raising any question, so why not include the province just for the sake of appearance. Indubitably, the provincial government’s capacity to protect its Hazara population should not be used to take away its right to decide the use of its resources.
    Intriguingly, no federal institution is ready to take responsibility for securing law and order in the province for which everyone, including the highest courts, would like to blame the inept provincial government or the prime minister who does not really control various forms of the security establishment in the country, especially those operating in Balochistan. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has a lot to answer for but he certainly does not control the various militant outfits like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) operating in the province. The LeJ operates in Karachi in its various forms — it is running wild in Balochistan and is expanding happily in Punjab and Sindh without anyone stopping such proliferation. Malik Ishaq, who is one of the leaders of the LeJ, sits happily in Punjab with full knowledge that nothing serious can happen against him except for being jailed under the MPO. He knows fully well that the only case in which he was caught was of the murder of an Iranian diplomat in Multan in 1997, and this case was closed by the Supreme Court in 2011. The SC not only released Ishaq but overturned his death sentence by the anti-terrorism court (ATC). Sadly, the case dragged on until the time that the ATC judge giving the sentence escaped the country and the LeJ walked around merrily shooting down each of the about a dozen eyewitnesses who had given evidence in the case, including a senior police officer from Gujranwala, Ashraf Marth.
    Now, the security agencies happily hide behind the artificial classification of ‘controlled’ versus ‘uncontrolled’ LeJ. The narrative being popularised is that there is a good LeJ headed by Ishaq that sits in Punjab and is friendly to the Pakistani state versus the LeJ International (al-Alami) that is stationed in North Waziristan and attacks the state and its citizens. However, it is also very odd that the intelligence agencies and the security establishment has not done a thing in using Ishaq to negotiate with the bad LeJ as was done during the attack on the GHQ in 2009. Ishaq was flown in to buy time from the assailants to secure senior army officers stuck in the headquarters. The larger argument is that the good militants are used to negotiate with the bad militants. Intriguingly, this is the same formula suggested for Afghanistan in some of the papers written and supervised by the establishment types and sold to the public as consensus document.
    Those buying into the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ militant argument forget that the LeJ and other militants have always been and remain conduits of state actors. Pakistani scholar and former police officer Hassan Abbas’s book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism (M E Sharpe, 2005) is essential reading to understanding some of the connections. The author lays out the connection between our prime intelligence agency, America’s CIA and the LeJ in the killing of an Iranian diplomat in 1997. There was a money trail from the US to the LeJ’s Riaz Basra responsible for the killing. Leafing through the book, one is forced to think if the same logic or relationship prevails now. The LeJ in Balochistan could happily take cover of the shared suspicion of Iran by Islamabad and Washington to kill the Hazaras that many in the Pakistan establishment consider as being close to Iran or (even trained by the neighbour). A similar suspicion of the above linkage in the 1980s had resulted in a Shia massacre in early 1988 in Gilgit-Baltistan, which was then suspected of becoming too autonomous of the state and going under Iranian influence.
    Sadly, with no one taking responsibility of security and foreign policymaking, the Hazaras and Shias or other minorities may continue to be killed.
    Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.