Original Articles

Shia Hazara holocaust and the deafening silence in Pakistan – by Anas Abbas

Source: Adapted and edited from Viewpoint Online

Twitter: @Anas_Abbas1

Political and religious parties in Pakistan take no interest in the plight of Shia Hazaras since none of the influential politician represents Shia Hazara community and the issue lacks fundamental ingredients of anti Americanism which sells in public

In Pakistan, the non state actors who implement the policy of “Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die,” have been belligerently persecuting the Shia Hazara community since 1998. According to published reports, on July 4, 2003, 53 people died and 150 were hurt in a suicide attack on a Hazara mosque in Quetta. It was the first attack of its kind. Since then, more than 700 Shias, most of them Hazaras, have been killed in violent mass killings and suicide bombings in Balochistan.

Recently these attacks have gained significant momentum as 14 were killed and 45 injured in a suicide attack on a bus in Quetta which had just returned from Iran carrying pilgrims including women and children

So the questions are:

Why Shia Hazara community is being targeted in Pakistan?

Who are the perpetrators and what is their motive?

These are the two questions that need to be answered first in order to understand the war against Hazaras.

Currently the popular perception in Pakistan is that this persecution is an ethnic war which is a consequence of War on Terror and is designed by Foreign Elements (i.e. United States, India & Israel) in order to destabilize Pakistan’s most neglected Baluchistan province. This conspiracy theory is pervasive in Pakistan’s electronic, print & social media in different forms and is mostly promoted by Pakistani Army and politicians such as Imran khan who has this tendency of linking everything with War on Terror, to the extent that he faults the War on Terror for Salman Taseer’s assassination. Media persons such as Hamid Mir, Ejaz Haider and certain pro-establishment politicians such as Imran Khan of (PTI), Munawar Hasan (JI) and Abdul Khaliq Hazara (Hazara ethnic party) are found repeating the same mantra.

One can expect this narrative to flourish in Pakistan, the land of conspiracy theorists where the top leading scientist Dr Atta-ur-Rahman blamed United States for causing floods and earthquakes in Pakistan and where history is illegitimately distorted in order to glorify barbarians such as Mohammad Bin Qasim, and Ahmed Shah Abdali.

Lets analyse the above two questions and determine the driving force behind Hazara persecution.

The single most important factor behind Shia Hazaras being targeted in Pakistan is in fact religion. Hazaras are predominantly Shia Muslims and the correct approach is to view their persecution in the context of protracted brutal Shia persecution since the 7th century. Pakistan, a Sunni dominated (particularly Deobandi-Wahhabi dominated) country has a brutal history of Shia persecution where Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have slaughtered 1000s of Shias since their inception. Pakistan Army and ruling elite helped formed and infused the Jihadi militant culture during 1979 – 89 Soviet Afghan War.

The same LeJ/ASWJ is now widely responsible for attacks directed against Shia Hazaras (and also non-Hazara Shias) in Balochistan. Accordingly to reports about 600 Hazara Shias and 150 non-Hazara Shias have been killed in Balochistan in last few years. The LeJ/ASWJ, however, is not the whole story and it is incorrect to view these attacks as part of sectarian conflict alone. The other element reinforcing this violent campaign is Taliban’s ethno-sectarian cleansing ideology.

Even a cursory examination of history can tell us how the Shia Hazara community was targeted during the ruthless Taliban rule 1996 – 2001. According to the Human Rights Watch and a 55 page report prepared by United Nation, Hazaras suffered severe oppression and large ethno-sectarian massacres by the Taliban. These ethno-sectarian cleansing campaigns were at their peak when Taliban captured Hazarajat (Land of Hazaras) and had it shut off completely from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor and Daykundi (Hazara dominated provinces). The massacres not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all areas of Afghanistan that were controlled by the Taliban particularly after their capture of Mazar-e Sharif in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared Hazaras as apostates due to their adherence to Shia Islam.

Therefore, the current war against Hazaras in Pakistan is not just a part of sectarian religious conflict but also a substantial part of Taliban’s ethno-sectarian cleansing campaign. At the same time, attacks on Shia Hazaras on Balochistan cannot and must not be seen in isolation from Pakistan-wide attack on Shia Muslims by LeJ/ASWJ, right from Parachinar to Karachi and from Gilgit-Baltistan to D.I.Khan.

Following NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan, the situation for Shia Hazaras has changed drastically but the ethno-sectarian cleansing campaign is now shifted from Afghanistan to Quetta which is the current headquarter of Taliban. The LeJ is now acting on behalf of Taliban to target Shia Hazaras. Sunni Hazaras in Balochistan are spared from such attacks. The Taliban have always had deep links with Pakistani terrorist organizations as these organizations provided thousands of fighters to them in the war against Northern Alliance in 1996. Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Taliban, comprehensively documented this in his book “Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia”. According to the U.S. State Department report and reports by the Human Rights Watch, during the 1996 war, 40% of the Taliban militants were Pakistanis.

Despite the open declaration of war against Shia Hazaras by the Taliban, the common perception in Pakistan remains largely based on false propaganda by the Taliban sympathizers such as Imran Khan who view them as a freedom fighting force justifiably struggling against American imperialism.

Apart from persecutions and massacres, the suffering of Shia Hazaras, as well as other Shias, is constantly ignored in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Shia Hazara issue has not been the subject of Pakistani obstreperous media talk shows and has failed to attract even the kind of attention that has been given to the terrorist Aafia Siddiqui and against Drone attacks.

This is mainly because the criterion for condemnation in Pakistan has always been eccentric, absurd and hypocritical in nature just like in rest of the Muslim world where mass hysteria against a particular issue is created only if it possesses direct links to United States, Israel and India. This silence is similar in nature as always been observed by Pakistanis on thousands of Pakhtuns and Balochs who have been killed by local terrorist organizations and the Pakistan Military and on Darfur conflict where up to 500,000 people (mainly Muslims) have been killed by Sudan.

Political and religious parties in Pakistan take no interest in the plight of Hazaras since none of the influential politician represents Hazara community and the issue lacks fundamental ingredients of anti Americanism which sells in public.

In days to come it should not come as a surprise if the violent attacks against the Shia Hazara people continue as it is more than likely the Taliban will continue their violent streak unabated with no resistance from either the Pakistani media or public. It is indeed sad and adds another chapter to the dark brutal history of Pakistan that the massacre of this magnitude can continue to take place.











About the author

Jehangir Hafsi


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  • Very well written article, Anas.

    It’s important to say it loud that Shia Hazaras are being killed due to their religious beliefs. Those who are killing Hazaras in Quetta are killing Tooris in Parachinar and so on.

  • Good post.

    I think there were a couple of omissions in the orginal Viewpoint article, which have been taken care of in the current adapted version.

    Thank you for writting this.

  • One question: I have never seen Nadeem Paracha Farooqi writing on Shia genocide in Pakistan, the largest target killed faith group.

    Any specific reason?

  • Over 400 killed in Balochistan anti-Shia violence: Report
    By Zahid Gishkori
    Published: July 1, 2012

    The government seems to be at a loss to explain the escalating sectarian anti-Shia strife in Balochistan, which has claimed more than 400 lives in more than 200 incidents of sectarian violence in the past four years.

    The decade-long insurgency recently turned into a battleground for politically motivated attacks on religious sects with banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi allegedly targeting the Shia Hazara and non-Hazara Shia communities throughout the embattled province.

    The provincial home department said in an official report last week that cross-border influence, among other factors, was fuelling the sectarian violence.

    The official report which covers a period of four years states that over 400 Shia Hazaras and non-Hazara Shias lost their lives in Balochistan. Shia Muslims account for nearly a fifth of the country’s 170 million population. Around 100 Shia pilgrims have been killed in just the first half of the current year in Balochistan.

    Another 450 people were injured in over 110 sectarian attacks from 2008 to 2011.

    The increasing trend of violence is alarming. Over 120 members of the Shia including Shia Hazara communities were gunned down last year while close to a 100 sustained injuries, compared to 81 fatalities and 200 casualties in 2010.

    In 2009, 39 members of the Shia community were killed and 20 injured in over 30 incidents of ethnic violence, while only 15 were killed and 10 injured in 2008.

    The police have arrested alleged terrorist Sher Dil, also known as Babu, for his reported ties with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in a bid to curb the violence. Others who have been arrested include Hafiz Muhammad Usman alias Abbas, Dawood Badeeni, Jalil Ababkki and Shafiq Rind. However, some suspects such as Usman Saifullah and Ziaul Haq still remain at large.

    Alleged terrorists Khalid Bungulzai and Majeed Langove are said to have been killed in police encounters and the government has constituted a high-level inquiry committee headed by the home minister of Balochistan to further probe the incident.

    The provincial government has decided to refer the investigation of “sensitive cases” to the Crime Investigation Department and called for a review of the regulations pertaining to the movement of pilgrims under the Travel Agency Act, 1976.

    The provincial home secretary also held meetings with the Iranian consul general. Both sides agreed to beef-up security arrangements from Quetta to Taftan and discussed possible arrangements for facilitating the movement of members of the Hazara community between Marriabad to Hazara Town and Hazar Ganji.

    Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.


  • From facebook:

    The view point article has a few omissions which have been taken care of in the LUBP adapted version, e.g., ethnic cleansing (used two or three times) is not the right word. Sunni Hazaras in Quetta are not attacked. Also, attacks on Shia Hazaras cannot and must not be seen in isolation from Pakistan-wide Shia genocide.

  • For most reliable updates from Shias and Shia Hazaras from Quetta, follow these people on Twitter:

    ‏@Darveshh @AliAMuntaziri @AnwarChangezi @karbalaequetta @QuettaSettler @WorldShiaForum