By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Hunger striking Hazaras of Quetta have called off their protest following the condolence visit of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The Army Chief promised the victims and the Hazara community punishment to the murderers soonest. And much more accept the stars.
However, Hazara community members victims of repeated violence in Quetta do not seem to be satisfied over the assurances as every time when Hazaras are killed authorities promise them moon, none of the well identified extremist groups is arrested or punished. When I asked a Hazara in London why they wanted the army to do something substantive to ameliorate their deep pain and recurring anguish that is inflicted on them in the provincial capital and Headquarter of Army’s Southern Command time and again with impunity by the religious extremists who strike at will and get away with it as if they have a carte blanche to carry out their well-calculated and designated strikes.
The demand of the hunger striking leader-lawyer and activist Jalila Haider, who along with other affected Hazaras set up their hunger strike camp outside Quetta Press Club was not very unreasonable keeping in view the magnitude and recurrence of killings in the garrison town of Quetta. Ms Haider said that she and her colleagues won’t give up their hunger strike until the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visits their camp, gives a patient hearing to their grievances and gives them a pledge to bring the killers to justice and provide a foolproof protective security dragnet to the Hazaras of Quetta.
In war against terror and in the absence of an effective Prime Minister and civil government or provincial administration, General Bajwa has established his credentials as the man of action. His ISPR also keeps tweeting complete annihilation of safe havens and terrorist camps including the presence of Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura. If the hunger striking leader Ms Haider wanted Gen Qamar Bajwa to visit and console with the thousands of widows and orphaned children left by the killing of Hazaras in Pakistan over the past two decades – there was some justification in it since Quetta and province of Balochistan since ages is under total control of the Army’s Southern Command.
And the recurring attacks on Hazaras and other minorities seems to give the impression that there is method in the madness for perpetuating uncertainty in the province so that status quo is maintained undermining the civil authority. Could there be a more severe indictment of the law enforcers and intelligences then the fact that in the recent months, at least 30 Hazaras have been gunned down in Quetta alone with police having failed to arrest any suspect. Obviously it gives reason to suspect strange sort of partnership between the terrorists and law-enforcers. It is easier to target Shia Hazara community members since they have Mongol facial features and can be identified as distinctly different than the Balochis and Pakhtuns. Incidentally Hazaras are a very progressive, enlightened, highly educated and tolerant community contributing their best to various walks of national life with much bigger share in the armed forces.
According to the report by the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) released some months back 509 Hazaras were killed in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta in the last five years. In the tear jerking details regarding unredeemable plight and sufferings of the Hazara community members – victims of religious extremism – NCHR official Fazeela Alyani revealed that most lives were lost only in Quetta city forcing the Shia to migrate. However, the figures quoted by NCHR are challenged by the regional head of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) who places the figure much higher than what was being quoted by NCHR. “More than 200 Hazaras were killed only in two suicide attacks in this period,” Bostan Ali Kishmand, leader of HDP said. Independent reports say that targeted killings, suicide attacks, and bomb blasts have caused serious socio-economic consequences to daily life of Hazaras, their children’s education and businesses.
By this time – one hopes – General Bajwa must have conceded to visit the Hazara Hunger strikers camp just a small gesture of sympathy to the orphaned children and widows. Since the Hazara community has reasons to have hope in him and would not like his visit to be a cosmetic one – he must roll some heads among the top law enforcers enjoying absolute power in the province to make them accountable for their successful record of abject failures.
From the days of the British Raj Quetta was groomed to be a garrison town. Over the years its population has swelled to over a million plus and mostly city is fortified due to it being regularly under the control of military and subject to its interventions since after the parturition and its ascension with Pakistan. The peaceful character of the city was destroyed during the regimes of General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf who allowed terrorists safe havens, Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura to carry out their terrorist activities as part of their doctrine of strategic depth as well hoping to convert Afghanistan as Pakistan’s fifth province. Both the Generals compromised national security, country’s sovereignty and put to shred the writ of the state by allowing entry into Pakistan thousands of Arabs, Chechens, Uzbek and Uyghur terrorists into the tribal areas to fight the American jihad. Peaceful Madaris were allowed to be converted into training camps to produce militants to wage proxy wars. General Pervez Musharraf even to this day supports of LeJ and his hero is Hafiz Saeed. The TTP and IS who target Hazaras, Christians and security forces in Balochistan are the offshoots of the monsters raised by the two generals.
Time and again opinion makers have called upon the powers that be to make the intelligence agencies and law enforcers accountable and more result oriented with no space to get away by putting the entire blame on external forces. Let there be formal burial of the so-called National Action Plan (NAP) that has been neither here nor there in production of results.
When I was looking into the saved record of killings in Quetta, I was shocked to note that the city has been attacked by religious terrorists month after month without any break. The terrorists are not just ill-organised marauders. Most certainly not! They carry out planned attacks and hit the right targets chosen by them that include vulnerable religious minorities and the usually relaxing law enforcers. Their success in hitting both the targets at will shows their professional skills and failure of defenders to either protect the population or their personnel.
So far – one regrets to note – as observed by others as well – that terrorists have outpaced the security agencies and personnel causing dismay and helplessness among the people who are fed up with the increasing number of killings in Quetta. Though some critics in the West call it ethnic and sectarian cleansing, it is good to know that minorities still have faith in the white in Pakistan’s national flag.
(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)