From the Newspaper | Mahvish Ahmad |
ISLAMABAD, April 28: The state has consistently marginalised and suppressed Balochistan – causing widespread violence. The most effective way they have promoted this violence, is through a “divide and rule policy”, said Alia Amirali of the National Students Federation (NSF) here on Saturday.
The Hazara Students Federation (HSF) and the NSF co-hosted a seminar at the National Press Club to explore reasons and causes behind continued targeted killings of the Hazara people in Balochistan.
A panel consisting of Alia Amirali, Sajjad Changezi of the HSF, and security analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqa spent three hours presenting a history of the Hazaras and Balochistan, and an analysis of the drivers behind the province’s excessive levels of violence.
“There is an attempt to pit the Hazara against the Baloch. They try to tell us that it is a Rind, or people from Mastung, who have targeted us. They attempt to pin the blame on the Baloch. But we have always known that it is not the Baloch that are behind these killings,” says Changezi.
“The same goes for relations between the Pashtun and Baloch. The Frontier Corps (FC) is behind the killings of the Baloch in the province. If you look at that dynamic closely, you will notice that Pashtuns dominate the ranks of the FC,” Amirali continued.
“Hazara killings have been framed as an example of ‘sectarian violence’. We think this sort of framing is unfortunate, because it fails to appreciate the link between the broader violence that is being inflicted on Balochistan, and the killings of the Hazara people,” Amirali said.
At the seminar, Changezi lamented the limited interest in, and knowledge about, the Hazara people.
“I have had journalists approach me, to ask whether we’re really interested in a separate province. We are not the same Hazaras as the ones in the north, who are asking for a Hazara province. It is appalling that our media can’t tell the difference,” said Changezi.
“Some also link us to Iran, just because we are Shia. It is these sorts of misconceptions that create an environment, where Hazara families receive letters from Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, telling us to leave Quetta before 2012. They think we’re here to bring about some sort of Shia revolution. This is completely and utterly untrue,” Changezi explains.
Changezi explained that the Hazara people came to Quetta from Afghanistan, where persecution of the Hazaras at the end of the 1800s forced them to migrate to neighbouring countries. The Hazaras refused to recognise the reigning Amir. In retaliation, the Amir massacred more than 60 per cent of the Hazaras in the area.
“When we moved to Quetta, we were welcomed. I am proud to have grown up there,” Changezi said.
“But now, our 500,000 strong community is threatened by violence. As many as 700 people have been killed in these areas. This is a case of one-sided violence, because the Hazaras have never supported any militant group. There is talk of a systematic genocide,” Changezi concluded.
During the seminar, a group of journalists criticised the organisers for pinning the blame on the security forces.
“You are shaming our troops,” the journalists said.
To back up their argument, they pointed to a poster hanging on the wall saying, Yeh jo dahshatgardi hai, is ke peeche vardi hai (There is a uniform behind every act of terrorism)”.
Their accusations incensed some visitors, who threw their fists into the air before they repeated, and shouted out the very slogan, that the journalists had criticised.
“Listen, we have to call a spade, a spade,” Changezi replied.
“It is difficult to ignore the role of the state, and the security forces, in this spate of violence,” said Changezi. According to Changezi, the continued violence indicates that the state has either failed to protect its citizens, or is complicit in the violence.
‘Hazaras not treated as human, Muslim or Pakistani’ Dr Siddiqa, the last speaker, started out with clasping her palms.
“I want to use this opportunity to ask the Hazara people for your forgiveness. We, the civil society that many of you talk about, and appreciate for our so-called support, have done nothing. We stay in our homes, and do nothing,” Dr Siddiqa said.“I am a human, a Muslim and a Pakistani. This state takes away your right to call yourselves this. Because for this state, the assets in Balochistan are more important than the people,” said Dr Siddiqa.
She went on to explain that the state was fighting a war for Balochistan’s riches, failing to pursue a people-centric policy in the province.
“The people of Balochistan are not treated as a part of Pakistan,” Dr Siddiqa concluded, before the HSF and NSF held a protest and raised slogans in support of the Hazara people outside the press club.