Hazara Persecution in Balochistan

According to Shia Hazara, there is too much discrimination against them to have a future in Pakistan.

hazara-shia-pakistan-balochistanThe recent spate of violence targeting the minority Hazara, Shia by sect, has left the community of about 500,000 people fearing for their safety in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province in southwestern Pakistan.

According to locals over 1,000 Hazara have been gunned down in and around Quetta from the last 10 years. In the most recent incidents, in June at least 24 people were killed when gunmen stormed a hotel and opened fire indiscriminately in an outskirt area of Quetta.

On the other hand widespread fear of harassment, discrimination and killings has prompted some Hazara community members living in Quetta to consider leaving the country, even through illegal means. With detail reports available approximately 30,000 Hazara have fled in the last five years. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an extremist group with links to al-Qaeda is allegedly behind the threats and assault as well as several other targeted attacks on Shias – particularly Hazara Shias – in Balochistan.

It is worth mentioning here that extremist Sunni Muslims and a particular mind set in Pakistan continue to treat Shia Muslims as non-Muslims declaring them as kafir ( A derogatory, blasphemous term for those who don’t believe in Allah and his last prophet Muhammad). Under this discriminatory system, a large number of Shia Muslims particularly those belonging to Hazara community in Pakistan’s Southwestern province of Balochistan are forbidden from traveling, studying and working.

According to Shia Hazara, there is too much discrimination against them to have a future in Pakistan. Meanwhile security institutions in Balochistan moved following operation Zarb-a-Azb in the North Waziristan and security was tightened at Hazara Town and Marriabad. During the Muslim festival Eid the security of mosques and other Islamic institutions and public buildings where the members of Hazara community are settled was strictly monitored following attacks on Zairin in Taftan hotels and Karachi International Airport.

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The Hazara want the government to act against those targeting them on the basis of sect and ethnicity and insist urgent steps are taken to end the persecution. According to Hazara leaders they are being targeted on account of “both ethnic and sectarian grounds” by extremist groups – mainly the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba.

Moreover, the Hazara are also concerned about further persecution if the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan.

Shah Meer completed a master’s in International Relations from the National University of Modern Languages and Sciences, Islamabad and is an active human rights activist.