By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
April 13, 2019
The onslaught against the Hazara Shias in
Balochistan by Islamist terrorists remains unabated. At least 20 persons,
including two children and one Frontier Corps (FC) trooper, were killed and 48
persons, including four FC personnel, sustained injuries, in a suicide attack
at the Hazarganji vegetable market of Quetta, the provincial capital of
Balochistan, in the morning of April 12, 2019. Nine of those killed were
members of the Hazara community. Qari Hussain Force, an affiliate of the
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack.
The target of the attack was the Hazara
Shias, as the Hazarganji area is dominated by the community and has witnessed
similar attacks in the past as well. Hazara shopkeepers are provided a security
escort to and from Hazarganji, since they are constantly under threat of
Partial data compiled by the South Asia
Terrorism Portal (SATP) indicates that at least 715 Hazara Shias have been
killed between 2001 and 2019 (data till April 12, 2019). While only two Hazara
Shias were killed through 2018, the number stood at 18 in 2017, seven in 2016,
20 in 2015, 18 in 2014, 234 in 2013, 98 in 2012, 95 in 2011, 70 in 2010, 13 in
2009, nine 2008, one 2007, and none in 2006 and 2005. In 2004, however, 42 Hazara
Shias were killed; another 60 were killed in 2003; none in 2002; and eight in
These numbers seem to be gross
underestimation as a report released by National Commission for Human Rights
(NCHR) on March 19, 2018, stated that 509 members of the Hazara community were
killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta during the
preceding five years. The NCHR report titled "Understanding the Agonies of
Ethnic Hazaraz" lists the incidents of attacks on the community from
January 2012 to December 2017, based on the data shared by the Balochistan Home
Department. Narrating heartbreaking details about the plight of the Hazaras,
NCHR official Fazeela Alyani emphasized, "All these precious lives were
lost only in Quetta city." Many Hazaras are settled in Quetta, an
estimated population of over 800,000, in close proximity to the Cantonment
area, owing to their employment in the Army.
An October 22, 2017, report, quoting Hazara
community members and elders, claimed that approximately 70,000 Hazaras have
left the country to escape relentless persecution. At least 50,000 Hazaras have
gone to settle in Australia, around 8,000 are stuck in Indonesia, while around
10,000 of them have gone to Europe. There are also those who have migrated to
other cities of the country, since Quetta was no longer safe.
Indeed, SATP data shows that most of the
Hazara Shias have been killed in Northern Balochistan, especially in the areas
around Quetta. It is useful to recall that North Balochistan is afflicted by
Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS, also Daesh), TTP and
Hazaras, who follow the tenets of Shia
Islam, have a longstanding history of being subjected to sectarian violence by
the TTP and other Sunni extremist groups in Balochistan.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP),
Akhlaq Ullah Tarar, who was posted in Balochistan, in a column in Dawn, on
November 12, 2018, catagorised the wave of Hazara killings in three phases:
first, with the radical Sunni propaganda that began during the regime of Gen.
Ziaul Haq to counter the Soviet invasion. This radicalism sowed the seed of
bigotry and fanaticism. The first message calling the Shia community ‘kafir’
was pasted on the walls of Quetta in 1981. The second phase is when the killings
began, when Hazaras were specifically and premeditatedly targeted for attack.
On October 5, 1999, the provincial education minister Sardar Nisar Ali Hazara
was attacked along with his driver and bodyguard and shot at point-blank range.
Though the minister survived the attack, it marked the beginning of a targeted
killing spree against Hazaras, particularly high-profile members of the
community. Doctors, engineers, bankers, businessmen and state functionaries
alike were selected, attacked and killed.
The third phase is when the indiscriminate killings — i.e. the mass
murder — of members of the Hazara community began.
The unabated persecution of the Hazara Shia
community, with the state failing to take any visible action, underlines the
reality that there is no place for religious minorities in Pakistan.
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty is a Research Associate, Institute for Conflict
South Asia Terrorism Portal