Monthly Archives: June 2012

A rebuttal of Surat Khan Marri on the Hazaras

Editor’s Note: This article was published in Daily Times on June 30, 2012.


A rebuttal of Surat Khan Marri on the Hazaras


The latest and one of the most malicious ones happens to be, albeit surprisingly, by a Baloch writer whose own community has been a target of severe state repression for many decades.


Mr Surat Khan Marri’s article published in Daily Times on June 23, 2012, is not only filled with factual distortions but also indicates a jaundiced view of the Hazaras. Every word and every line of the article shows the author’s hatred towards the Hazaras of Balochistan who have been at the receiving end of some of the most gruesome attacks since 1999. Almost 850 members of the community have lost their lives in a series of ambushes by terrorist outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The mainstream media either has been silent over the genocide of the Hazaras throughout this era or has even blamed the victims for the crimes of the culprits. The latest and one of the most malicious ones happens to be, albeit surprisingly, by a Baloch writer whose own community has been a target of severe state repression for many decades.

The article caused a huge outrage amongst the Hazaras — an already persecuted community. The author, firstly, confidently claims, “The Hazara community may claim to be descendants of the Great Khan of the Mongols.”

According to a renowned Afghan author and historian, Abdul Hai Habibi, Hazaras are the oldest inhabitants of central Afghanistan, known as Hazarajat; a great deal of historical evidence has proved that they were dwelling in the southern parts of the Hindukush Mountains around 1,500 years before the Mongol invasion of Afghanistan. Somebody aware of Afghan history knows that the very same people killed Genghis Khan’s grandson, Mutugen, during a battle in Bamiyan. Another famous Afghan historian, Syed Askar Mosvi, concludes in his book, The Hazaras of Afghanistan that historical and archeological evidence available in the ancient city of Bamiyan suggests that the Hazaras were living in the central highlands of Afghanistan as early as 2,300 years ago. In addition, a Chinese traveller, Tauchaun, wrote about people similar to the Chinese in Hazarajat called ‘Hozora’ in June 644 AD. Only the blind can ignore the similarities in the facial features of the Hazaras and those of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

Mr Marri adds, “In their recent abode, Afghanistan, they are considered and treated as of low caste, compelled to work as sweepers and clean latrines.” The Hazaras’ homeland, Hazarajat, was an independent territory until the late 19th century when the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman Khan, invaded it by declaring jihad against the Hazaras after failing to defeat them with his regular army. The Hazaras were subjected to prejudice, suppression and persecution by the Afghan rulers out of enmity and rivalry, but never as “low caste sweepers and latrine cleaners”.

Meanwhile Mr Marri claims, “In Afghanistan, they (Hazaras) are half a million but in Afghan challenges or wars….the Hazara community in Afghanistan has no role.”

Hazaras make up 19 percent of the Afghan population (official figure), which means almost eight million people, while the Hazaras claim to constitute at least 25 percent of the country’s population. More than 60 members of parliament are Hazaras. Karim Khalili, the second vice-president, is also a Hazara. Their candidate stands third in every presidential election.

Mr Marri further adds, “About a century and a half ago, a large number of Hazara boys and girls were kidnapped, brought to Baloch areas and sold as slaves.”

Such a shameful assertion! For the author’s information, the 106th Hazara Pioneers were among the first group of Hazaras who migrated to Quetta and were directly recruited in the British army due to their superb capabilities, extraordinary skills and bravery.

“The Pakistan army started recruiting a large number of Balochistan-based Hazaras, some of whom rose to the rank of general — General Musa being one example,” Mr Marri writes.

General Musa was recruited by the Indian army long before partition and not by the Pakistan army. It was he who, in fact, developed the Pakistan army with devotion and care, and served the people of Pakistan sincerely without any intention to rule the masses, unlike his colleagues.

The columnist claims: “Wherever a Hazara officer was posted, he recruited more people in the services from his community, creating heartburn in the local Baloch and Pashtun. When General Musa, after retirement as commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army became the governor of West Pakistan, he declared the Hazaras as a local tribe of Balochistan through an ordinance. It meant that anybody crossing the Afghan border automatically becomes a local of Balochistan.”

The author may not be able to provide a single instance of such favouritism and substantiate such an allegation. In fact, it is the Hazaras who have been marginalised. A report recently published by the Minority Support Pakistan states: “Today, the public workforce of Balochistan is approximately 95 percent non-Hazara, almost all Baloch and Pashtun. According to statistics compiled from the Balochistan Public Service Commission, Hazara today still score on average two to three hundred points higher on civil service and university entrance exams than do their Baloch and Pashtun counterparts. Yet their total share of civil service positions has fallen from a high of 50 percent in 1971 to less than five percent in 2012.”

Moreover, General Musa Khan became the governor of West Pakistan on September 18, 1966, while the Hazaras (together with Pashtun tribes such as the Durrani, Yousufzai, Ghilzai) were declared as local tribes of Balochistan on May 10, 1962. A sane mind would never accept that an ordinance would say, “anybody crossing the Afghan border automatically becomes a local of Balochistan.” 

The writer continues, “Another factor of Iranian patronage to the Hazaras created more anguish to local Baloch-Pashtun bad feelings. Through Iran’s financial help, the Hazaras were dominating business in Quetta city. They also annoyed Baloch nationalist political workers when they started buying lands in Baloch areas on a large scale.”

This paragraph explains why the Hazaras are being targeted almost on a daily basis. False allegations of “Iranian patronage to the Hazaras” and “Iran’s financial help” are among the top excuses of the planners of the Hazara genocide. Narrating such false accusations on behalf of Baloch nationalist political workers comes just a few days after the BNP’s Akhtar Mengal acknowledged and admired the positive role of Hazaras in the development of Balochistan. This is a clear attempt to spew hatred among the native citizens of this unfortunate province by fabricating a claim that, “Hazara settlements have become a no-go area for other communities.”

Mr Marri goes as far as claiming, “…the situation worsened and aggravated when Iranian pilgrims during Hajj attempted to occupy a corner of Bait-ul-Allah Sharif at Mecca. The entire Hazara community is said to have joined the Iranian Shias.”

This one is such a dangerous allegation that if it were published in a ‘civilised’ country, the author would have been sued for putting an entire community in danger.

“Generally, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) accepts responsibility for such acts, as many in the Lashkar and Sipah-e-Sahaba are local, mostly Baloch. As stated, the reaction was the result of the Hazaras’ target killing a number of Sunni ulema and pesh imams. All fingers point to Hazaras for the target killings of the Sunni ulema,” the columnist concludes.

By asserting that LeJ operatives are Baloch, the author has tried to provoke the Hazaras against the Baloch and by blaming the Hazaras for killing Sunni ulema, he has opened a new front against them. The result could be exactly what the murderers of the Hazaras and Baloch want: an escalation of ethnic/sectarian clash in Balochistan.

This article was published in Daily Times on June 30, 2012. 

Categories: Pakistan | Leave a comment

Bloodied dreams, wall of silence

WE have made this Islamic Republic such a heaven on earth that we struggle to find words, often fight over these, to describe what its proud sons are capable of.

Just two days ago, someone asked on Twitter why our Fourth Estate calls bloody attacks on the Shia-Hazaras in Quetta ‘sectarian violence’. “Isn’t it Shia genocide?” I dived into various dictionaries but couldn’t come up with a definitive answer.

Butchery, slaughter, carnage, mass murder and of course genocide have been variously used to describe such bloodlust as is being evidenced in (not just) the Balochistan capital. Your vocabulary is as good as mine.

But will finding the correct word, using the most appropriate, accurate terminology alter the bloody ground reality or render it any clearer? Not really. Then, aren’t there even more significant questions to be asked?

Such as what drives our propensity to hate so much that even a name arouses the vilest of passions. How vile? Well, vile enough for us to kill. Didn’t you hear the ‘motive’ for the killing of a KESC official in Karachi, was said to be his Shia-sounding name though in fact he wasn’t.

How did we get here? Don’t you wish you knew? All we can see is when a state thinks nothing of using an indoctrinated non-state cast for its ‘strategic objectives’ it is but a small step for some of these villainous actors to start pursuing their own ideological agenda, no matter how toxic.

And what do we do? We prioritise. In Balochistan, our first priority is to tackle those who are ‘threatening the integrity of the state at the behest of their foreign masters’. These ‘misguided’ militants can be dealt with later if at all, even brought back on the rails as they are patriotic.

We are defending the country against external threats. All else must be secondary. One day the citadel of Islam will become that for certain. What’s the worry if for now it resembles no more than a slaughterhouse soaked in the blood of its innocent sons and daughters?

When you see the daily relentless slaughter of the Shia-Hazaras in Quetta (frankly, it’s pointless to keep count when you know it’ll need to be updated every 24 hours if not sooner) and similar hatred at work elsewhere from Chilas to Karachi, what do you do?

Well, many Shia-Hazaras say the electronic media, in particular, prefers to shut its eyes or just look away rather than acknowledge the horror. Perhaps they are right. Religious fanaticism that drives people to mass murder isn’t half as sexy as politicians tearing each other limb from limb on live telly.

Everyone is stepping over each other to please the latest centre of power in the country, the esteemed black-robed judges. The military and its intelligence apparatus continue to sell with, dare I say, consummate ease its national security threat perspective to journalists.

It may itself be under siege but even a government that has failed at almost everything except delivering on a hearty legislative agenda still has enough ideological support or the means to buy a voice or two that counts in its favour.

But who’ll march for the Shia-Hazaras, they ask. They have little hope in a decadent government whose chief executive is either so disinterested or feels so powerless that his detractors now count the number of days he is able to spend in the province he represents each month.

He prefers the handlebars of his Harley Davidson to ride around the federal capital and entertain himself rather than demonstrate the steel required to steer his troubled, torn province to safety as he was elected to do. Sincere apologies if such reports are mere propaganda.

What isn’t propaganda is that (given the size of the community) a disproportionately large number of Shia-Hazaras have been killed in and around Quetta. This happened not as they planned or executed acts of aggression against anyone. Their crime: being easily identifiable as Shia-Hazaras.

You haven’t heard many Hazara voices, have you? Here is one. Saleem Javed is a doctor of medicine and a blogger who tweets @msaleemjaved. In his own words, he so effectively articulates how it was and is for his community.

“Being a Hazara was a matter of pride. We grew up with dreams to take part in Pakistan’s development with devotion and sincerity as our forefathers did. Be it in the field of education, sports, politics or defence. We were glad as everybody thought we were successful in achieving our goals.

“But things have changed greatly since 1999. We feel being subjected to persecution, prejudice and discrimination almost on a daily basis. We feel as if there is always somebody mapping out a plan to attack us?

“You feel as if the state of Pakistan has totally abandoned you. As if the security forces are facilitating your murderers. As if the media is mocking your death. As if the human rights organisations are turning a blind eye on your genocide. And worst of all, as if your fellow countrymen are celebrating your death.

“As a Hazara you are afraid of a policeman, afraid of any armed man. We don’t even trust the Pakistan Army, top judiciary … almost nobody. Because nobody has ever heard your voice over the last 13 years. You are afraid of going to university because somebody is lying in wait to kill you.

“You can’t even escape. You need a passport for that. But you feel you’ll be murdered if you go to the passport office. You can’t go to any office for that matter because you will be identified, chased and finally shot in the head.

“You feel that even your neighbours are annoyed by your screaming and want you to stop shouting.”

Don’t let your fears about your neighbours stop you, my good friend. Or we’ll be left with no hope at all.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


Categories: In The Media | Leave a comment

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