Surrender In Baluchistan

By Malik Siraj Akbar

During his recent visit to Baluchistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan clearly surrendered before Sunni extremist groups that are responsible for the killing of around two thousand members of the Shia-Hazara community in the province during the past two decades. Instead of admitting his government’s failure to protect the Shia-Hazara, the Prime Minister immediately blamed India for these killings.

A good leader always says, “I am responsible,” while an incompetent always raises fingers toward others and blames others for their failures. Mr. Khan is doing precisely the same thing with respect to Baluchistan. Since no known official investigation was held, one wonders how he instantly reached these conclusions instead of committing to formulating a task force comprising subject matter experts to look into the issue of sectarian violence for once and all. Blaming India for everything wrong in Pakistan has become old-fashioned and nobody buys this excuse anymore except for advisors and members of the government’s mutual admiration club. The public deserves a better explanation from the government about what various law enforcement agencies have been doing about the armed networks operating in the province for so long with impunity.

Blaming India for the failure of the Pakistani law enforcement, intelligence apparatus amounts to giving a waiver to the murderers. It amounts to assuring them that the government has no plans to go after them and they can continue with their violent actions. These lame justifications also assure top officials not to worry as the government, by raising fingers on India, will bail out the Chief Minister, the police, and the intelligence chiefs. 

It is unfortunate that Baluchistan’s security forces spend the bulk of their energy, time, and resources in harassing the local people instead of going after the terrorists who have found safe sanctuary in the province. It is unfair for the government to beat about the bush instead of punishing the groups that believe it is acceptable to murder innocent citizens in the name of Islam. This cycle of madness will not end until the government takes ownership of the issues. 

The government’s job does not start soon after a terrorist attack, nor is its job only to issue statements of condemnation and assurance that such attacks will not occur in the future. The government’s responsibility is to remain in action until all these hate groups and terror outfits are completely annihilated. One crucial thing that law enforcement should do is to follow the Friday sermons and social media pages of various Sunni extremist groups that promote hatred toward the Shia-Hazra community. While hate speeches and online postings are not as dangerous as actual physical attacks, they are critical in encouraging and directing these attacks.

It is often misunderstood that only students from religious schools or people with conservative religious beliefs harbor hatred toward the Shias and the Hazaras. 

Some reports, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicate that bias toward the community in Quetta run deep even among educated people in the Baluchistan administration. 

This attitude has elegantly been documented by Sajjad Hussain Changezi of the University of North Carolina in his Dawn article of March 29, 2020.

He pointed out that on March 12, a notification from the office of the Inspector General of the Baluchistan Police categorically mentioned: “staff … belong(ing) to the Hazara tribe” being sent home on suspicion that they were carriers of the coronavirus. “This notification was issued when no Hazara employee had tested positive. Such pathetic governance decisions triggered official panic and the Water and Sanitation Authority was the next government organ to issue an even more explicit notification, forbidding the movement of its employees to or out of Hazara neighborhoods,” he wrote.

Now somebody has to educate the Prime Minister that the Indians cannot inculcate such hatred and biases in the minds of the residents of Quetta. This is homegrown and the government should commit to addressing the root causes of this hatred and violence. 

Anti-Shia sentiments have been on the rise outside Baluchistan as well but Baluchistan witnesses the most violent expression of these sentiments. 

Experts keep debating whether these attacks take place because of the victims’ ethnicity or their religious belief. It should not be the primary focus of the debate at this time as it might be distracting us from the actual issue. The time right now requires a strategy to end these repeated attacks, dismantle the networks, and punish those responsible for this violence. The people of Baluchistan must not be the scapegoat in this India-Pakistan politics. All the Hazaras deserve is a practical and timely action plan from the government. The country urgently needs a leader who says, “I am responsible” for protecting my people instead of blaming others.

The writer is the editor of The Baluch Hal

Categories: News & Analysis

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