New Delhi: Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operations commander, was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court Friday. A warrant was also issued for the arrest of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.
The Hazara tribe of Pakistan, meanwhile, has been protesting against the massacre of 11 coal miners in Machh, Balochistan last week, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
In episode 657 of ‘Cut The Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta focuses on the hardest-hit and most oppressed victims of terror activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and how sectarianism and ethnicity have become their mortal enemies.
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Pakistan’s sectarian issue
In Pakistan, the Hazara tribe lives mostly in Balochistan while a larger population lives in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Many Hazaras have refused to bury the bodies of victims killed in Machh till Prime Minister Imran Khan visits them and guarantees punishment for the guilty. Khan had asked them to bury the bodies first. Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal had visited Machh but the people refused to bury the bodies.
In 1985, during the time of General Zia-ul-Haq, a new Sunni right-wing Deobandi supremacist organisation was set up — Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba ( soldiers of the Prophet), which later changed its name to Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) to get a better acronym for itself. In due course of time, the organisation was banned as it had begun attacking people — mostly those Muslims who they considered apostates, the Shias and Ahmadiyyas. And Hazaras are predominantly Shia Muslims.
The organisation later had an offshoot — the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, led by Riaz Basra, that carried out many assassinations in Pakistan and attacked Iranian cadets who were studying at the Pakistan Air Force academy. Basra was later killed in an encounter. In 2007, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was held responsible for the assasination of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
In 2009, it was also held responsible for the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. “They are now widely suspected to have carried out this latest massacre (of 11 coal miners in Machh),” Gupta said.
SSP was reborn as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and started associating with the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan too. In 2011, the outfit sent an open letter to the Hazaras in Balochistan, saying all Shias are not Muslims and therefore worthy of being killed. “After this there were many rounds of massacres,” Gupta said.
Data from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and other reports have suggested that almost 3,000 Hazaras have been killed in bombings, car bombings and suicide attacks so far. Nearly 50 Hazara doctors in Karachi have been assassinated, and hundreds of them forced to leave Pakistan. In 2013, nearly 700 Shias were killed.
In a suicide and car bombing attack in January 2013, 91 people died. A February bombing the same year killed 110 Hazaras. In March, two bombs went off at a Shia mosque in Karachi, killing more than 50. In June again, there was another attack in a town with a predominantly Hazara population. In February 2014, in Quetta, there was another bomb blast that killed 84 people.
In October 2017, 20 people were killed at a Hazara shrine. “This is a big contradiction in Pakistan because the establishment, government and the military doesn’t make a distinction between Shias and Sunnis,” Gupta said.
Who are the Hazaras
Hazaras are a very distinctive ethnic tribe, with Mongoloid features. “They look different and this doesn’t help them as they already have a different sect which is under attack from Sunni supremacists in Pakistan. They got into trouble on two accounts — sectarian and ethnic prejudices,” Gupta said.
The word ‘Hazara’ or ‘Hazarajat’ (a large area in the central highlands of Afghanistan where most of them live) is not very ancient. The first mention of the word ‘Hazarajat’ was in the Babarnama.
Ibn Battuta, a Morrocan traveller, who had travelled to the region in the early 14th century doesn’t mention Hazaras or Hazarajat. “So the presumption is, it evolved from the Mongolian armies, or Ghengiz Khan’s concept of a thousand strong formation of their armies, known as a battalion now,” Gupta added.
In Afghanistan, their population is between 40-50 lakh. A million of them live in Pakistan, including as refugees from Afghanistan.
“Hazaras are similar to the Kurds and Armenians, both in terms of their geographical location, their issues and the cruelties they have suffered in the last 100 years,” Gupta said.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Hazaras of Afghanistan had suffered massive massacres, after which a lot of them migrated to Pakistan, mostly areas in Balochistan and Iran.
In 1933, Abdul Khaliq Hazara assassinated King Nadir Khan in Afghanistan that led to another massacre of the tribe. “Since 1993 again, the reprisals and attacks against the Hazaras started because Sunni groups dominated both Taliban and Al Qaeda,” Gupta said.
The last major killing of the Hazaras was in Bamyan, Afghanistan, in which 20-25 Hazaras had died.
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