Quitting Quetta: Abductions spark exodus of Balochistan’s Hindus

Published: March 4, 2012

Officials say kidnappings for ransom have increased during the last four years.

KARACHI: 

Over 50 members of the Hindu community across Balochistan have been kidnapped in the last four years, compared to seven instances of kidnapping during former president Pervez Musharraf’s nine years, said Basant Lal Gulshan, the human rights and minorities affairs minister for Balochistan.

“Among those are two assistants from my own pharmacy, abducted two days ago,” the minister said.

The alarming rise in kidnapping of Hindus across the province was confirmed by Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Out of a total of 72 people kidnapped in the past few months, 24 were Hindus, Lehri said.

Of them, 21 have been either released or recovered through the efforts of the community itself, he added.

The chief secretary admitted that the incidence of kidnapping has increased under the present government, compared to the Musharraf era.

Over the edge

Why this particular community though?

Because it is perceived to be financially well-off but weak, said Gulshan.

Settled Hindus are mostly traders and businessmen, and the community comprises two-thirds of the province’s total minorities’ population of 300,000, he said.

Most of them live in Baloch-settled districts of Sibi, Nasirabad, and Bhag and Dhadar in Bolan district, added Lehri. He put the total community’s number at 45,000 though.

Most of the kidnappings, however, take place in Kalat which is home to a major Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Kali, said the chief secretary.

Those abducted are then taken to neighbouring Khuzdar, a tribal district bordering Sindh, which has limited police presence, he said.  The district has Levies force but they are too ill-equipped to confront kidnappers, he added.

Contrary to popular perception, the abductors are not separatists, the chief secretary maintained. These are common criminals, mostly unemployed men, who demand a high ransom for the Hindus, he added.

The constant targeting has pushed the community, quite literally, over the edge.

Around 50 Hindu families have moved from Quetta to Karachi in the last two months, said Gulshan, adding that more than 150 families across the province have moved out in the last few years. Most of them went to India on a visit visa, but have not returned, he added.

The exodus may still be reversible. Most have left their business behind under caretakers or managers, and not sold them off, Gulshan said.

Targeting others

Hindus are not the only targeted minority on their way out though.

Zoroastrians, almost negligible in the first place, no longer live in the province, said Tahir Hussain, vice chairperson for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Balochistan chapter.

The community had its share of targeting. Faridoon Abadan, a former provincial minister for minorities and owner of Quetta Distillery Ltd, was kidnapped over 10 years ago and is yet to be recovered.

His wife, Nilofer, was the first woman to be kidnapped in the province last February, but returned home after paying Rs30 million in ransom. The family is now moving out.

The targeting does not stop at religious minorities. After several high-profile targeted attacks, the Hazara community is quitting the province as well.

“Around 16,000 people from the Hazara or Persian-speaking community left Quetta last year,” Hussain said.

Their plight gained national prominence when a ferry, carrying asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, capsized off the coast of Indonesia. Around 55 young men from the Hazara community from Quetta were among those who drowned.

(With additional input from Qaiser Butt in Islamabad)

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • ZYX
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:03AM

    There is an epidemic of kidnappings and killings in Balochistan and its not just aimed at one community; there is a general breakdown of law and order in that province. Punjabis, urdu speakers, hazaras, hindus, balochis, etc…everybody has been targeted and affected, The situation in Balochistan is a grave concern, particularly because it looks like the separatist militants in collaboration with foreign hands are carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing. They aim to create this atmosphere of fear so that Pakistanis get confused, divided and fearful and start listening to voices from outside. What is more concerning is that we have no shortage of unprofessional media outfits readily misinforming the public. Why did ET hype just the hindu angle when we all know its not just hindus?! There is a consistent trend of ET misrepresenting things and showing only one side of the story in keeping with their well known biases. I think ET should re-examine its purpose for existence and its methods, the audience is not as foolish as the ideologists at ET HQ seem to think.

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  • Rehman Malik
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:12AM

    Pakistan is an Islamic country and most of them donot provide adequate rights to minorities.

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  • Akhtar
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:14AM

    One day, there will be no minorities left in Pakistan. Ahmeddiyyas, christians, Shias, Hindus are all targeted. The Baloch & other tribes are already the targets. Who’ll be left Sunnis. That’s it. Am not a Sunni, but certainly do not hold any animosity towards them. All I would say is “live & let live”. The trouble is that the constitution itself clearly…………”………… You guys know it.

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  • Vishal
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:29AM

    And I want to Ask one thing.
    Do they have right to Demand a separate homeland within Pakistan on the same basis as Pakistan was demanded and formed??
    If No,then pls send all Hindus,Sikh,Parsis,Ahmadis to India only.

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  • kamran
    Mar 4, 2012 - 11:15AM

    We just bleat of Indian atrocities while they still have 15% Muslims, the dont leave India cz they have a better life, HIndus and other Pakistani minorities have been reduce to 3% and still are leaving, wow what a state.

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  • Hussaini
    Mar 4, 2012 - 11:53AM

    not just minority, every Pakistani is not safe when it comes to these things.

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  • Mar 4, 2012 - 11:57AM

    Countries all over the World should start providing exile status to the non-Muslims of Pakistan and also Muslims of the Ahmadiya sect. </pRecommend

  • Mar 4, 2012 - 11:57AM

    Depressing..

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  • Hakeem
    Mar 4, 2012 - 12:05PM

    Mostly criminals take advantage of the unrest in Balochistan. But separatists are also involved including some provincial officials as the Governor admitted. Even one Tablighi activist who is a Baloch was kidnapped for ransom and was held by separatists…

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  • Parvez
    Mar 4, 2012 - 2:23PM

    All this happening In a country of over 180 million people called The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country trumpeting itself as an Muslim stronghold and then we cry ‘ Why does the world see us as intolerant and barbaric ‘ ….. are we blind ??? Answer is No, we are stupid and being misguided.

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  • Its (still) the Economy Stupid
    Mar 4, 2012 - 3:11PM

    It reminds me of exodus of trading Indians from Uganda. The economy and social fabric has changed for worse and Uganda fell into chaos and civil war. Its time for the civil society to ask tough questions and do intospection. WHen these people migrate they take away knowledge and traditions. Life for next generation will be boring with out them.

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  • Indian
    Mar 4, 2012 - 3:21PM

    All minorities are welcome in India . Leave Pakistan . This country will break up sooner or later .

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  • Indian
    Mar 4, 2012 - 3:35PM

    If pak govt cannot provide them security at least they should be allowed to migrate to India. Gilani & Manmohan can sort this out

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  • S Shah
    Mar 4, 2012 - 5:52PM

    As the former President Pervez Musharraf says a lot of these issues stem from poor socio-economic conditions of the country. We need the leadership in Pakistan that will deal with these issues and not just worry about filling their bank accounts. Pervez Musharraf was a man with a vision. Sad that we have individuals running the country whose only aim is to deceive and rob the nation. They have no regards for the citizens of the state. As a Pakistani born Muslim my apology to all the minorities for the ill treatment they receive in Pakistan.

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  • WB
    Mar 4, 2012 - 6:05PM

    When the elected CM lives in Islamabad and hardly ever “visits” his province what can be expected?? We as a nation need to rise up against these tyrants

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  • WB
    Mar 4, 2012 - 6:07PM

    @S Shah: You are right Mush did have a vision; but sadly his vision changed in 2006, and was then limited to only saving his skin

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  • Chilli
    Mar 4, 2012 - 6:36PM

    Baluchistan need a government with eyes and brain.

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  • Basit
    Mar 4, 2012 - 6:56PM

    this is the result of Zardari’s democracy. Good job liberals!

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  • Cynical
    Mar 5, 2012 - 12:21AM

    @ZYX

    24 of out of 72 who were kidnapped are hindus.That’s 33%. Do you think that is proportionate to the hindu population in Pakistan?
    And you try to brush it under the carpet of just a law and order problem.Shame on you.
    You are not fooling anyone, not even those who are as delusional as you.

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  • dv sikka
    Mar 5, 2012 - 3:02AM

    is the treatment given to minorities in Pakistan not a slap on the face of Jinnah. What had he promised during Lahore resolution and at the time of creation of Pakistan.

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  • Deb
    Mar 5, 2012 - 1:34PM

    @vishal

    You are spot on.It’s time to apply 2 nation theory.

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