The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose multiple-homicide leader was released this year from a prison in Lahore has killed another 14 Hazara Shia citizens in a bus carrying 50 passengers on its way from Taftan, a border town between Iran and Pakistan. This is the third time since last year that pilgrims to Iran have been killed, to say nothing of the random extermination of the community that began in the 1990s, when the Hazaras of Quetta started being targeted by terrorists affiliated with the al Qaeda. This has gone on in parallel with attacks on the Shia community in the Kurram Agency, Gilgit-Baltistan and some cities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa bordering Fata.
Adding to the shame for Pakistan, a large number of Pakistanis have added themselves to the ‘boat people’ of Southeast Asia, trying to enter Australia illegally. A boat capsize has taken the lives of scores of them, all hailing from the areas that have been subjected to sectarian strife where Shias have been targeted. A bulk of them belonged to Kurram Agency because Pakistani routes were closed to them and they couldn’t go home from Peshawar if they wanted to. The scourge of al Qaeda and its henchmen, funded by private citizens from Arab states, has decided to put to an end to a community that the state of Pakistan cannot protect.
Hazara websites tell the gory tale and appeal to the state to protect the community. Every month, a shocking 60 Hazaras are killed in Quetta, which has the dubious reputation of being home to the infamous Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar. Quetta has a sizeable population of widows and orphans telling the sorry tale of Islamabad’s distraction with enemies it can’t defeat, its military commentators and retired diplomats daily telling the nation how to stand up to the anti-Pakistan triad of America, India and Israel. Over the last half-decade, 50,000 Hazaras have left Balochistan for other countries, some of them dying on the way.
The Baloch in Balochistan are up in arms in revenge for their ‘disappeared’ relatives and are taking it out on innocent non-Baloch inhabitants through their rebel groups, blowing up pipelines and killing people inside Quetta to remind Islamabad that it is off-target when it says India is doing it; and the army is wrongly focused when it goes after terrorists calling them Indian and American agents. The al Qaeda enjoys the direct allegiance of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jandullah and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Indirectly, it enjoys a meeting of the minds with the organisations busy agitating against America in the shape of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council. The nation does not know what is going on because of the ‘linguistic divide’ in the media: the Urdu media has still to recognise basic facts and will not name terrorist organisations, while TV anchors shrink from the truth for fear of being killed.
All these killers will be needed soon in Afghanistan when the next war for ‘strategic depth’ is fought. Because they are the jihadis that will fight for Pakistan, they are allowed the franchise in Pakistan of exterminating their ideological enemies. The Pakistani state doesn’t seem care if Christians are targeted through the blasphemy law and if the Ahmadi community is persecuted against. It is still somewhat upset over what is happening to the Shia community. But the grooves of habit formed by the impunity of persecution of the other minority communities are fast paving the way for the next bloodletting.
The Pakistani state faces defeat if it fights the next war in Afghanistan through its non-state actors. It is a grave blunder to let these non-state actors go about their killing ways as a kind of dishonourable price for defeating another superpower in Afghanistan. This time, these non-state actors are going to face another kind of Afghanistan, better equipped to fight our marauders. Pakistan should brace itself for the flood of Pakhtun-Afghan refugees after 2014, and should remember that every time we try to win victories in Afghanistan, half the Pakhtun nation of that country arrives in Pakistan as refugees. The war to fight is the war inside Pakistan — with the help of the outside world we are being taught to hate.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2012.