Yesterday, our own Ahmad Shuja was a guest on Al Jazeera’s The Stream, where he discussed the violent persecution of the Hazaras, an ethnic and religious –Shia– minority group in Pakistan.
The Hazara people, who originate from Afghanistan and historically formed an ethnic underclass in that country, have lived peacefully in neighboring Pakistan for centuries. But over the past decade, at least 500 Hazara civilians have been killed and hundreds more have been injured in targeted ethno-sectarian attacks the city of Quetta. The violence has trapped one of South Asia’s most vulnerable populations between the conflict and uncertainty in Afghanistan and the growing anti-Shia movement in Pakistan, a country many Hazaras previously considered a safe haven.
Pakistani militant groups and extremist political parties have openly called for the expulsion of the Hazaras and other non-Sunni minorities from Pakistan, and have even set “deadlines” for Quetta’s half million Hazaras to leave or face extermination. Over the past year alone, dozens of Hazaras have been killed. Anti-Shia militants have targeted members of the group in suicide bombings, rocket attacks, assassination campaigns, and execution-style massacres of whole groups of laborers traveling on buses.
Since the violence began escalating, the Pakistani authorities have refused to take measures to protect the embattled minority and some officials have even suggested that the Hazaras are kicking up a fuss over nothing. After 47 Hazaras were killed in an attack on a bus last year, the Chief Minister of Baluchistan, where Quetta is located, told the local press that Quetta’s Hazaras were shedding “sorry tears” and joked that his response to the massacre would be to send a “truckload of tissues” to the victims’ families.
On The Stream, host Imran Garda spoke with Ahmad and two Hazara political leaders in Pakistan about the humanitarian toll the violence has taken on the Hazara community and what Pakistan’s Hazaras want from the government that has so far ignored their pleas for protection.