21-year-old Ali Haris is a common citizen living in Quetta, longed for getting himself college education and earn generously compensated living. Instead, he quit his education after high school and feels imprisoned within the community called Hazaras. In 2013-14 going to Baluchistan University, the only state-funded university in the region would require him to travel through disturbed areas and putting his life in danger.
“At that time, around 2013-14, there was no chance that if we went there we would come back alive,” he said. He was not alone in choosing life over higher studies and better living. As per him, nearly 80% of people quit higher education for fear of losing their life unless they can afford to migrate to other cities or countries. Today those left out are doing odd jobs in the countryside.
He belongs to Hazara community, a minority Shiite sect that primarily resides in the region which falls in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. This community is chiefly targeted by the Sunni militant groups in Pakistan for their faith. Generally, it is difficult to distinguish between Sunnis and Shiites. In case of Hazara community, it is an exception as due to their distinctive facial features, which is a mixture of Mongolian and Central Asian ancestry, make them easily identifiable. Moreover, they live in two large clusters in Quetta which makes planning and execution of attacks easier. Over the last decade, hundreds of them have been killed in suicide bombings or targeted killings.
Near death experience of Hazaras
Daud Changezi who narrowly escaped describing, a massive blast that ripped through Quetta’s Alamdar road, killing more than 90 people says, “We were saved as the car took a turn just before the blast went off. Had we been a few seconds late, we would be gone”. He and his family were in the car. Today he works as a consultant for NGOs which required field work but now he has to work from home and feels stagnation in his professional growth. “I lost many friends”, he says. He adds, “One of my friends, Abdul had a mobile phone shop in the main bazaar, but he wound his business now and left the country. He has migrated to Indonesia and is now in a refugee camp” Changezi said.
Hazaras Protection or Imprisonment
After several attacks on Hazaras in 2013, a paramilitary force called the frontier corps was set up by the government. This force primarily checks people entering and exiting these areas. Thick walls and barricades are seen in the peripheral entry points. Due to these population restricting measures successful business like transport have been completely wiped out, as other areas have been designated as unsafe areas for Hazaras. This indirectly means, “We are economically strangulated. We had a lot of shops around the town. Now there are none. We had a successful transport business across town ferrying goods. Now we are limited to our own areas,” said Ahmed Ali Kohzad. Kohzad is a member of the Hazara Democratic Party and a dominant Politician of the community.
Many in the community have left jobs as it has become unsafe to travel. There are many instances where a person from the community is offered a job and they refuse is purely due to the concerns of security.
While the entire City of Quetta is multicultural in nature. Due to lack of interaction between Hazara community and others, there is no exposure and the community is imprisoned in its own sector for its own safety. The Government of Pakistan says it has taken remedial steps and the situation has significantly improved. Hazaras as of today do not have any chance of survival in their own country. They are migrating to other parts of the world outside Pakistan.
Thought for Pakistan
Is this the safe Pakistan Md Jinnah dreamt of where our own people are not safe and are massacred? Who will protect these micro-minorities? We the people of Pakistan have to sit together and think. Terrorists or Militants are snakes they bite everyone and bring a bad name to Pakistan. is it not the right time for us to change the state policy on the subject.