Sectarianism: A threat to secular Balochistan
By Malik Siraj Akbar
It is very unfortunate that the Baloch and Pashtun populations living in Balochistan have never taken sectarianism as a major threat faced by Balochistan. The reason for this indifferent attitude is unambiguous as both Balochs and Pashtuns follow Sunni sect of Islam. Therefore, they have hardly lost any precious lives in what has become a two-decade old war of sectarianism being fought in the streets of Quetta. Worst still, no Chief Minister of Governor of Balochistan ever prioritized this alarmingly increasing trend as a concerning issue to be addressed at once at the official level. Hence, today sectarian violence has emerged as the monster of all times for Balochistan, mainly its capital city, Quetta, and its neighboring districts.
In a fresh appalling case of sectarian killings, two boys belonging to the Hazara-Shia community of Quetta were target killed in Pir Ghaib area of Bolan district in the neighborhood of Quetta city. The shootings in Bolan also left two other persons injured who were also a part of the same group that that gone to Bolan to have picnic after the Eid, a very popular and widespread trend among the youth of Balochistan.
This particular case of target killing merits attention for the reason that it highlights the aggressive approach of the religious fanatics who are determined to leave no stone unturned to kill the members of the Shia sect. As the law of the land fails to apprehend the masterminds of sectarian killings, gallant attackers have now even made inroads in popular picnic points too. By doing this, they remarkably succeed in the generating panic and fear among the people of the Hazara-Shia communities. They want to restrict the movement of Shia community and force them to stop sending their children to go to schools, playgrounds or picnic points.
Over the past many years, Quetta has witnessed extremely horrible cases of sectarian killings which claimed lives of hundreds of people belonging to the Hazara (majority of the Hazaras are Shia) and Shia (all Shias are not Hazara) communities. Year 2009 has seen the resurgence of target killings on the sectarian basis. This cycle of target killing has not been confined to the clerics of the opposite sect only. The religious hooligans have also murdered very progressive and democratic professionals such as Hussain Ali Yousafi, the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP).
The police department has utterly failed to bring the masterminds of sectarianism to book. After all, it is no skeleton in cupboard that sectarianism was patronized and promoted as an unfortunate state policy during the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. Similarly, there is no question about the sectarian groups operating without some covert assistance from influential quarters in power.
In spite of mistreatment, the Hazaras as well as the Shias have exhibited unmatched patience while responding to these cases of target killings. They never resorted to violence despite instigations from certain sections of society that offered them weapons and all other support to take revenge. The Hazara Democratic Party has been a vocal detractor of the country’s military establishment and its policies in Balochistan. The Hazaras have time and again publicly condemned the target killing of Baloch leadership, disappearance of the Baloch political workers and the operation in Baloch areas.
It is indeed true that in a city like Quetta all major ethnic communities remain a permanent state of stiff competition. In what seems like a cold war, ethnic communities in such societies view the others as a “threat” to their demography and representation in different government departments. Attainment of new job and promotion to a higher rank is often analyzed on the ethnic lines. Thus, there has been a love and hate relationship between different ethnic communities in Balochistan.
Nevertheless, growing sectarianism should give a wake-up call to Baloch nationalists. It is sad but true at the same time that majority of the young men who are operating for these sectarian groups, like the Lashkar-e-Jhanggi, belong to Bravi speaking Baloch families. While the Baloch nationalist movement has always been secular, progressive and inclined towards Marxism, increasing radicalization of the Baloch youth should caution the Baloch nationalist leaders. This could cause an irreparable damage to the whole Baloch nationalist movement.
True, sectarianism is the headache of Quetta’s Hazaras and Shias for the time being. But Balochs cannot overlook the matter that simply and naively. They should take a leaf out of Pashutns’ book where Taliban and religious fanatics ruined the progressive Pashtun society. Once underestimated, the Pashtun mullah has today pointed his guns towards the secular Pashtun nationalist leaders, creative artists and liberal intellectuals. Hence, the Baloch children killing Hazaras on the name of religion could one day turn out to be the “Baloch-Taliban”. Then, their prime target would no longer be the Hazara but the “communist-secular-Kafir Baloch”. That is the gruesome lesson history teaches us.
We recommend all the progressive people of Balochistan to join hands not only to express solidarity with the victims of sectarian killings but also to reach consensus that sectarianism and religious extremism area serious threats that are bent upon eradicating the roots of progressive Baloch, Pashtun and Hazara cultures. This is a scourge that needs to be fought collectively for the future generations of Balochistan, the land of progressive and secular people.