PAKISTAN since its inception has remained target of its adversaries. Obviously country is in continuous state of facing challenges one after another. Pakistan stands successful in world community for tackling war against terrorism but still there are certain challenges and threats to its stability. Miscreants in order to bring chaos and threat to prevailing peaceful environment are always on a mission to cause damage to security apparatus of state. A few days back Hazara community living in Quetta was targeted in a bomb blast in which over 20 people were killed and 48 injured in Quetta’s Hazarganji market. According to media reports Hazaras are disproportionately targeted on the basis of sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance. Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled here since fleeing Afghanistan to escape violence in their homeland during the past four decades.
According to report of 2018 released by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) 509 members of Hazara community were killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta from January 2012 to Dec 2017 and unfortunately all incidents happened in Quetta. According to the NCHR, targeted killings, suicide attacks and bomb blasts have inflicted harm to daily life, education and business activities of ethnic Hazara community members in Balochistan’s largest city. Hazaras, who follow the tenets of Shia Islam, have a longstanding history of being subjected to sectarian violence by the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Balochistan. The main reason behind violence against Hazaras is definitely sectarian dispute.
Hazaras are more vulnerable to being attacked than others Shias, because of their typical Mongolian features which discloses their identity and hence make them easily recognisable. According to statistics issued by the United Nations, militant groups working under the backing of the different terrorist groups in Afghanistan have killed more than 1,500 Hazara Shias in Pakistan in the past decade. Continual violence perpetrated against Hazaras, in the form of suicide attacks, targeted killings and bombings, has forced them to live in restricted areas, which has further led to economic difficulties for this ethnic group. Though this time ISIS claimed responsibility of attack on Hazaras, it is also alarming that ISIS although is operating in Afghanistan but it is trying to attack religious minorities through such acts to disturb peace in Pakistan.
It is pertinent to know that the terms ethnic and ethnicity have their roots in the Greek word ethnos which describes a community of common descent. Ethnicity is defined as the belief by members of a social group that they are culturally distinctive and different to outsiders while an ‘ethnic group’ has been defined as a group that regards itself or is regarded by others as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics that will help distinguish the group from the surrounding community. Ethnicity is considered to be shared characteristics such as culture, language, religion and traditions which contribute to a person’s or group’s identity. In international politics there are certain conflicts which are based on ethnicity and hence certain ethnicities are targeted to achieve certain objectives.
Ethnic conflict is a form of conflict in which the intentions of at least one group are defined in ethnic terms and possible solutions are perceived along ethnic lines. The conflict is usually not about ethnic differences themselves but over political, economic, social, cultural, or territorial matters. Ethnic conflicts result in human rights violations and as certain identities are targeted hence one can say ethnic conflicts cause genocide and crimes against humanity. Research suggests that ethnic conflicts are caused because of economic downfall, security lapse and environmental issues or because of certain refugee influx. No doubt whatever reason behind any conflict is humanity suffers.
In the past whenever Hazara community was targeted they staged protest and demanded that state should provide them protection as they are specifically targeted because of their identity. This time they also protested via a sit-in and when Minister of State for Interior visited them for condolences and listened to their demands, they called off their sit-in protest. Speaking to Hazara community Minister Shehryar Afridi said that the Federal Government stands with the Hazara community and concrete steps will be taken to end the crimes against its members. The question is, who is it that wants to create these differences between Pakistanis? Who wants to create a situation of conflict within Pakistan? He further said that “I am saying these things and asking these questions because Pakistan’s enemies want that this country be added to the FATF blacklist. They want that at every level, including the economic level, such blows be dealt that Pakistan — God forbid — breaks apart.”
No doubt we have seen our homeland standing against all odds. It was the test of time when we witnessed all political parties and whole nation on one page when a narrative was launched after APS attack in the form of National Action Plan (NAP). This 20-point agenda brought an appraisal or strategies against terrorism and militancy in Pakistan. NAP truly was the need of hour but over the years, it was observed that it was not able to bring the desired results. Though the counter terrorism strategies are practiced and different measures to ban such outfits were taken including freezing of their assets but still a lot has to be done to curb this menace forever. Elements spreading sectarian violence should be prosecuted so that any minority or citizen living in the State should not feel threatened while practising its religion. Not alone any kind of objectives or measures to control such elements are done in single day but its high time now. This peril of terrorism which is persisting at all levels must now be annihilated.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.