The beleaguered Shia Hazara culture has been revisited by Terror once more. Early Sunday morning, in an attack alleged by the militant Islamic State group, 11 coal miners, all residents of Quetta’s Hazara Region, were barbarically slain in Balochistan’s mountainous Bolan district. Apparently, the men were sleeping in their mudbrick dwelling near the mine they were working on when the attackers broke in, held them at gunpoint, and tied and blindfolded them.
And, in an orgy of bestial violence, they cut the victims’ throats. Any bodies had bullet wounds as well. The massacre was denounced by Prime Minister Imran Khan as “another cowardly inhuman act of terrorism” and ordered the Frontier Corps to arrest the killers. In addition, he told the families of the victims that the government would not leave them.
Mr Khan’s remarks are no doubt well-intentioned. However, the bitter truth is that the state has neglected the Shia Hazaras for a long time. It chose to turn a blind eye to the militant extremists’ depredations against the community in the province in a cynically calibrated step, as long as these murderous groups have worked to fight the Baloch rebellion that started during the regime of Gen Musharraf. As a result, the Hazaras are not secure anywhere in Balochistan, save for their barricaded ghettoes in Quetta.
They were blown up in suicide bombs and shot down in the streets, flooding their graveyards with victims, many of whom were heartbreakingly young. These innocents paid the highest price on the cusp of life for the colossal stupidity of the empire. As for the survivors, they have been eviscerated by their livelihoods, economic prospects, etc. Those who may have applied abroad for asylum.
Although large-scale attacks such as those in the first half of 2013, which together killed more than 200 Hazaras and left more than 500 injured, have not recurred, they remain in threat, mostly because the group has isolated itself within two protected enclaves. In April 2019, at least 20 people, including 10 Hazaras, were killed in a suicide bombing at a Quetta marketplace. Also claimed by the IS was the strike, which was directed at the Shias. It is well known that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a virulently sectarian organisation with an ongoing presence in Balochistan, operates closely with a transnational terrorist group. In a province that is crawling with defence and intelligence staff, certainly.
The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, which also has an openly anti-Shia agenda, may also be tracked by them. But when one assumes that the head of the Balochistan branch of the ASWJ, Ramzan Mengal, was released from jail and permitted to contest the 2018 general election only two days before the marketplace bombing, it becomes clear that there are wheels inside wheels here. Certainly, the rumours that those who murdered coal miners last Sunday were foreign-funded may be accurate, but the whole reality is far more complex.