Imagine if the targets of Sydney’s drive-by shootings were not members of feuding bikie gangs but people singled out by virtue of their appearance to be shot dead while travelling to work by bus or car, shopping, attending a medical appointment or visiting relatives. It is beyond comprehension to imagine such a situation. Yet that is exactly what is happening to Hazaras in Pakistan. In recent years, armed terrorist groups have been targeting ordinary Hazara men, women and children on a weekly basis in Quetta, Pakistan. Over half a million Hazaras feel terrorized by these frenzy killings.
That is why on 10 May, over a thousand Hazara-Australians gathered in Canberra to protest against the systematic targeting of attacks on the Hazara community in Quetta, Pakistan. Men, women and children travelled by buses and cars from Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. Marching from the Australian Parliament House to the UN office and then the Pakistani embassy, they chanted ‘we want justice,’ ‘we want security,’ ‘Hazara rights are human rights,’ and ‘why is the UN silent’?
The march was one of series of rallies organised by Hazaras around the world in the past few weeks; in Afghanistan, Pakistan, UK, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Italy, US, Canada and New Zealand.
A similar world-wide protest was organised last year but it fell on deaf ears. None of the world leaders, including Australia, have come out to condemn publically the terrorist attacks on innocent Hazara people in Pakistan.
The protest last week demanded the Australian government, public, and media to take notice of the genocide being perpetrated against Hazaras and pressure the Pakistani authority to crack down on terrorist groups.
Yet, the mainstream media in Australia has largely been silent in covering on this issue except SBS radio. Although there are a significant numbers of Hazaras in Australia they are frustrated that the plight of their family and friends in Pakistan is being ignored. The Hazara community in Australia is deeply affected by the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, now they are trying to show solidarity to those left behind through non-violence means.
It is this feeling of frustration and hopelessness that has taken so many Hazaras again onto the streets of many countries this year again.
Many of the Afghans seeking asylum in Australia and those already accepted fled persecution at the hands of terrorist groups either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
As a Hazara from Afghanistan, I came to Australia in 2001 and have travelled to Pakistan twice since then. Each time, I witnessed violent attacks on Hazaras. The deadliest one was in September 2010 in which over 70 Hazaras were killed and over 200 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Quetta. The house of my own relative, Ramzan Ali, was attacked by terrorists last August, killing over 12 people and injuring a few dozens. His family cowered under the rubbles miraculously survived.
However, in the past two years, the tactics have changed from suicide bombing to shootings where unknown gunmen fire on cars and buses that carry Hazara passengers.
There are nearly 600,000 Hazaras in Quetta some of whom had fled persecution in Afghanistan a century ago. There are also so many who have come to escape the Taliban. They are living in a state of terror and fear, waiting for the next moment to pass without incident. They are besieged in their own homes and areas.
Attacks since 2001 have produced a staggering human toll -over 700 have been killed and nearly 2000 injured. Not a single perpetrator who has been brought to justice by the provincial Baluchistan government. In fact, the Pakistani government is involved with the attackers. The Asian Human Rights Commissionimplicate Pakistan’s secret agency, the ISI, in financing and collaborating with terrorist organizations in Baluchistan, ‘Their main tasks include counter-insurgency, spread of Talibanization, sectarian violence, killings of Hazaras and Shias, attacks on NATO supply routes and targeting journalists and lawyers.’