Over last one decade, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 800 members of Hazara ethnic minority have been target-killed, around 3,000 innocent people including women, children and students injured in Balochistan. Most of the attacks have been claimed by Al-Qaeda linked terrorist outfits, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. However, the government of Pakistan has either been incapable or remained a mere spectator as the onslaught continues against the community of only half a million population who are now confined to just their own localities in fear of getting attacked.
On December 01, 2011, a conference entitled ’ Hazara Genocide in Pakistan; Challenges and Solutions’ was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, in order to raise awareness among the Swedish civil society about the plight of Hazara ethnic minority in Pakistan.
More than two hundred people including some human rights activists from across Sweden attended the conference despite a cruel sub-zero temperature.
The Conference, hosted by Laila Arozo & Ali Saqi, formally began on 14:30 CET
A prominent historian and author, Ustad Kazim Yazdani gave a comprehensive account of atrocities committed against the ethnic Hazaras in the 19th century by the then Emir of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman Khan, who had come to power through a deal with the occupying British army. He explained as to how the king had massacred about 62% of the Hazaras, persecuted and enslaved them in thousands. Lands and properties of Hazaras were confiscated and distributed among his own tribes. He further clarified as to how Abdul Rahman Khan had used religion as a weapon and ordered 13 judges and clerics to author a book in the favor of submission to Emir’s will in order to pave the way for declaring a Jihad against the Hazaras.
A documentary film about the brutal killings of Hazaras in Pakistan over last one decade, produced by Sajjad Gohar, was shown at the conference which made a number of eyes tear.
Immediately after the documentary ended, Dr.Saleem Javed—a freelance journalist and human rights activist—described some gruesome attacks on Hazaras of Pakistan in 2012 with references to reports published in the country’s newspapers and produced by various human rights organizations. While describing the threats faced by the community, he explained the main reasons behind the systematic assault against the ethno-sectarian minority under the very nose of federal and provincial governments. According to him Talibanisation of Balochistan, plans to bring about demographic change in Quetta, sectarian terrorism etc were some of the main factors behind Hazara killings.
Then a Pakistani-Swedish political scientist, author and writer, Prof.Dr.Ishtiaq Ahmed, in his detailed speech traced the roots of sectarian and religious hatred in the region, particularly Pakistan. He explained how religious and sectarian extremism had been used as a pressure and strategic tool by many countries including Pakistan. According to him, Islam was used as a tool in the creation of Pakistan and later, in 1970s, the Ahmaddiya community was victimized to appease Shia and Sunni religious groups. By his in-depth analysis he clarified that Pakistan’s military establishment, Saudi and Iranian regimes had used religion in their proxy wars which resulted to the victimization of most vulnerable minorities such as the Hazaras. He urged the Swedish civil society to raise voice against the killings of Hazaras by sending petitions, staging demonstrations, writing articles etc as they are an easy target and because nobody is supporting them.
After a 15-minutes coffee-break the conference resumed by speech of Pakistan’s Director at Human Rights Watch, Ali Dayan Hassan, through video conferencing who highlighted the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Pakistan. He was of the view that Pakistan faced a multiple human rights challenges, particularly in Balochistan which is a home to Taliban and it’s affiliates who had been historically allied with the security establishment of Pakistan. While evaluating the human rights situations in the country he brought it to notice that attacks on minorities including Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis etc have increased in recent years. He meanwhile reported that a third of all Shias killed in Pakistan in 2012 are Hazara who face a double jeopardy due to their sect and ethnicity. He said that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had issued a warning later last year asking the Hazaras to leave Pakistan and continued their attacks with impunity which has created an extreme sense of insecurity among the Hazara community. He told the audience that Baloch actors in the government of Balochistan had been found publicly unsympathetic to the plight of Hazaras while response of the state was negligible or nonexistent. He also engaged with the audience and answered their questions. As a human rights advocate, he promised to take up the issue of Hazara killings on every relevant forum.
Prof.Nazir Hussain, educationist and social activist, also joined the session via video conferencing and updated the audience about Quetta situations including rise of a new militant group named Jaish-ul-Islam who has claimed responsibility for latest attacks on Hazaras. He analyzed the political transformations which has taken place in the region after the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union and it’s consequences.
Unfortunately Ahmed Shuja and Ashraf Jawadi could not be taken online due to some technical issues. However, their answers to the queries will be published along with the transcripts of all the speeches made at the conference.
Following the Debate Session, Ustad Boman Ali Qasimi, writer and social activist, spoke about the persecution of ethnic Hazaras in Afghanistan in the contemporary period particularly under the Islamic Emirate of Taliban. He quoted a data compiled by the Human Rights Watch that Taliban had massacred at least 2,000 Hazaras in Bamiyan, 300 in Yakawlang and around 2,000 in Mazar-e-Sharif. He argued that the Afghan sources say the actual number was 6,000 to 8,000 while the local sources estimated the causalities to be as high as 10,000 as the killing spree had continued for many days across Hazarajat. He added that Hazaras have been killed even under the very nose of US-led NATO forces during Hamid Karzai’s regime. He referred, for instance, to Taliban-sponsored Kuchi attacks in Behsud and Daimirdad where according to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission at least 24 Hazaras were killed, 84 houses were burned down and 6,000 families were displaced in 2008 alone. He also conveyed the concerns of the Hazara community about Taliban’s comeback.
The conference’s closing speech was delivered by Afghan-Swedish novelist and refugee rights activist, Aref Farman, who summarized the main points discussed at the conference. He said that he had himself witnessed that most of Afghan refugees in Iran were Hazaras who had been persistently subjected to cruelty and prejudice despite being Shias. He requested the Swedish civil society and human rights activists to raise the issue with Swedish government in order to pressurize the government of Pakistan to provide security to all ethnic and religious minorities, including Hazaras.
At the end the following resolution was read in English and Persian by Laila Arozo and Ali Saqi which was anonymously passed and later signed by all the attendants at the conference which will be sent to the relevant embassies along with other documents about the killings of Hazaras.
Gothenburg Conference on Hazara Genocide in Pakistan
• We demand a high-level judicial investigation into the on-going persecution and systemic genocide of the Hazaras in Pakistan.
• We request the Swedish civil society, human rights activists and media personnel to raise the issue of Hazara genocide on national and international level.
• We demand that human rights organizations send their investigative teams and observers to monitor the situation in Pakistan and accordingly put pressure on the government of Pakistan to protect minorities including the Hazaras who are being killed on a daily basis.
• We request the Swedish civil society to pressurize the government of Sweden to tie any aid to Pakistan to the human rights conditions and to the protection of minorities including Hazaras.
• We demand the government of Sweden to raise our concerns with the NATO countries to map out a clear plan about the protection of Hazaras and other unarmed civilians in Afghanistan and to prevent Taliban’s comeback.
• We demand the Islamic Republic of Iran to improve the human rights conditions in the country and to treat the Afghan refugees in accordance with the international law.
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