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What causes violence in South Asia? It’s all about identity, says Dr Vali Nasr

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Published: November 23, 2014

“This is about power; this is about hegemony,” Vali Nasr. PHOTO: HABIB UNIVERSITY FACEBOOK

KARACHI: Dr Vali Nasr knows what causes violence in South Asia. “It’s about identity. It’s always about identity,” he says.

A leading academic on Middle East and the Islamic World, Dr Nasr spoke to The Express Tribune shortly before his talk on ‘The Growing Role of Sectarianism in Muslim Politics, Globally and in Pakistan’ at Habib University on Saturday.

Nasr has a strong connection with Pakistan, where he worked as part of his PhD research. “Coming to Pakistan is like a home coming,” he said. He is calm, yet candid, when he talks about the schism between Shias and Sunnis. “Sectarianism is the oldest conflict,” he said, adding that the desire of one community to exert power and dominance over another is in no way restricted to the Sunni-Shia conflict. “This is about power; this is about hegemony.”

Drawing a backdrop to understanding the present-day global politics, the rise of militancy, the difference between Islam and Islamism and the issues Pakistan is facing, Nasr explained to a packed auditorium the problems and the possible solutions. “Unfortunately, the dominant discourse in the Muslim world does not promote pluralism,” he said, talking about why religion becomes puritanical, and is seen as black and white with the belief that only one interpretation is correct.

Therein, according to Nasr, lies the root of sectarianism. “Modernity and reformation in the Muslim world today is much less tolerant than tradition was,” he said. “Those who talk of modernity today want to jump from tradition to liberal secularism. Where is the historical process for this?”

When asked a question about the rise of extremism in Pakistan, he said: “When the rich become disconnected with the poor, the poor turn to the clerics.”

In Nasr’s opinion, the strain between Pakistan and India is not just Kashmir. “Pakistan is still toying with various ideas of identity, whereas India has still not reconciled to the idea of Pakistan,” he said. He also spoke about Lahore and Karachi in the 1940s as places with pluralistic societies in this region. In his opinion, the solution to sectarianism in the region will have to be through strong will and determination at all levels of society.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2014.

Ashura’s message: Looking away, being indifferent is not an option

By Farahnaz Zahidi Published: November 15, 2013

What’s more important, actually, is the stuff we all agree upon; the stature of those who were martyred that day, what they stood for and how we can draw lessons from that fateful day for our present day. PHOTO: REUTERS

There are days when one just wants to give up and look the other way. Become indifferent. The inner argument is,

“What difference can I make, realistically?”

I recall feeling that way so many times. Like when I see “small” things like bribes being taken and given in front of me. That gnawing feeling, when people in your area steal water through suction pumps and you are the idiot who doesn’t do it because you think it’s wrong.

Worse still, is the feeling you get if you stay quiet when you see a close relative scolding a small child, working as domestic help, and holding back his salary as a form of reprimand. When someone in a position of power refuses to get their baggage scanned at the airport and breaks the queue conveniently, while the labourer going to Dubai in his chappals is met with dismissive glances and extraordinary checks.

Killers and goons go scot-free. The weak relent, simply because there is no option. The mightier becomes stronger. The system supports it — the jungle raaj, where might is still the biggest right.

An initially reluctant and then habitual silence follows. We don’t say anything to anyone. Not even politely. The world looks on. Or looks away.

Imam Hussain (ra) could have looked the other way, but he didn’t.

He could not.

Brought up in the lap of the Prophet (pbuh), indifference was never an option. Imam Hussain (ra)’s grandfather taught people to help both the oppressed and the oppressor – the oppressed by taking up their cause and the oppressor by trying to stop him/her from being unjust.

And so Imam Hussain (ra) chose the tougher path. The road less travelled. The 9th and 10th of Muharram, year after year, reminds me of exactly this.

It is irrelevant whether I am Sunni or Shia. I say this because that is what people quizzically ask me whenever I express love for the Prophet’s (pbuh) family or talk about lessons from Muharram.

But I digress.

Coming back to what today means to me, what I do know is what I need to know. I learn this from what happened at Karbala, among countless other lessons, that the grandson of Allah’s beloved (pbuh) stood firm on his ground and chose to be martyred rather than live a life where one makes the choice of brushing injustice under the carpet and pretending it never happened.

There is a story I remember reading in context of the explanation of a part of the Quran. It is the story of a people who disobeyed God in a crucial matter and consequently faced punishment. The story tells us that in that town, there were three groups of people; those who defiantly sinned, those who did not sin but remained silent and, those who did not sin and also tried to persuade the disobedient ones to stop.

In the end, God only forgave the third group.

For us as individuals and as a nation, speaking out against structural violence, systematic injustice and oppression has never been so important. Our related apathy and indifference has never been a bigger offence. When silence becomes habit, submission becomes the norm and indifference reigns. Consequently, injustice and tyranny rules to the detriment of a nation.

What’s important, however, is how we make our voice heard. A lot of tact, wisdom and sincerity is required, as is empathy.

As I entered work today, I overheard at least three different conversations on different tables where small groups animatedly talked about what actually happened at Karbala; the how, the why and the many versions of history were spoken about.

What’s more important, actually, is the stuff we all agree upon. The stature of those who were martyred that day, what they stood for and how we can draw lessons from that fateful day for our present day. We channelise energies arguing, debating and proving that we are right and the other is wrong, instead of focusing on what Karbala teaches us all:

Looking away is simply not an option.

Ali (ra) – The eternal hero of a Sunni Muslim woman

For me, he is the emblem of heroism. Of wisdom. Of passion. Of love of Allah.

He accepted Islam as a ten year old child, when very few were willing to risk their life. He grew up, literally, in the house of Allah’s beloved (saw). He resembled Rasool Ullah (saw) in mannerism and action. On the night of the migration from Makkah, he slept in the bed of the Prophet (saw) with the risk that the enemies may kill him in place of the Prophet (saw).

Our beloved (saw) trusted Ali (ra) with his treasure, his youngest daughter Fatima (ra). He was the Prophet’s (saw) kin.

While Rasool Ullah (saw) breathed his last on the chest of our mother Ayesha (ra), Ali (ra) was the one to bathe Rasool Ullah (saw) after his death.

Ali was a lion in the battlefield and most humble in private life. In worship, such was he that he told people to pull out an arrow lodged in his body during salaat (namaz) because when in the presence of his Rabb in prayer, he focussed on nothing else.

Ali (ra) is my hero, forever.

They are all my heroes: Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) and Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra) and Ali (ra). Each a sparkling gem warding away darkness and showing rays of light. Each with their own beautiful unique personalities. Each chosen by God for special work. Each guiding us in their own way.

Yet, with the mention of Ali (ra) the heart softens with the realization of how beloved he was to the Prophet (saw) of Allah. He is the father of Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra), and the love of Fatima’s (ra) life.

These glimpses from ahadith and seerah remind me even more why Ali (ra) is who he is to me:

 Abu Turaab

So many incidents are recorded about the beautiful way the Prophet (saw) used to solve disagreements between Ali and Fatima.

One such incident resulted in Ali getting the title Abu Turaab – “The man covered with dirt” – this title was one of the dearest to Ali. For once the Prophet went to visit his daughter Fatima & he did not find Ali home. He asked about him, so Fatima told her father that she had some argument with her husband so he left home angry in the afternoon without taking his usual nap. The Prophet told someone to go & look for Ali. He came back saying that he is in the mosque. The Prophet went to him to find him lying on the floor with his dress falling off his flank which was covered with dirt. The Prophet woke him up clearing the dirt off his body & addressing him with a smile: “Wake up you who is covered with dirt”.

The Prophet’s (saw) Kin

When the verse 3:61 was revealed to the Prophet (saw): “Now that you know the facts, say to them ‘Come, let us summon our sons and your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves and pray Allah and beseech Him to accurse those who intentionally assert falsehood’”; he summoned Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain and said: “O God, & these are my kin”.

How can a believer not love Ali (ra)

Zirr reported: ‘Ali observed: By Him Who split up the seed and created something living, the Apostle (may peace and blessings be upon him) gave me a promise that No one but a believer would love me, and none but a hypocrite would nurse grudge against me.
Reference: Book 001, Number 0141: (Sahih Muslim) 

The strength of Ali – in fighting the enemy and fighting anger

I love the incident where Ali (ra) was fighting with an infidel on a battlefield. Ali was about to thrust his sword into the other man’s heart when all of a sudden the infidel raised his head and spit at him. Ali immediately dropped his sword, took a deep breath, and walked away. The infidel was stunned. He ran after Ali and asked him why he was letting him go. “Because I’m very angry at you,” said Ali.
“Then why don’t you kill me?” the infidel asked. “I don’t understand.”

Ali explained, “When you spit in my face, I got very angry. My ego was provoked, yearning for revenge. If I kill you now, I’ll be following my ego. And that would be a huge mistake.”
So Ali set the man free. The infidel was so touched that he became Ali’s friend and follower, and in time he converted to Islam of his own free will.

He whom Allah and His Messenger (saw) love

Narrated Salama: Ali happened to stay behind the Prophet and (did not join him) during the battle of Khaibar for he was having eye trouble. Then he said, “How could I remain behind Allah’s Apostle?” So ‘Ali set out following the Prophet . When it was the eve of the day in the morning of which Allah helped (the Muslims) to conquer it, Allah’s Apostle said, “I will give the flag (to a man), or tomorrow a man whom Allah and His Apostle love will take the flag,” or said, “A man who loves Allah and His Apostle; and Allah will grant victory under his leadership.” Suddenly came ‘Ali whom we did not expect. The people said, “This is ‘Ali.” Allah’s Apostle gave him the flag and Allah granted victory under his leadership.
Reference: Volume 5, Book 57, Number 52: (Sahih Bukhari)

He was to the Prophet (saw) what Haroon (as) was to Musa (as)

Sa’d reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying to ‘Ali: Aren’t you satisfied with being unto me what Aaron was unto Moses?
Reference: Book 031, Number 5916: (Sahih Muslim)

For whosoever is Prophet (saw) Mawla, Ali is Mawla

Sayyidna Abu Sarihah (Radhi Allah) or Zayd ibn Arqam (Shu’bah is uncertain about it) said that Prophet (salallaho alaihi wasalam) said: He for whom I am Mawla (friend, beloved, helper), Ali is Mawla
Reference: Sunan al Tirimdhi Hadith No. 3733 – Imam Abu Isa Tirimdhi (rah) said: This Hadith is “HASAN SAHIH”

Published at: http://www.mybitforchange.org/2013/ali-my-eternal-hero/

Where are you, Mister Prime Minister, when your people need you?

March 5, 2013

A family affected by the Abbas Town blasts mourns over their loss, while Mr Prime Minister plans his trip to India. PHOTO: REUTERS

Headlines, juxtaposed, stare back at me in the morning paper. I am reading it, still shaken by the events of the Abbas Town Blasts. The sky on this Tuesday morning is tinted a strange reddish strain. Maybe it’s just in the minds of traumatised Karachiites who cannot get over the blood spilled in Abbas Town– blood that has still not dried.

Fumes of that blood are now being breathed in also by residents of the hitherto protected upscale neighbourhoods of Karachi who live in fear of their daughters and wives being kidnapped. We are talking about the blood of the (at least) 48 dead and 140 injured – shops and homes burnt, families displaced, children lost.

Broken toys and burnt textbooks and scattered around. Glass panes through which they used to see the world are now lying as broken shards. Torn dupattas, molten electric wires, blistered dreams and mangled photographs of families smiling on Eid decorate the ground.

Yes, the sky is a little reddish today, especially after the funeral procession also came under fire. Even the dead can no longer rest in peace, not because of their own sins, but because of the sins of those who are still alive and armed.

And as a resident of this bloody city (literally), I somehow cringed at this headline:

“Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to visit shrine in Ajmer Shareef, India”

Really, PM sahab?

With all due respect, it is not your going to Ajmer Shareef that is the problem, sir. Refreshing spirituality, washing sins and praying is as much your right, sir, as is mine. It is the timing! It is the fact that you never cared to visit the site of the blast. Neither did any other bigwigs, the maai baaps, the rulers and movers and shakers who rule and move while our very fabric is shaken up.

However, enough has been said about that. We, the citizens of Pakistan, know now more than ever that we are on our own – abandoned, unclaimed. We are independently left alone to clean up the mess after every carnage. The message “abb khud kuch karna paray ga” (we must do something now) stares at us in the face.

We really don’t have a choice. We no longer trust the promises of getting Rs 1,500,000 each for the families of the dead and Rs 1,000,000 each for the injured. Even if, as part of a huge hypothesis, the amount reaches the deserving hands, will it bring the dead back to life? And wouldn’t it be a band-aid too late, even if it does arrive?

Meanwhile, emotionally drained and angry Karachiites channelise their anger like they should. They vent on social networking sites and outside dhaabaas incessantly, for the sake of their own sanity.

They agitatedly argue about how to react to this; they debate the “what next”; they talk about the ugly head of civil war expected to raise its head. They talk about how it is finally a sad fact even the most patriotic ones of us have to accept that yes, I’d rather let my child become a part of Pakistan’s brain drain.

Let the mass exodus begin. For it is no longer time to say “kaheen Karachi Beirut na bann jaye”. Guess what. We’re already there, but are in denial.

Still, all is not lost! We, the Karachiites, right from Dalmia to Defence,are doing what should be done, and what little is in our power. We stage peaceful protests and raise awareness and collect donations in cash and kind. Our students are tear-gassed and baton-charged and arrested for protesting because the real criminals are a league above – they cannot be laid a finger upon.

The awaam still continues to be resilient. Within 24 hours, 60 bags of blood are donated just outside the phase IV Imambargah Yasrab. Within 24 hours, one million rupees are collected. Within 24 hours, shelters are set up and food, medicines and clothes are reaching the effected. Expats are desperately trying to wire money across to Pakistan. On Sunday night, I got a call from a friend who was weeping because she, after volunteering all day for the victims, still wanted to do more, and wanted to know how she can do it.

I see friends at work rushing out for an hour between work timings to donate blood. I know of parents who train their young children by making them pack boxes for the effected.

It’s not much, we all know, but this is all we can do.

What is most heart-warming is how the miscreants lost a battle there and then when Sunnis of the area opened their homes for their Shia brothers. Abbas Town blasts may be the worst that has happened top Karachi recently, but may bring out the best!

On Monday night, a friend messaged me, sharing how many members of the Shia community who had saved up money to go for Ziarat to Karbala, have decided to donate the money towards the rebuilding of the damaged homes. There are firstly whispers and then more vocal suggestions that money saved for Umrah could be used for the same – suggestions coming from Sunnis.

Mr Prime Minister, you and your comrades could learn a thing or two here, don’t you think, sir?

For me, the biggest silver lining is this: with each consecutive catastrophe, we become braver and more vocal and fearless.

We no longer speak in hushed tones. We are saying no to silence as a nation.

Read more by Farahnaz here or follow her on Twitter @FarahnazZahidi

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/16342/where-are-you-mister-prime-minister-when-your-people-need-you/

Salam Namaste

Salam Namaste

Published: January 31, 2013

The writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune and tweets @FarahnazZahidi

It is said that there’s enough religion in the world to make men hate one another, but not enough to make them love. But what if religion were to become a common ground where shared religious and ethical values are celebrated? Perhaps, too far-fetched a dream for the world that we live in. Especially for Pakistan. For we do not unite in the name of God. We dissent, for God’s sake. Quite literally so.

But this might be a good time to take a closer look at the possibilities of an inter-faith understanding, if nothing else. Tomorrow, we embark on the World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated in the first week of February each year. What does this even mean? And what does it mean for Pakistan in particular, a county ravaged by polarisations. We are divided in the name of faith — we are Muslims and Christians and Hindus; we are majorities and minorities; we are the green and the white; we are the crescent and the star. Tier two of being poles apart: division in the name of denominations within the framework of the same faith — need I even say Shia and Sunni? It stares us in the face, way too close for comfort.

Hence, there is a need for not just interfaith dialogue, which ensures empathy, tolerance and understanding between followers of different faiths, but also inter-religious (bainal masaalik) dialogue.

Yet, this seems an under-celebrated and under-emphasised concept today in the post 9/11 world, and in present-day Pakistan in particular. Often, in interfaith fora, experts sit proselytising others to their own, in desperate attempts to convert and convince the others to ‘our’ way of thinking. And if not that, at least establish the supremacy of our faith over the others. An attempt at hegemony.

One reason we see resistance against sincere interfaith dialogue is that it is seen as a conniving, insidious attempt at syncretism — something that will take away my religious identity from me and make society a melting pot where all ideologies are conflated into one, basically leaving us with none at the end. Something like what John Lennon was trying to say in his song ‘Imagine’.

In reality, however, the interfaith dialogue process actually helps us understand and strengthen our own faith better, and also learn to respect other ideologies. If it involves all stakeholders, it helps get rid of stereotypes. It helps a nation get over the ‘us vs them’ phenomenon.

If these efforts were made with the genuine intention of understanding one another, the benefits for Pakistan, a religio-centred nation, would be immense. Consensus-building does not do away with agreeing to disagree. What if followers of different faiths and different religious denominations come together on things all religions believe in — peace, justice and sustainability. Practical implications can include things that give a huge push to Pakistan’s developmental issues. To cite one example, we are 180 million strong, and the world’s fifth most populous nation has no hope of population control unless this is discussed by faith-based representatives and a consensus is built. Indonesia has achieved it by bringing all Muslim denominations, as well as Catholics and major religious leaders on board.

Interfaith dialogue is linked closely to human rights. Which brings us to the third tier at which this discourse needs to be fostered — dialogue between the seculars and the religious. In a society which cannot realistically do away with either element, it would be a good idea to create spaces where commonalities can be celebrated for civic and national stability.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/500566/salam-namaste/

Four days on, 87 Hazaras finally find resting place

By Our Correspondents
Published: January 15, 2013

Members of the Hazara community shout slogans during the Quetta blasts’ victims’ funeral ceremony. PHOTO: AFP

QUETTA: The bodies of 87 slain Hazaras, which had been accompanied by thousands of mourners from the Shia Hazara community on Alamdar Road for a full four days, were finally laid to rest on Monday.

Some 17 bodies, unidentifiable due to the impact of the blast, wait for their families to recognise and bury them.

The Hazara Town graveyard, Barory, and Ganje Shuhada graveyard, Alamdar Road, receivedthe victims of the January 10 bomb blasts that claimed more than a 100 lives, only after the community’s elders announced that the protest was officially over. Their decision followed Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s announcement that some of the community’s demands would be met, including the dismissal of the provincial assembly and the imposition of governor rule.

The struggle for the community, however, is far from over – this may very well just be the beginning.

“We trust the decision of the elders of our tribe. However, we are wary of trusting the government’s promises. It may be just a pacifier … We have some degree of satisfaction over governor rule in the province, and (the fact that) false cases against our Hazara brothers in police stations and courts (are) being withdrawn, along with release of those Hazaras who are in prisons,” said a Hazara community member who returned home for the first time since the blast, while talking to The Express Tribune. Yet, he shared, his community was not happy with how “giving more power to Frontier Corps (FC) is being dealt with. It reeks of deception. Only time will tell”.

Another member of the community pointed out that most who had lost their lives on that fateful day were young boys volunteering to save those who were injured in the initial explosion. “The first blast had fewer casualties. That was actually bait to draw as many men as possible to the site, so that a maximum number of men lose their lives in the attack,” he said.

The man told about how he lost his 23-year-old cousin who was about to get married soon. “He called us after the second blast saying ‘I have lost one arm and one leg, and I am bleeding too much. Come soon. There are others here who are in worse condition than me’. By the time we covered the 45 minute distance from Barory to Alamdar road, he was gone. We have been through hell. We are still living it.”

Sitting out in the freezing cold for days has left the Hazara community physically exhausted. There has been a spread of respiratory and chest infections, as well as joint aches and pains. Emotionally too, the deaths and protests have taken their toll. Yet, their resolve is unwavering.

“We are not going to give up the struggle. But from the government and the people of Pakistan, all we can request is, ‘bring the culprits to task’. You all know who they are. And if you cannot do that, at least stop supporting them,” said a female Hazara activist, adding that death does not scare her any more.

What has driven the besieged minority is a wave of support which brought several parts of the country to a standstill over the last few days, leaving a fearful government resorting to jamming mobile phone networks once again.

“It is heartening to see how people all over Pakistan and in fact all over the world have woken up to the cause of Hazaras. The turnout of women at the sit-in is no small feat, considering how protective and conservative Hazaras and generally the people of the province are when it comes to their women,” a Hazara activist said. The campaigner added, “It was excruciatingly painful to make our dead wait to be buried. But I think the sacrifice of those who died will not have gone in vain.”

A spokesperson on behalf of Shia Hazara activists gave this statement of gratitude: “To all our honourable brothers and sisters who joined hands with us in these painful moments – We are thankful to those mothers the world over who have trained their children to support the oppressed when in pain …”

It went on to add: “We pray to Allah that you all never have to suffer how we have suffered. Rest assured, if ever a time comes when God forbid you all need support, the Shia Hazaras will be by your side, and will not hesitate from giving any sacrifice to safeguard you. May God be with you. From the Shia Hazara community.”

Demand for army

Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen Central Secretary Raja Nasir Abbas demanded of Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi to call in the army for security in Quetta.

FC and police personnel, along with volunteers of the Hazara Community, were on alert as the burials took place.

Later, addressing a joint press conference, Abbas along with leader of Yakjehti Council Qayyum Nazar Changezi and the head of the Hazara tribe Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara expressed gratitude towards Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. At the same time, they demanded that Quetta be handed over to the army, since the FC had not proved effective in the past.

The speakers said they shared equally the grief of the journalists martyred in the bomb blast.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/494149/four-days-on-87-hazaras-finally-find-resting-place/

A story of the “Others” – Hazara Shias lose all hope in Pakistan

Published: December 31, 2012

Muslim groups demonstrate against the Taliban killings of Shias in Pakistan December 7, 2012 during the “10,000 Souls March” in New York. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Shabana Khan* speaks from behind a screen put up to protect her identity at a recent women’s assembly. I cannot see her. I do not know what her age is. I have no way of observing her non-verbal communication. But what I do know is that this is a person in pain. Intense pain has resulted in eloquence as well as a defiant, almost rebellious fearlessness. She is a young woman from the Shia Hazara community and lives in Quetta. This is an excerpt of the story she tells of herself and her community:

Death is waiting around the corner. Before that, I must share what it means to be a Shia Hazara. Today, I am going to share a bit of my story – the story of me and my people. When one of us comes in front of you, you mostly label us Chinese or Korean. Our complexions are not like yours, neither is our race or genetic composition. We are the ‘others’. And our pain is that of the others. We are Pakistanis but not considered a part of you. Very few will raise their voice for us, even when 27 of us are taken off a bus and are shot and killed just because we are Shias. Just because we have Mongol-like features. Just because we migrated here from Afghanistan.

What is our crime, I still don’t understand. We pay taxes. We make useful things out of spare parts. We want to be peaceful contributors towards the progress of our country, Pakistan. We dream of a beautiful Pakistan where all sects and ethnicities work together towards a common goal.

But what is the reality? How many of you can relate to 5 dead bodies being taken out of a house – father, brothers, sons. What do the women of that house go through? What is the future of these women? Of the Shia Hazara women? When they step outside the four walls of their homes once the men have been slaughtered, to earn a living because they have no other choice, vultures start circling. These are men who have been directly or indirectly responsible for lifting the roof off their heads. Responsible for killing the men in their lives. They offer help to these women in exchange for not cash but kind. I am one of those women.

As a girl from the Shia Hazara community, I know my life is forever at risk which is why I am hidden behind a screen for my safety as I speak to you. But trust me when I say that if tomorrow I am killed, my death will not make newspaper news unless a mass massacre happens.  Most killings of my community don’t make it to national news.Do you know

Why do you take each other’s pictures? Mementos? We, the Hazaras, now photograph each other knowing that probably these photographs, especially of our men, will be placed on their dead bodies during their funeral. The area of the Ganj-e-Shuhada graveyard for the Hazara community is being extended. More dead than alive. And the rest a community of the living dead…constantly living in a state of fear.

We are marginalized. As a working woman, I have seen better days. There was a time when I could travel to 30 districts, safely, even at night and my parents didn’t worry. Now, I  cannot walk even a kilometer down from Meezan Chowk to buy something I need. A Shia Hazara girl today cannot go till the Sariyab Road, Quetta, to the Balochistan University, to get an education. Do you know what it is like to live in a constant state of fear? To be surrounded by people who are also equally afraid? When fear becomes a way of life. Even if the sound of thunder or lightning strikes, we think someone is here to attack us. If a bus is stopped by the police for checking and we are on board, we are sure that this is it – that death has arrived.

These days when Shia Hazara mothers hand over chadars to their daughters when they are stepping out, they advise them to kill themselves in case someone approaches them with wrong intentions. To save their lives, our brothers flee the country as part of a mass exodus, travelling by sea, and many become food for the fish on way. Many are kidnapped in that dangerous journey, and then their families are asked for ransom. If they are lucky enough to reach Australia, they will never be 1st grade citizens of that country.

I often wonder why the contributions of my community are not mentioned in history books. Our ancestors may be from Afghanistan, but we have made contributions for Pakistan. Even today, Hazaras are a silent force, working towards a better Pakistan, peacefully and sincerely. We are doctors and engineers. If nothing else, we are labourers and janitors. We build your homes and lift your trash. All we ask for in return is the right to be able to live a peaceful life in this country we call our own. Is that too much to ask?

My mother always used to say ‘pray for your brother. Allah listens to the prayers of a sister for her brother’. But now I sometimes think none of my prayers are being heard.950

There used to be a time that my community was doing so well as traders and businessmen because of fair dealings. Hazara boys and girls got jobs easily because of their efficiency and integrity. Now, fear forces us to stay at home. Even going to the hospital for treatment is an ordeal. Our dead in hospital mortuaries are also not peacefully handed over to the families till their wives go and identify the bodies.  Even our children suffer. Look carefully at a Hazara child’s eyes.

We also have brave Malalas among us. But we are just not in the limelight.

People ask us where is your ghairat (honour)? Why doesn’t your community fight back?Whom do we fight against? Our ignorant Muslim brother who doesn’t even know why he is killing us? And we who are being killed don’t know our crime!

Political bigwigs have made statements saying ‘death is in Allah’s hands’. Why this fatalistic attitude only for the Hazaras? It is not so easy to accept the death of a little boy who dresses up for Eid namaz and goes but comes back home not alive but dead. Allah has every right to take our lives because He is our Creator. But murderers taking innocent lives, this is not by the will of Allah. This is tyranny. This is oppression.

In Muharram, our Sunni brothers used to set up sabeels for us when we mourned the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Now, since 2002, we mourn ourselves and lift our own dead and bury them ourselves. We no longer prepare jahez or baree. Because it is cloth for shrouds that comes by the yards.

When hope is lost, all is lost. The Hazaras are reaching that point where we lose hope permanently. Save us before that day comes.”

*Name has been changed

http://tribune.com.pk/story/486883/a-story-of-the-others-hazara-shias-lose-all-hope-in-pakistan/

Numbers:

 In Pakistan there are an estimated 956,000 people belonging to this community of which 600,000 live in Quetta city alone.

 
So far, at least 1000 have been killed in terrorist attacks across the province of Balochistan. More than 1600 have received severe injuries.
 
Many Hazara asylum seekers reach Jakarta and from there, by a perilous and risky sea journey, try and make it to the nearest Australian point, the Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. At least 950 have lost their lives while going to Australia. In addition, more than 300 have lost their lives while going to Europe via turkey boarder during the last one decade.
Source:
1. Human Rights Commission for Social Justice & Peace
2. Hazara Town graveyard, Barory, and Ganj e Shuhada graveyard, Alamdar road.
3. Local hospitals & the local Hazara community