Sectarian Violence in Balochistan

08.11.12

Sectarian Violence in Balochistan

08.11.12
Amjad JamalAmjad Jamal

In the last four years, more than 65 attacks have occurred on the Hazara people in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, and in the first six months of 2012, more than 22 alone. The attacks have led to countless killings and have left thousands wounded. 2003 marked the first time that there were attacks against the Hazaras in Balochistan and this coincided with the insurgency movement in Balochistan. Many attribute these killings as part of the sectarian divide that has existed in Pakistan since the 1980s as a result of the widening Shia-Sunni fault line.

Since independence in 1947, Pakistan has not been able to consolidate as a nation state or create a single national identity. Infrequent attempts by fundamental Sunni sects to bandit the practice of Shiaism have fueled violence and divided the Pakistani society along sectarian lines. The sectarian divide breaks down roughly to 75 to 85 percent Sunni and 15 to 25 percent Shia. Since the partition of Pakistan, the Hazaras have been a neglected community. The persecution of the Hazaras has forced them to seek asylum in many countries like Malaysia, Australia and Iran. There are nearly 20,000 Hazaras in Australia.

Cross-Border Activism

Pakistan’s Afghan policy in the 1980s and 90s aggravated sectarian violence. Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union in the 1980s resulted in the proliferation and easy availability of small arms in Pakistan. The emergence of the Taliban in the 1990s and their support of Sunni organizations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen influenced sectarian violence. Sipah-i-Sahaba cadres were trained in Afghanistan and most of them fought the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Shias inside Pakistan. The Hazaras played an important role in the Northern Alliance in denying the Taliban total control over Afghanistan. In addition, the Hazars in Quetta are also targeted by Whabai fundamentalist as they are accused of favouring American policy and intervention in Afghanistan. As Quetta has become a safe haven for the Taliban, they have expressed deep hatred over the Hazars and attacked them when possible.

Pakistan’s ISI

Pakistan’s ISI has wielded so much influence within Pakistan that it has been labeled, “A State within a State” and “A Kindgom within a State.” The strength and momentum that the Baloch insurgency has received over the years has created a sense of insecurity for the ISI, as there is a wide acknowledgement now that the Pakistani Army and the ISI are the root cause for the injustices felt by many Baloch’s. Pakistan’s ISI does not like the idea of withdrawing from Balochistan as they feel this would enable more and more people to join the ranks of the insurgents and allow them free movements to conduct operations against the government. Thus, to tackle this situation and to divert public attention from the Balochistan independence movement and delay the Pakistani army’s potential withdrawel, there is a possibility that Pakistan’s ISI is playing a role in combating the insurgency.

It is inconceivable to think that the Pakistani government is not aware of ISI’s activities in Balochistan. Quetta city is not Waziristan where the extremists reign supreme. The ISI is such a ubiquitous organization that practically nothing of importance takes place without its full knowledge or approval.

Conclusion

It can be argued that the sectarian violence in Balochistan is not only associated with Islamic fundamentalism and the Sunni-Shia fault line but also involves geo-political strategies of other ethnic groups in Balochistan. Hazara’s neutral stand in the on-going insurgency in Balochistan and their silence on the massacre of the Baloch people has created resentment towards them.

Pashtoons, on the other hand, are also concerned of Hazaras controlling the two mountains surrounding the Pashtoon population therefore giving no easy escape to the Pashtoon people in case of a clash with either Hazaras or Balochs. In order to protect themselves, Hazaras should engage with Baloch insurgency and prove their loyalty of being the inhabitants of the Baloch land. This would not only give them a protection against their political massacre but also Balochs would defend them from being victims of Islamic fundamentalism.

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