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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Genocides without a distinct label

Kamila Hyat
Thursday, February 09, 2012

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

When genocides take place in countries, or regions within them, we usually have one group of people murdering another – either as some form of ‘ethnic cleansing’, or on the basis of religious belief. A combination of these factors has of course also taken place, and there is absolutely no evidence at this point that our world is becoming a more civilised place with such events continuing unabated around the world.

In the 1994 Rwandan civil war, as the Hutu and Tootsi tribes clashed, some 800,000 people died; some estimates put the toll higher. The death of over six million European Jews in the purges of World War II remains a reminder of man’s irrationality and brutality. The after-effects of those killings continue in some ways at least to shape the modern world and events within it.

But at least, through the years, these awful massacres have been discussed, debated and condemned at length. Trials have been held and the culprits, in some cases, brought to justice. The same also holds true for other acts of similar mass murders in the world – whether they took place in Uganda, Cambodia or a long time ago in Australia and North America.

In our country we have a situation that might be leading to genocide. The complication is that it does not involve a specific group or community. So many different kinds of murders go on that it is becoming harder and harder to keep track of the question of whom is killing who.

Since the mid 1990s thousands of Shia Muslims have died in targeted killings and bombings of various kinds. The process continues today. As a result, many have already fled the country including some of our top professionals. This attempt to wipe out an entire community on the basis of their specific beliefs has drawn too little official attention or a serious attempt to bring it to an end.

There are of course other kinds of killings on everywhere. The shootings based on ethnicity in Karachi have become a reality which erupts from time to time, leaving the city belching bouts of smoke like an unstable volcano. The threat of violence never lives far away from that city.

The same is becoming truer for Quetta, a city where, for many years, groups of all kinds co-existed with little tension and trouble.

The Hazara community is yet another target of frenzied violence. According to leaders representing the group, whose origins are mysterious but seem to lie in Central Asia, at least 600 people of Hazara have been murdered since 2000. The process appears to be gaining speed and ferocity. Given that the Hazara population of Pakistan is near "600,000" to "700,000" (Corrected) this is a very large death toll.

The danger of acceleration lies ahead, and is tied in to the possibility of a return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The people of Hazara have in the past been a victim of these extremists on both ethnic and sectarian grounds.

While everyone appears to know which groups in our country are responsible for targeting this particular the community, nothing has been done to stop them or to put an end to the victimisation of the Hazaras. Their voice has not been heard; few seem even to have noticed what is happening.

Nor has the other killing of other ethnic and religious minorities in the country, who face persecution and death in different forms, drawn the concern that would have been expected.

In other words we have multiple acts of genocide happening in our country. Our cities have become killing fields where fewer and fewer feel safe. Aside from the traditional kind of genocide involving communities pitched against each other, we also have the mass killing of women with hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed each year as a result of ‘honour’ killings or for other reasons. This too counts as genocide of some kind.

We need to do more to at least lift the lid on the degree of violence which exists in the country. The silence has been too long and too deep. The government has time and time again failed to act and as a result the problem has worsened. Successive regimes have done nothing to end the flow of hatred which has continued to claim more and more lives and branched into many different forms with various groups targeting others.

Even the state has not remained uninvolved. International human rights watchdog bodies have blamed the killing and torture of nationalists in Balochistan on our own agencies. In such a situation it becomes even harder to find justice and discover precisely where the truth lies. To complicate matters nationalists too have even responsible for ethnic murders in their province, going ruthlessly after teachers and others from different provinces – even though they may have lived in Balochistan for generations.

The problem seems to be growing worse and worse. Certainly, no end is in sight. The generation growing up lives with this intolerance in all its different waves. From time to time a huge tidal wave sweeps up and claims scores of lives. At other times, smaller ripples kill in ones or twos.

As this goes on our media, many of our people and commentators who analyse events everywhere remain fixated on political happenings of various kinds. These include the court cases which grow more and more muddled and the murky political scene which lies all around us.

It is true of course that this reality makes it possible for the reign of death to continue with any restrictions. But somehow, we need to find a way to end these killings and to ensure that deliberate acts intended to wipe out certain portions of people from our country are no longer allowed to continue.

This can happen only if stern action is taken against the perpetrators and a climate is created through a variety of different means to build harmony and mutual understanding among the ranks that we seem to have lost over the past few decades.

This has been possible in some countries, it can probably be enforced her as well. We must make it possible in our own without a further loss of time. We have already waited too long, adding to the suffering of so many people everywhere. Our indifference to genocide is unforgivable.



Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

THE NEWS

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