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Thursday, November 22, 2012

UK minister’s comments about Hazaras spark controversy


Murtaza Ali ShahFriday, November 23, 2012
From Print Edition

LONDON: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reportedly said that Pakistani government officials support the killing of hundreds of Hazara Shias in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan.

Alan Johnson MP, former Home Secretary, during the Labour government, told the International Conference on the Genocide of Hazaras held in the House of Commons, organized by the Hazara Progressive Alliance, Hazara Organization for Peace and Equality and the Friends of Hazara, that Aliastair Burt MP had personally told him in April this year that he had made inquiries and found that “there was absolutely no doubt that there was some kind of official sanction to what was happening in Quetta city, that there were elements in government and security forces, who were sympathetic to the people who were murdering and killing Hazara people.”

The conference in the House of Commons was attended by more than 20 MPs from various parties. They included parliamentarians Robert Buckland, John Denham, Tobias Ellwood, Mr James Gray, Mark Lancaster, John McDonnell, Caroline Nokes, Stephen Pound, Mark Pritchard, Dan Rogerson, Andrew Smith, Iain Stewart, Eric Ollerenshaw OBE, Bob Ainsworth, Jim Cunningham, Chris Huhne, Sue Clayton and Lord Avebury, Luci Woodland, Hazara campaigners Inayat Balkhy Syed, Mokhtar Ali, Akram Gizabi, Ali Hakimi and Javed Hussain.

These comments by the former home secretary are likely to create tensions between the two countries as Pakistan maintains that all communities are under attack from extremists, but human rights group confirm that Hazaras are more vulnerable than any other ethnic group because of their distinct Mongoloid feature.

Alan Johnson, who has become a leading campaigner on behalf of Hazaras, expressed frustration that previous meetings had called “that genocide of Hazaras ended and the perpetrators of this crime were brought to justice”, but there has not been a single conviction, there still hasn’t been a single arrest. As many as 5000,Hazaras have left Quetta city which is an enormous loss to the city, student can no longer attend the university due to fear, Hazaras are under siege of terror.

MPs on this occasion announced the formation of All Parties Parliamentary Group on Hazaras to “address the issues faced by Hazaras in Pakistan to bring an end to the persecution and racial discrimination carried out against Hazaras”. Ian Steward, who was the sponsor of the conference, pledged that he will set up the group and will visit Pakistan with his colleagues.

About 0.6 million Hazaras live in Quetta, Balochistan. Campaigners claimed that over the last 12 years, nearly 800 Hazaras have been killed and over 2,000 injured in 109 recorded terrorist attacks. For majority of these attacks, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, the banned sectarian group, has accepted the responsibility but so far not a single terrorist involved in the killing of Hazaras has been brought to the justice.

MPs said in their speeches that the situation of Hazaras was grave, and they needed protection from terror groups and normal life restored to them. The MPs said the government of Pakistan had failed in its duty to protect its on people and that was a tragedy. They said Hazara professionals, businessmen and labourers were leaving the city as they were under attack.

Inayat Syed told The News: “Some terrorists are occasionally arrested but are then either directly released or helped to escape. They have support within the security forces and these terrorists don’t fear anything and anyone, they are above the law. Security forces further persecute Hazaras for being victims and don’t actively provide any support. Media and the government are not interested in us. We protested outside Pakistan missions as a first step but nothing happened. Now we have gone a step forward and the government of Pakistan needs to blame itself for its failure. He said that the government of Pakistan should be trialled on the cases of crime against humanity.

Ali Hakimi said Hazaras are patriot Pakistanis but the government of Pakistan had shown no interest in their concerns and ministers such as Chief Minister Lashkari Raisani made a joke about their plight. “Our chief minister laughs at us when our relatives are killed and Governor Zulfiqar Ali Magsi quoted his Inspector General of Police (IGP) as saying that high-ups calls for the release of criminals and terrorists who are involved in the killing of Hazars. We have come to the conclusion that provincial government officials are helpless. That’s why we have contacted the international community to help us get protection in Pakistan. We want the world to know that genocide is unfolding before their very eyes and they can help stop it.”

Our Islamabad correspondent adds: When this correspondent contacted a former security official he said there was no truth in assertions that elements in the government and security forces are sympathizing with killers of Hazara Shias in Quetta. He said there are many Shias in the security forces. He said it is an international conspiracy against the country. The enemies of Pakistan have pushed the country in war against Taliban and now they wanted to spoil internal situation and also damage Pakistan’s relations with Iran.

He said everybody including Shia and Sunni ulema are well aware of the drama being staged by Pakistan’s enemies as there is no difference between the followers of two sects in Pakistan.

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