By Elia Rehmatullah
The writer is a journalist in Quetta. This article was published on The News International July 28th.
Quetta ’s ethnic Hazara minority is the most educated tribe in Balochistan. The literacy rate of Hazaras is 100 per cent up to age of 35 years. With the population of over 0.2 million, majority of Hazaras live in Quetta, and thousands of others reside in Loralai, Khuzdar, Sibi, and Mach towns in Balochistan. They contribute immensely to development and progress of the province. The Hazaras in Quetta have been targeted repeatedly in the past. They suffered casualties which have been sectarian and ethnic biased.
Recently, targeting Hazaras, again resumed after a pause of three years in Quetta . A photographer Mir Ahmed Hazara was shot dead on April 16, 2008 , in the city. Six cricketer youths had been gunned down on May 30, 2008 , a rickshaw driver Ramzan Ali Hazara was killed on June 23, 2008 , labourers Muhammad Hanif Hazara and Muhammad Musa Hazara were murdered on July 5, 2008 , and Ghulam Rasool Hazara was killed on July 19, 2008 , in the provincial metropolis. Once again, Quetta witnessed the most inhuman act of violence when Anti-Terrorist Force personnel Quetta, on July 19 last, left the darkest day in the history of the city when they opened fire at peaceful protesters of Hazara tribe members and gunned down three of them on the spot on that day when they were staging peaceful protest against killing and injuring of their fellow tribesmen. One of them succumbed to his injuries on Sunday. Later, the ATF forces entered the streets and targeted innocent civilians in Hazara Town . The ATF men killed one passerby and left 18 others wounded, some of them critically. Most of them young men their ages range from 16 to 25 including a woman were injured.
Unfortunately, the ATF personnel also opened fire at a delegation of Balochistan ministers who were sent by Balochistan chief minister Muhammad Aslam Raisani for holding talks and resolving the issue in the area. The delegation consisting of provincial ministers Jan Ali Changezi, Shafiq Ahmed Khan, Younas Mullazai and Agha Irfan Karim and chairman Hazara Qawmi Jirga Qayyum Changezi came under fire of ATF personnel. Resultantly, the ministers escaped unhurt, but the chairman Hazara Qawmi Jirga sustained serious injury while his guard Liaqat Ali Hazara died on the spot. Thus, six Hazaras fell victims as a result of ATF’s brutalizing and terrorizing, in Hazara Town , on July 19.
In his press conference, minister Jan Ali Changezi said that he had informed the police high ups to communicate the police force in the ground that the delegation of the ministers was going in the area for holding talks with the elders of the local people. But, the police brass did not pay heed to his words. Despite informing the senior police officials about arrival of the delegation, the ministers came under fire of ATF when they reached the area, in Hazara Town .
Reportedly, police said that protesters opened fire at policemen and they retaliated. It is the ground reality that ATF personnel opened fire at peaceful protesters at the scene. The ATF prejudiced outlook at Hazara tribe is evident from the fact that they had killed about 40 Hazara tribesmen and injured more than 80 others on Aushura day on March 2, 2004 , in Quetta . The two suicide bombers on the Aushura day only killed eight people, but the scores of others were killed and got wounded by tyranny of ATF personnel. Now, the ATF again tried to repeat their barbaric and outlandish act on July 19, in Hazara Town , in suburb of the city.
The ATF personnel on the ground while injuring, killing, oppressing and terrorizing the residents in Hazara Town were either complying with the order of their authority or operating independently, but the tragic incident which left six innocent people dead and over a dozen of Hazara members injured should be probed independently.
Police have also arrested about a dozen innocent Hazara youths who have been torturing by police under their illegal custody. They arrested the innocent men who have also been implicated in false cases under Anti-Terrorism Act-1997 and in other criminal cases.
The chief minister has directed for conducting judicial inquiry headed by a Balochistan High Court judge. Minister Jan Ali Changezi has already warned that he will not accept the inquiry committee, if any official of ATF will be inducted in the committee. This inquiry should be conducted through a non-PCOed judge independently. The credibility of the judges of the top court of the province is already abysmal as they made inquiry of the Aushura-2004 tragic incident and presented a prejudicial report. The report had not made a single official of the ATF accountable for killing 40 and injuring 80 Hazara mourners on the Aushura day. None of ATF official was neither suspended nor terminated for their inhuman and terror act. The judicial inquiry of July 19’s terrible incident by the same judges of the provincial’s top court will not be a hope for the Hazara tribe.
It is extremely deplorable that when the dead bodies of protesters were lying in Bolan Medical Complex Hospital , no high official or minister came to give hope to mourners and tear shedding heirs of the innocent victims. It is more strange and surprising that no minister except Jan Ali Changezi condemned the tyranny of ATF guards or expressed sympathies to the bereaved families who suffered injustices at the hands Anti-Terrorists personnel’s oppression, not at the hands of terrorists.
It is the constitutional right of every citizen to stage peaceful protest for getting accepted their genuine demands, specially demanding of the arrest of murderers who gunned down innocent civilians in broad-day light. When the law enforcement agencies fail to ensure protection to life and property of the people, then at least, they do not have the right to stop the people from staging protest and snatch their right of peaceful protest, above all to kill them in fake encounter.
Here, the demands of Balochistan minister and PPP leader Jan Ali Changezi seem to be valid to resolve the issue. The demands included to take action against ATF personnel for their tyranny against innocent civilians, conduct independent judicial inquiry of the tragic incident, grant compensation to heirs of the deceased youths who fell victims at barbaric acts of ATF personnel, bear expanses of treatment of injured ones and release the innocent arrested Hazara youths.
If the government does not conduct independent inquiry and fail to take action against the responsible ATF personnel, then the people will never rely on impartiality of the government machineries. Besides, the people will also never come out on streets to protest and stand up against the killings of innocent police and security personnel as they had been being targeted in the recent months. Subsequently, the ordinary people will not be afraid of terrorists, but they will be afraid of security personnel in the future. There will be problem of the problems, if the fact about the killings of innocent Hazara youths by oppressive approach of ATF left unanswered. The chief minister is needed to take the coalition and sole representative of Hazara tribe Jan Ali Changezi into confidence to approach and resolve the issue of July 19’s tragedy.