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For most of us who are now happily settled abroad, the spare time spent on comfortable couches offers the opportunity to reflect upon and comprehend our diverse experiences, weigh their positives and negatives and as a result try to watch less television. Many of these existentialist moments come about as a result of as a result of those ‘BREAKING NEWS’ alerts, of which there has been abundance as of late.
I have read and heard a lot of opinions, a lot of reactionary emotional ranting but almost no analysis and understanding of the situation. Why us? Why do these tragedies take place so frequently in our part of the world and not elsewhere, especially not in the countries that are traditionally termed as ‘immoral,’ ‘godless’ and ….
Recent decades have seen a rise in various religious practices in the community; people even identify themselves with quite a few. A few see nothing but religious divide all around because that’s the only concern they have. Ordinary, sane people have been brainwashed and turned into insane monsters whose actions have wrecked innocent lives and at the same time provided satisfaction to actual perpetrators.
Extremism is not a new phenomenon; it doesn’t just randomly pop up, not in Quetta. We are still bearing the fruit of large scale Islamisation of the 70s and 80s, particularly those imported under the auspices of Gen. Zia ul Haq and Company. It has taken a good decade, considerable hard work by religious-political fanatics, embassies and consulates and the localized hate militias to fully infect the heart of the otherwise secular Baluchistan province. Today, Quetta is, for good reasons, called the Taliban capital of Pakistan; tough neighborhoods, no-go areas, sectarian and ethnic strife, mafias, undercover gang wars, extremism – similar to something out of Hollywood but real. The heterogeneous make up of the city is, perhaps, the only factor that has prevented it from implosion. A good run through the recent past can help us better understand a few things and form a more informed opinion.
In the yester years residents of Quetta were generally liberal, secular and cared little for religious differences or practices, much of it thanks to influence of the left-leaning, although hypocritical, Sardars and Khans. While there were constant episodes of struggles over issues of Pashtunistan and independent Balochistan , Islamisation had little to no appeal to the masses . During the same years Hazaras were allotted government funds, radio time slot, recognition and combination of other resources by the Bhutto government to counter Daud Khan’s plans for ‘Gran Pashtunisation’. The blessings for Hazaras kept coming as long as the need for it existed .
Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 marked the start of terrible times for the community. Long before sectarianism had become routine, Iran based organizations had already established political and radical wings in Quetta. Hazara men and women were recruited and then used to bring the community under Irani influence. Women were forced to wear hijab, non-religious families became outcasts and Moharram nights turned into no-sleep nights for everyone and anyone. Bell-bottom jeans and Wahid Murad hairstyles were replaced with traditional Shalwar Kameez and the zawari hat. The Muharram gloom extended from 10 days to a month, fasting in Ramadan was made compulsory . Shia devotees imported the black/green kameez and white shalwar combination, Kaardi and other preposterous acts of religious fanaticism from the Middle East. Mosques became propaganda centers. The liberal left was victimized, some liberals were assassinated, some were forced to submit, others left the country. Sheikhs and Mullahs imported tactics and materials from Lebanon and Iran. The stage was set for a Taliban-style take over and the nifaaz of Fiqh e Jaafarya – under direct guidance from Irani agencies.
The Saudi and Irani versions of Islam became more violent by the day. On July 6, 1985 Sheikh T. and company attempted to change the city into ‘Lab e Naan’ or another Lebanon. The result was tragic loss of life and the start of downfall of the Hazara community. Sheikh T. and company became darlings of the Irani consulate. Since then, constant petro-funding has helped them gain power, wealth and influence. They organize events with Irani blessing, exchange information about the how and who of the community and in their hours of refreshment, sign ‘Seegha’ deals.
In the 80s, Progressive Hazara Organizations established ties with the Afghan Communist government, received student scholarships and sent many members to Afghan universities . This put them at serious odds with the Hazara jihadis (many of whom later on went on to form Hizb e Wahdat). Religious parties declared a war on Sholaees – this included anyone they did not particularly like. Many liberal activists were assassinated; a few such as Hussain Yousufi , Reza Wakil and others were incarcerated in Hazarajat, others were stripped naked, flogged and humiliated in public, their lives and livelihoods looted, many of their women raped and then kept under miserable conditions. HSF activist Ibrahim (aka Ibrahim Shaheed) was, for example, murdered in broad day light, for speaking out against Khomeini. His murderer then fled to Iran and to this day lives a cozy life in the arms of Irani Ayatollahs. Many other perpetrators of those crimes live abroad, some in 16-acre and quite a few lead prayers and religious political parties.
The later years saw the expansion of extremist philosophies. Fundamentalism became the trend; religious studies became a feature of the Hazaragi lifestyle. Throughout the 90s Mullahs witnessed exponential increase in their control on everyday life. For example, mullahs convinced General Musa of the superiority of a neglected corner in Mashhad over a glorious final resting place in his native country.
A major tragedy facing the community in the early 90s was the massacre of thousands of Hazaras by the Irani militias in the concentration camps of Tal i Siyah and Sang e Safeed. This sparked widespread protests by all sections of the civil society, chanting slogans such as ,”سنگ سفید، تل سیاه، خمینی، خامینیی سگ سیاه”. Sheikh T. and Company were not impressed, they blamed the victims for the deaths, and told the community that they had been informed by ‘Haji Aghas’ of the death of ‘about 90 unruly people’. Many survivors of the massacre still roam the streets around Suraye Namak as deewana.
Later Jamiah Imamiah, Punjtan, Wali Asr and other mosques became propaganda centers for Punjabi and Irani mullahs. Sheikh A., Sheikh T. and others operated ghunda gangs in Brewery and Mariabad, headed by the likes of A e Sorkh, B e Saqaaw and others. ISO established branches in Brewery and recruited dozens of students. Mojizah mosque made millions of rupees by fooling thousands of women and teenagers.
In a nutshell, by the year 2000 Islamic fundamentalism had gained a foothold amongst the Hazara community. Tehrik Jaafarya ran offices in Brewery and on Alamdar Road. All resistance to it was suppressed. Work had already begun on the construction of a lavish million dollar Irani headquarter-cum-library in Hazara town. Every street had a Haji, Karbalaye and Zawar. Black became the Hazaragi color – black hejab, black clothes, black flags … black lives, blank minds and bleak futures. Music and movies were banned in certain communities and wedding celebrations started to resemble Fatiha Khwani, celebrations were replaced by Salawat. And the trend continued…
By 9-11, the community had already drawn the attention of the mother of all extremists, agencies and Saudi Arab sponsored Wahabi extremists. It began with target killings, attempted assassinations, and killings in Zangi Loda, Sariyab, Prince Road, By-Pass Road and the attacks on Moharram procession. As a reaction Irani agencies established groups like Sarfarosh Force, Mukhtar Force, Jaanbaaz Force, ISO, Karrar Force, ‘Anjuman e …’ Hundreds of Qom-based Mullahs returned to Quetta and gained stakes in Language centers, schools, libraries, mosques and other social institutions.
Last time I checked nothing had changed.
A few months ago, a local Mullah Mr T. (Junior) raped his underage student; a girl almost a quarter of Mr T’s age. He then blatantly broke the news to the girl’s parents and asked for her hand in return for his acceptance. Based on what I have heard, the parents had their girls attend madrassa and the boys attend English Language Institutes. It is hardly surprising that they happened to be your typical mosque attendees, they regularly paid large amounts in khooms and zakat and labeled everyone else as in the muhallah as gumraah. The Mullah in question was frequently invited to solve their religious puzzles, solve family feuds and preside over their mehmaani. Cutting the long story short, upon confirmation of mullah’s words the girl’s father and brother then murder the mullah and run for their lives. The mullah is termed as “Shaheed e Raah e Haq” and put to rest with salutes and respect. In addition to that, relatives swear to avenge his death. A few months later they murder a relative of the above-mentioned family. The blame is put on balocha and everyone lives happily ever after. No questions asked, none answered.
Enough with the entire story telling, let’s do a check back.
What has become of us!? We have become naïve enough to embrace extremism, reject humanism and turn pointing fingers into a habit. Most of us share concerns for Shiaism, Islamism or Hazaraism but none of us dare to cut the slack and see ourselves as members of the human family, have humanitarian concerns and share human values. I often quote a reesh-safeed e qaum whose golden words still tickle me,”مو اول شیعه ای، بعد مسلمان، بعد آزره، بعد افغان و بعد انسان …” Lunatics like him have now become leaders to our people and pass decrees about topics ranging from people’s kitchen to their bedroom. Tolerance is a popular demand but never a stance. Aptitude is a popular slogan but senselessness is a fact of life. Hazara immigrants have taken most of these stupid practices abroad but have brought back little cultural, educational and social modernity. We have shunned happiness and open-mindedness. Our celebrations do not last a day, while the sorrows over Arab tribal clashes last for months. No independent thought process, no investigation ever happens and little curiosity takes place in religious matters. We have gone from being an independent prosperous people to a tight-lipped group of silent spectators open to exploitation.
Madrassas have replaced civilized schools; siparas have taken the place of progressive literature. Gunshots have replaced exchange of ideas. Women are being increasingly marginalized. Songs of joy have been replaced by Nauhas with a million variation of the same story, each one sadder and more radical than the other. Anything labeled as religion is asked no questions, given a free hand and bought in bulk. Modesty and good looks have been replaced by long beards, scruffy barbaric looks and black veil. You can no longer talk to women in public. Females can no longer cross the streets alone or work in public places. Men can do what they want. Women can not escape the prison of ghairat. People have stopped caring about the atrocities being committed in the town down the road but care to exhibit curious yet ignorant concern over the events in Gaza. We are set to become the very definition of ignorance. And it continues…
Are we doing the right thing? No.
What is the right thing to do? I ask YOU to think about it and answer that question.