Baluchistan Is Being Destabilized from the Outside
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Syed Muhammad Raza (Agha Raza), Member of Baluchistan Provincial Assembly Quetta, while on a speaking tour of the United States said that the province was being destabilized by outside forces and that the terrorists had to be countered. He visited Sacramento, California on September 8 th where he spoke at a local venue.
Raza is a leader of the minority Pakistani Hazara community which has a large presence in Baluchistan’s capital. Like the Baluch and the Pashtun, the Hazaras too live in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they are a significant minority, and they are not from the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering the Punjab as some may mistakenly believe.
Two attributes of the Hazaras make them stand out in the region. First are their Asiatic features with a lineage that traces back to the Mongols who once invaded the region of Afghanistan and far beyond. Their distinct looks in an area where Caucasians dominate in numbers makes them stand out. The second part of Hazara uniqueness is that they are almost all followers of Islam’s Shia sect in two countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan) that are predominantly Sunni. So a natural affinity towards Iran’s (Twelve Imam) Shia majority is present, and the linkage is not difficult since Iran also happens to share a border with Pakistani Baluchistan. Needless to say, the Hazaras are a wonderful addition to Pakistan’s ethnic diversity but they have suffered badly at the hands sectarian terrorists in the past few years.
Agha Raza is a member of the Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) Pakistan political party and won his seat in the Baluchistan Provincial Assembly during the 2013 elections by defeating Abdul Khaliq Hazara, Chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP). An imposing figure, Agha Raza shatters the myth that Hazaras are small in stature. He is also a good speaker comfortable in both English and Urdu even though the mother tongue of his community is dialect of Dari-Persian called Hazaragi.
During his speech Raza said that terrorism has become a business and has to be countered at its source. He said that we as Pakistanis are a very innocent people, very simple. He said that the violence that we see in Pakistan today is a fallout of the policy adopted during the Afghan War (against the Soviets). He revisited a 1993 interview of a former Foreign Minister of Pakistan Agha Shahi, who while talking with General Zia ul Haq, warned him that if Pakistan interfered in another country, it was going to suffer the consequences. As a possible consequence Agha Shahi was asked to resign. He said that it is sad that a lesson was not learnt from that experience. He said that out of that dark chapter many extremist groups have emerged that may have different names and faces, but practice violence against innocent people. First they were Mujahideen in the name of Jihad, and then they were given the name of Taliban, later Al Qaeda and then Daesh (ISIS). They have worked against Pakistan. They want Pakistan to be destabilized. They want to break the country. Whatever is going on in Baluchistan, maps issued where both Afghanistan and Pakistan are going to shrink and Greater Baluchistan is going to emerge, is a part of that destabilization effort.
Raza said that Baluchistan’s dilemma is quite different from the rest of the country. He said that Baluchistan is divided into North and South. The Pashtuns live in the north and the Baluch in the southern part of the province. Quetta city was inhabited mainly by Pashtuns, Hazaras and settlers from Punjab and Karachi. He said according to a sinister plan Punjabis and Hazaras were targeted and many were forced to leave Quetta city. In the case of the Punjabis, it was done in the name of BLA (Baluch Liberation Army), even though there is no BLA at all, he said. And in the case of the Shia Hazaras, it was done in the name of sectarian Sunni extremists. He said that the Taliban are no longer Pakistani Taliban and they are being controlled from elsewhere and that many now believe that there is a proxy war in Baluchistan and in Quetta city.
He said that the whole Pakistani nation of close to 200 million people is on one side and these terrorist groups on the other. Nobody can guarantee the security of our people. He said that the world is today divided into nations who support democracy and embrace pluralism and those who are supporting terrorists and that it must decide whom we stand with. He added that the people of Pakistan are very peaceful and don’t want extremists ruling their country. He also said that any person who works against the constitution and the stability of Pakistan should be tried and prosecuted. He added that many said thousands of people have been killed by these extremist elements and he chided those who said that we should talk to them.
Agha Raza said that today we (Pakistanis) are having a different mindset than appeasement. There is hope that change is coming, Insha’Allah. He mentioned that at one time other elected officials even avoided having their picture taken with him, fearing that it would be published and that they themselves would be targeted by the extremists.
Shia Hazaras are suffering more than any other Pakistanis, he said. He added that he himself has not only picked up dead bodies but small pieces of bodies from Hazara neighborhoods and that the area graveyards have become fuller than many Hazara homes. He also added that in spite of terror, life had to continue for the Hazara. An educational institute was being built in their densely populated neighborhoods by cutting the hillside. He also requested financial assistance from the Pakistani-American community for projects aimed at helping the besieged community in Quetta. Amongst the charities working there he mentioned Share Global Charity ( www.shareglobalcharity.org/ ) as a vehicle to donate.
To conclude one can only suggest that it would be prudent to listen to Pakistani leaders like Syed Muhammad Raza and to support his people who have suffered a great deal. The future of Pakistan as any keen observer can note today is tied to Baluchistan. It has a variety of known natural resources including copper and gold deposits and possibly oil. It is also very sparsely populated unlike the rest of Pakistan and all it needs is a source of water to make its barren landscape extremely productive. But most of all, it needs law and order and peace. The recently announced China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has become a game changer for Baluchistan province and for the whole region including Pakistan itself. Any group which creates instability in that area through sectarian violence has to be dealt with. Today we are all Hazara.