So far in 2013, more than 200 Hazaras have been killed in two massive bomb attacks targeting their enclaves in the city of Quetta, Pakistan. On 10 January, more than 120 people were killed in suicide and car bomb attack on a snooker club on Alamdar Road. First a suicide bomber targeted club goers. Ten minutes later an explosive-laden ambulance blew up at the scene, killing scores of rescuers, policemen, journalists and ordinary civilians.
The attack was designed to kill a maximum number of people. Among those killed was Irfan Khudi Ali, a tireless human rights activist who had dedicated his life to raising awareness about the plight of his people.
A month later, a water tanker filled with one ton of explosives was blown up in the middle of a crowded market in the Hazara enclave of Hazara Town. More than 100 people were killed and the death toll continues to grow. At least half of the victims were women, and another quarter of them were young children. The blast destroyed a nearby school and killed two teachers and 17 young students. The shockwave shattered windows many kilometres away.
On both occasions the responsibility of these attacks have been accepted by Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an Islamic extremist outfit that considers Shi’as to be infidels and has openly vowed to kill them. These attacks are only the latest in a series of attacks in which civil servants, politicians, doctors, teachers, students, traders and professionals from the Hazara community have been killed.
Hazara men, women and children are mercilessly butchered on the streets of Quetta by hit squads, bombs and suicide bombers. Not a single perpetrator of these attacks has been brought to justice. Each attack is deadlier than the last. Every day the Hazaras have to dig more graves.
The Hazaras are an ethnic group with distinct Asiatic appearance, unique among Pakistan’s various ethnic communities. A majority of Hazaras adhere to the Shi’a branch of Islam, a sect considered heretical by Pakistani’s Sunni extremists. This ethnicity-faith mix has turned
Hazaras into sitting ducks for Pakistan’s Islamic extremists.
In less than a decade, more than 1200 Hazaras have lost their lives to targeted attacks and bombings, another 5000 have been wounded. They have been virtually excluded from the commercial and social scene, living under a state siege. Tens of thousands have been forced to flee to other countries.
Inside their enclaves, they are killed in massive bombings, outside their enclaves they are hunted by death squads; if they flee, they are taken off buses, lined up and shot.
The Pakistani state has at best been a spectator to this bloodbath, and at worst, complicit in the murder of thousands of Shi’as and Hazaras. In 2008, Lashkar-e Jhangvi leader Usman Saifulla Kurd and his deputy Dawood Badini mysteriously escaped from Quetta’s maximum-security gaol located in Quetta Cantonment.
Badini is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, former Al Qaeda No 3 and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He is also the brother-in-law of Ramzi Yousaf, the mastermind of the first terror attack on the World Trade Center 1993. Malik Ishaq, another leader of Lashkar-e Jhangvi who is alleged to be involved in the murder of at least 70 Shi’as, is a free man who lives on stipends from the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province. When he is not preaching terror against Shi’as, he is busy forming electoral alliances with the Pakistani Muslim League — the country’s second largest political party.
In 2010 they conducted a joint election campaign. In 2013 Malik Ishaq is being considered for a ticket to run for a seat in parliament on the behest of the Pakistan Muslim League. A recent report by Human Rights Watch notes:
"The [Pakistan] government was unable or unwilling to break the links between Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies with extremist groups. Sunni militant groups, including those with known links to the Pakistani military, its intelligence agencies, and affiliated paramilitaries, such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi, operated openly across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials turned a blind eye to attacks. The government took no significant action to protect those under threat or to hold extremists accountable."
The International Criminal Court came into being in July 2002 for the
purpose of investigating and prosecuting international crimes, including
genocide and crimes against humanity, in situations where states are
unable or unwilling to intervene.
One hundred and twenty two states, including Australia, are party to the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court. Pakistan is among the 41 countries
that have neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute.
Pakistan’s lack of interest in the court is explained by reference to
the atrocities it committed during Bangladesh’s war of independence in
1971; its decades-long war against Baloch separatists in Balochistan;
its overt and covert support for Islamic militants wreaking havoc in
India and Afghanistan; and its current indifference towards the unabated
genocide of religious minorities living in Pakistan — especially Hazara
Article 6 of the Rome Statute defines genocide as the "act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group by means of killing members of the group" or "by deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part".
Lashkar-e Jhangvi has on multiple occasions warned the Hazaras to either leave Pakistan or be killed. They are committed to destroying the Hazara and Shi’a people in whole or in part by killing their members and deliberately inflicting on the community unbearable living conditions. As such, these killings constitute an act of genocide by a terrorist organisation operating under the watchful eyes of an indifferent Pakistani state.
Under the Rome Statute these attacks constitute a crime against humanity. These are systematic attacks directed against a civilian population primarily to murder and persecute members of an identifiable group, the Hazaras, on the grounds that they are Shi’as.
Article 7(2) says the attacks must be "pursuant to, or in furtherance, of a state or organizational policy to commit such attack". In Quetta alone, there have been over 200 target attacks, and Lashkar-e Jhangvi claims the responsibility almost every time.
Over the years the strategy of these organisations has been simple: kill as many Hazaras as you can, confine the rest to the two ghettos in Quetta and then massacre them inside the ghettos.
During all of this madness, the Pakistani military, the government and the judiciary have looked the other way. The state has failed in its very duty to protect its citizens and members of the Hazara community remain vulnerable to more such attacks.
Pakistan is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. The ICC does not have the jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute these attacks despite the fact that what is unfolding in Pakistan, right before the eyes of the international community, is both an act of genocide as well as a crime against humanity. But that does not make the Pakistani state immune to international justice. The United Nations — particularly the Security Council — has the mandate to authorise an investigation.
At the time of writing of this piece, tens of thousands of Hazaras are spending a second night in sub-zero temperatures, protesting against their killing and seeking justice. The Pakistani authorities have failed these people.
Unless the international community, the United Nations and Western defenders of human rights go beyond mere condemnations, and pressure the Pakistani state to break ties with Lashkar-e Jhangvi, many thousands more will be killed.