• Wednesday 2nd December 2020

Nationalism, Religion A Deadly Mix In Balochistan

Initially, there were few takers amongst the historically secular Baloch community. But with state support and unlimited funds from the Gulf Arab states seeking to counter Iran’s perceived influence the movement grew.

The attack on the Hazara Shia community hall in Quetta has finally shocked the Pakistani state into taking action against the slaughter of that community in Balochistan.

Haji Abdul Qayyum Changezi, a senior community leader, described it best on Sunday.

“Our people are being massacred — 1,100 have been murdered in the last five years,” he said while speaking in a televised meeting with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

“That’s out of a total population of 500,000 — a rate unprecedented anywhere in Pakistan.”

While women and children have been killed, the high risk age group remains young males.

Increasingly, the Hazara youth prefer to choose the life of the illegal immigrant.

Certain death awaits them at home.

All Hazaras fear that they could be the next target of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. For Pakistan’s deadliest militant group’s Baloch incarnation — they are the ideal target on both ethnic and religious basis.

It’s an incarnation that not only runs things in Balochistan but also in the rest of the country — but with Asif Baloch alias Chotu being appointed supreme Amir.

The LeJ’s story is well-known — created in form of the Sipah-e-Sahaba in the mid eighties by militants and extremist demagogues by harnessing rising anti-Shia feeling in the Punjab.

While the province has remained home base, the LeJ has slowly but surely spread its tentacles across the country.

Its sectarian poison also found a fertile ground in the soil that was prepared post 9/11.

Balochistan — by way of Karachi and southern Punjab — proved to be the best place for its plantation.

The work on Balochistan began in the late nineties when a few LeJ militants came to Quetta on their way to Kandahar.

At that time, the LeJ was a favoured guest of the Afghan Taliban.

But Balochistan was largely a bastion of secular ideologies, something that may have attracted their attention.

Since then the province saw a proliferation of spending by religious groups in the late nineties.

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