National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: Defend the Hazara community against reactionary attacks

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On Saturday, 16 February, 113 members of the Shi'ite Hazara community in Quetta were killed in a brutal bomb attack. The arch reactionary Islamist grouping “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi” (LeJ) claimed responsibility for this latest attack as it had for the bombings of a snooker hall on 1 February. The same group has been linked to the bombing of a Shia mosque in northwest Pakistan that killed 24 people.

The Hazara minority has become a key target of extreme reactionary, even fascistic, Islamist groupings in recent years. On January 10, for example, 93 people were killed in a similar bomb attack. Over the last four years, more than 800 have been killed – most of them in Quetta and the Hazara areas in the province of Balochistan. The numbers would be even higher if they included other attacks on Shi'ites, like the recent murder of a Shi'ite surgeon and his 11 year old son in Lahore.

The Hazara mainly live in Afghanistan and bordering regions in Pakistan. In cities like Quetta, they constitute a large national and religious minority. They speak Farsi (Persian) and, unlike most Pakistani Muslims, they are Shi'ites, not Sunni. They have been scapegoated not only by the reactionary Islamist forces but also by elements within the political establishment and the state institutions, both in Balochistan and in Pakistan as a whole. As with other national and religious minorities, the ruling class has encouraged attacks on the Hazara as part of the “divide and rule” strategy by which it maintains its grip on the whole country.

Mass wave of protests and solidarity

This time, however, the attacks have been met with a wave of protests, rallies and demonstrations throughout Pakistan. In the Hazara regions, and in cities like Quetta and Karachi, protestors blocked railway tracks and roads for two days. In Lahore, they blocked the airport.

Protests and solidarity actions spread even beyond the areas with large Hazara communities and were supported by the left and working class organisations like the newly founded “Awami Workers' Party” as well as liberal and bourgeois-democratic forces and NGOs.

The sheer size of the bomb attack last weekend also raised rumours in the wider public about the involvement of the police and local authorities in Quetta – or at least the complicity of some parts of the state machine in the wave of reactionary attacks.

Clearly, the Hazara community has rightly lost all faith in the police, the city and regional authorities in Balochistan. Beyond that, however, the response of the community has been contradictory. For example, some demonstrators and leaders have demanded, “military action against the extremists”. In Quetta, Amin Shaheedi, the vice-president of the Shi'ite Wahdatul Muslemeen party, demanded that, “control of the city be handed over to the Army”.

Support for military intervention should not be misunderstood as a blind faith in the Army. It is rather based on the misguided hope that the Army would at least be a “lesser evil” and is the only force that could realistically defeat the Islamists.

Nonetheless, to bring in the Army would be to replace one nightmare by another. In the Hazara areas it would offer no better guarantee of protection and on the national level it would play right into the hands of the Army leaders who have a long history of involvement with the reactionary Islamist forces. At the present time, as the tensions within Pakistani society are reaching breaking point, they are trying to present the Army as the “last guardian of order”.


However, within the Hazara and Shi'ite communities, actions have also been taken in recent days that do show a way forward and need to be generalised. These are not only the mass actions of protest, but also the setting up of self-defence groups in Hazara Town in Quetta. Organised volunteers, who are armed with rifles and pistols, now guard the streets and houses. This initiative, the first step towards large-scale armed self-defence of the whole community and backed by it, needs to be generalised throughout the country. As attacks and provocations against the solidarity demonstrations in other parts of Pakistan demonstrate, this is not “only” a question for Quetta, all actions everywhere need to have organised self-defence.

The second element of real protection is the backing and support for the Hazara community by the workers and peasants, by the youth, by the labour movement and by all democratic forces. The current momentum needs to be generalised so that the reactionary forces are challenged throughout the country.

Here, a big responsibility rests with the newly founded Awami Workers' Party (AWP). It has called and mobilised for rallies throughout the country and issued leaflets in solidarity with the Hazara community. However, it failed to raise the demand for organised self-defence, and especially working class defence organisations. We – the supporters of the League for the Fifth International in the AWP and of the paper “Revolutionary Socialist” will continue to argue for this policy. Our key slogans are:

No to sectarianism
Workers' self defence committees in Shia, Sunni, Hindu and Christian communities
Complete separation of religion and state
No to military intervention
Down with the “War on Terror”
Down with collaboration with the imperialist powers
Long live international solidarity