Fearing persecution, Afghan Hazara Shia Muslim families find refuge in Pakistan's Quetta

Hundreds of Hazara families have arrived in Quetta since the Taliban takeover in Kabul, most of them via human smugglers, according to an immigrant.

Published: 03rd September 2021 12:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd September 2021 12:51 AM   |  A+A-

Afghan people enter into Pakistan through a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo | AP)

FILE | Afghan people enter into Pakistan through a border crossing point, in Chaman, Pakistan. (Photo | AP)


QUETTA: Among the thousands of Afghans, who have fled their country after the Taliban take over and entered Pakistan, are many ethnic Hazara Shia Muslim families that have reached Quetta's Hazara town and are recounting horrifying stories of their escape and survival.

One such Afghan Hazara family, including husband, wife and their three daughters, managed to reach the town after shelling out thousands of rupees to human smugglers to take them into Pakistan's Balochistan province through the Spin Boldak and Chaman border route.

Narrating his family's ordeal over phone, Dr Khalid Hazara said that while he was a government doctor, his wife Latifa was also a government employee in Kabul.

"We have been working in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and were happy with our daughters also studying and doing well. We never expected the Taliban to enter Kabul so suddenly and swiftly it came as a shock to us," he recounted.

Hazara town is home to thousands of ethnic Hazara Muslims in Pakistan who have also been the target of several suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings mainly carried out by extremist religious parties or terrorists in the past.

The year 2013, in particular, proved deadly for the Hazaras as the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group carried out several bombings in and around Quetta, with a bomb blast killing some 91 people and injuring around 180 in a vegetable market in Hazara township in February and another in June killing 33.

The targeted attacks and violence against the Hazaras have continued in Balochistan province since 2003 when a dozen Hazara cadets were killed near Quetta when assailants opened fire at their bus.

The ancestors of many of the Hazaras living in Quetta had started migrating to Pakistan in the 1880s after they were subjected to persecution and violence by Afghan King Abdur Rehman.

The Hazaras were also subjected to hardships at the hands of the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan between 1995-2001.

It is this fear of persecution, Khalid says, that led them to flee Kabul after the Taliban entered the city.

"We had no other place to go except Quetta and we managed to come here after a harrowing journey through Kandhar," he said.

He said once the news came through that the Taliban had entered Kabul, he and his wife took their children and rushed to the Kabul Airport to fly out of Afghanistan.

"But at the airport, it was terrible with thousands having converged there to get out of Kabul. Even though we all had valid passports without visas, there were no commercial flights flying out,” he recalled. “I managed to get in touch with a relative in Quetta who advised me to take the road route," he added.

Khalid narrated that after they reached Kandhar on a bus, a man approached them at a tea stall and said he could smuggle them to Quetta for a hefty sum.

"We had no option so I paid him and finally we reached Quetta via road routes and we had to pay other fighters as well in Spin Boldak to let us go through," he said.

Khalid, his wife and daughters, are presently looked after by their relatives and are living with other Afghan families in one of the Imambargahs (mosques of Shia Muslims) in the town.

"Hundreds of Hazara families have arrived here since the Taliban takeover in Kabul, most of them via human smugglers," he said.

He said the families which arrived in Quetta mostly include government servants, professionals and a few media personnel who worked in Kabul.

Asked about his future, Khalid says it appears bleak because they don't know what to do.

"We just managed to take our bare necessities and belongings when we fled from Kabul. If the Taliban do as they have promised and we as a community are not persecuted, we can think about going back but right now this is our home," he stated.


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