Quetta [Pakistan], February 15 (ANI): Fearing targeted extremism and an uncertain future in Pakistan, many Hazara youths are undertaking perilous journeys to Australia and Europe.
Rafiullah Mandokhail, a Balochistan-based journalist, writing in The Express Tribune said that the Hazara community, a minority population in Pakistan has been victimized by a decade of unrest that has rattled Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.
Quetta was once known as 'Little Paris' because of its rich tradition and tribal customs - home to Pashtuns, Baloch, and more than half a million Hazaras.
But over the years, the city lost its reputation as a cultural hub as news of bomb blasts and other terrorist activity there became common.
People from ethnic minorities, especially Hazaras who are mainly Shia Muslims became the targets of indiscriminate attacks carried out by extremist groups including the so-called Islamic State, said Mandokhail.
Hazara Democratic Party estimated that around 3,000 Hazara have been killed in Quetta. Children of slain Hazara have been orphaned and their wives widowed by sectarian violence in the province that has escalated at an alarming rate in the last decade.
According to a 2018 report from the National Commission for Human Rights, 500 Shia Hazaras have been killed in targeted attacks in five years.
Increasing unrest also pushed Hazara youth -- many of whom are teenagers -- out of Quetta toward Europe and Australia. Leaving behind educational opportunities, work and family, they've undertaken journeys fraught with danger in search of a better future, reported The Express Tribune.
Among the young people who have left Quetta is Kashif Hussain, who started his journey to Europe in 2013. At the time, Kashif had just passed the matriculation exam and completed a diploma in English language and computer.
But his trip was long and perilous as Kashif had to put his faith in unscrupulous human traffickers, said Mandokhail. For ten days, he travelled from Pakistan to the Iranian capital of Tehran across the Taftan-Balochistan border. From there, Kashif walked for 35 hours across the border to Turkey. Kashif arrived in Greece after passing through Turkey.
After several more months of travelling, he finally reached Sweden, where he spent four years living in a refugee camp. When he arrived in Sweden, he created a Facebook account with a fake name; he still did not want to reveal his identity in Sweden because he still did not have a work permit or citizenship, reported The Express Tribune.
Muhammad Hussain, 31, a resident of Hazara Town in Quetta, undertook a similarly perilous journey to Australia through Indonesia. Before he left for Australia, Muhammad Hussain used to make a living by making signboards and number plates in Hazara Town. But after an uptick in targeted killings in 2010, he decided it was time to leave, said Mandokhail.
Before Hussain left Pakistan, he said there was daily news of Hazara killings in Quetta. "When the targeting of the Hazara community in Quetta escalated, people on way to their offices, schools, and hospitals were targeted," he said.
Like Hussain, many other Hazaras, the majority of whom attempt the journey via illegal routes, have had harrowing experiences trying to escape ethnic and sectarian violence in Balochistan.
But violence at home does not offset the risk faced by Hazaras in exile who are fleeing from every corner of Pakistan, said. (ANI)