ISLAMABAD - In the wake of serious threats to their lives, a large number of the Hazara community members leaves Pakistan for settlement in Australia or to stay there as refugees.
The number of applicants seeking immigration and asylum in Australia has seen an evident rise since the last month's deadly attack in Quetta, according to informed sources. As many as 92 Shi'ite Muslims from Hazara community including women and children had lost their lives in double-suicide bombings in Quetta on January 10. This has followed the killings of 90 Hazaras (till Tuesday night) as result of the Saturday bomb blast in Balochistan provincial capital.
Requesting anonymity, an official at the Australian High Commission said that the diplomatic mission had started supervising medical tests four days a week for the applicants cleared for asylum in Australia. "Dominant majority of these applicants comprises of Hazaras who no longer feel secure in Pakistan," the official said adding that the High Commission had accepted more than 200 requests for granting asylum in Australia in the past three weeks following which, the subsequent medical tests of the cleared applicants were being facilitated by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) at the Australian High Commission. Fatima Mujtaba, the Media Officer at the Australian High Commission was called and messaged at her official cell and landline numbers on Tuesday for the Commission's version on the matter but she did not comment. The IOM-facilitated screening including complete medical tests are reportedly conducted only on those candidates whose applications for asylum and immigration are cleared by the Australian High Commission here following which they are allowed to fly to Australia subject to the clearance of medical tests.
Previously, the diplomatic mission's source said, the screening tests on the cleared asylum-seekers were done at the Australian High Commission once a week (Monday). Now, these tests are conducted Monday to Thursday every week, the official said.
"This is because the number of asylum-seekers for Australia has seen a massive rise," the source added.
The IOM performs medical screening on 30 to 40 immigration applicants, mostly Hazaras and some Afghans, at its office every Monday and Tuesday in addition to screening 25 to 30 asylum applicants at the Australian High Commission (Monday to Thursday), it is further learnt. Reportedly, the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) tests are also performed on the asylum applicants.
The Australian High Commission has reportedly cleared over a thousand immigration applications in the past three years. Majority of the applicants are said to have hailed from Hazara community.
Talking to TheNation, Chief of the Hazara tribe Sardar Sadat said that his tribe members were mostly applying for Australia due to its relaxed visa policy and related factors. "The Australian visa policy for immigrants and refugees is relaxed compared to other Western countries that's why people from our community are flying there. A number of Hazara families has been settled in Australia which also helps the newly moved Hazara families there," he said.
Regarding serious life threats to Hazaras and their targeted killings at the hands of sectarian terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, he said, "When our brothers and sisters are butchered like carrots and radishes and there's nobody to help us, what option do we have than to move to safer places? New examples of boundless brutalities have been set on us but nobody came for our rescue." Sadat referred to the seemingly incapable government and the law enforcement agencies including the military authorities in Balochistan saying that since the arrival of the present government in 2008, Hazaras had been the victim of repeated targeted killings in Quetta.
"If our genocide goes on like this, we'll be compelled to move elsewhere like some families from our community are doing," he said.
After last month's carnage, the Hazara community staged a huge-sit-in with 87 unburied bodies demanding the dissolution of Balochistan government and launch of military operation in Quetta. The sit-in was called off after the government had imposed governor rule. The Hazaras, after the Saturday incident, again went for a sit-in that was put off on Tuesday following governments' assurance to launch targeted operation against the terrorists in Quetta. While the death toll suggests the killings of 90 people in the Saturday bomb blast, Hazara community leaders insist that the number of casualties is 110.
"We have lost 110 of our near and dear ones," Sadat said. "Again there're killings and again there're assurances. Every time the government promises to protect our lives and property but does nothing. Let's see how long do these promises work this time."