Friday, 10 March 2017

I am Hazara

By Hania Hussain
Published 2013

Almost always, the first question that people ask me is, “Are you Chinese?” I answer “No, of course I am not Chinese, I am as Pakistani as they come.” The second question is inevitable: “If I am not Chinese, then why do I look like one? Where in Pakistan do people look so oriental?” I tell them I am from Quetta. At this point they assume that I am either Baloch or Pathan, albeit an odd looking one. But I am not. I am Hazara.

The name Hazara was first recorded in the Baburnama, the memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Babur.. The word referred to the people living in what was then called the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan. These people are thought to be descended from the Mongols; especially the conquering Changez Khan and his army, part of which settled in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) in the 13th century, along with their Persian wives. This origin is also evident in the name ‘Hazara’; the name is taken from the Persian word ‘hazaar’ (thousand), which may be a translation for the Mongol word ming, a military unit of 1000 soldiers in Changez Khan’s time.

In the nineteenth century, many Hazaras fled ethnic persecution in Afghanistan, migrating to and settling in neighboring countries such as Iran and pre-Partition India. In today’s Pakistan, the majority of the Hazara population (approximately 0.3 million) lives in Quetta, having established businesses and households there. However, small communities of Hazara people can be found in other cities of Pakistan such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Lahore.

In Pakistan today, a lot of Hazaras are also called ‘Changezi’ or are thought to be part of the Changezi tribe. The term stuck in the military when Air Marshal (rtd) S. Ali Changezi decided to embrace his ethnicity while serving the PAF. Throughout his career, my father has been called Changezi by his colleagues, even though this name doesn’t appear in any of his official documents. The Hazaras also divide themselves into different sub- tribes based on territories and names of their leaders. For example, my mother is Daizangi while my father is Jaghori. My brother and I are also, therefore, Jaghori Hazaras.

The Hazaras strongly identify as Pakistanis. Several famous Hazaras include General Mohammad Musa ( Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army, Governor General of West Pakistan 1967-69, Governor of Balochistan Province 1985-91), Syed Ibrar Hussain Shah (Sitara-e-Imtiaz) who won the boxing bronze medal for Pakistan in the 1988 Olympics, Senator Haji Syed Hussain and his son Syed Abbas Hussain (parliamentarian 2008-2013).

Within Quetta, Hazaras are well known for their obsession with cleanliness–people jokingly blame them for the city’s water shortages.. They are friendly and eager to learn about other cultures. They are also peaceful and progressive. This is evident from the fact that each successive generation of Hazaras is better educated, more qualified and thirsty for more knowledge than their forebears. Education is recognized as the key to a better, more enlightened life. Hazara elders realize the need for an educated youth, and encourage them to work hard at gaining a good education and marketable skills. Through sheer hard work and the encouragement and support of his parents, LUMS alum Karrar Hussain Jaffar made it to Harvard. In his native Marriabad, , Karrar is a role model for scores of children who also want to shine.

Hazaras are also passionate about sports.. Members of the community have represented Pakistan at the international level in a variety of sports including karate, boxing, hockey and football. They have won many medals on behalf of Pakistan Hazara women have also participated in national and international sporting events. Suhaila, a 17-year-old Pakistani Hazara, is a black-belt martial arts champion who has won 34 gold medals in national and international matches so far.

Unfortunately, in recent years, target killings in Balochistan have forced many Hazaras to seek asylum in Australia, Canada and Europe. Many members of the community including the boxer Syed Ibrar Hussain have been victims of terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, Hazara youth continue to feel a strong sense of being Pakistani as they march on to win laurels outside their native country, never giving up on achieving their dream of a better and more prosperous life.
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