Asia

Liaquat Ali Hazara: Pakistan activist faces UK exit

A man prepares graves for the victims of a February 2013 vegetable market bomb attack in the Shia Hazara area of Quetta city (February 2013) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Shia Muslim Hazaras in Quetta are furious at what they see as a lack of protection from local and national forces in the face of repeated killings

A prominent Pakistani activist who has received death threats from the Taliban is due to be deported from Britain after exhausting all rights of appeal.

Liaquat Ali Hazara, 36, is a campaigner for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, including the Hazaras, the Shia group to which he belongs.

He told the BBC that he would be killed if he were sent home.

Hundreds of Hazaras in Balochistan province have been killed in sectarian attacks by Sunni militants.

The Pakistan Human Rights Commission estimates that about 100,000 Hazaras have either fled to other parts of the country or left Pakistan in recent years.

Sectarian attacks

"I am genuinely scared for my life, I have great concerns that I may disappear when I arrive at the airport," Mr Hazara told the BBC.

Image caption Liaquat Ali Hazara says that militant groups have been monitoring his activities in the UK and will torture him when he returns to Pakistan
Image caption Most Hazara cemeteries in Quetta contain the bodies of those killed in recent militant attacks

The campaigner came to Britain in 2005 to study accountancy and began his political activities in 2009, founding the Hazara United Movement to draw attention to the plight of Hazaras in Pakistan.

More than 500 Hazaras have been killed in his home province of Balochistan since 2008, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.

Shortly after starting his political campaigning, Mr Hazara received death threats from Taliban militants and the al-Qaeda linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, one of Pakistan's most violent Sunni Muslim militant organisations.

'Kidnapped and tortured'

Hand-written warning letters were sent to his home in Quetta, where his wife and parents live.

"They threatened to behead me if I return to Pakistan, they said they have been monitoring my activities in the UK and they will torture me to show a lesson to other activists," he said.

Speaking from Brook House, the immigration removal centre where he is currently being held, Mr Hazara said that he could be kidnapped, tortured or killed when he was sent back home.

"I don't know if I will even make it home from the airport."


Who are the Hazaras?

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Hazara community in Quetta often takes to the streets to demonstrate against continuing persecution
  • Of Mongolian and Central Asian descent
  • Legend has it they are descendants of Genghis Khan and his soldiers, who invaded Afghanistan in the 13th Century
  • Mainly practise Shia Islam, in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • At least 600,000 live in Quetta, mostly migrants from Afghanistan who settled there because the city made it easy for them to visit their home communities
  • Quetta is also on a key Shia pilgrimage route to Iran

The Pakistani high commission has so far not responded to requests by the BBC to comment on Mr Hazara's case.

The activist, who has been in detention since July of this year, applied for asylum in Britain in 2012 but his application was rejected.

Lena Mohamed, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a group which has been campaigning against the deportation said: "We have assessed the situation and we don't see any way round it, the government cannot dismiss these real human rights concerns.

"This is a potential loss of life we are talking about."

A UK Home Office spokesman told the BBC that the department did not comment on individual cases.

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