As the newspapers and television pictures of violence in “The cradle of the Earth” spread, Pakistani parents were in extreme anguish and torment. Many Pakistani students, boys and girls go to Kyrgystan universities for medical and engineering studies, especially in Osh. The sad and tragic story of the death of Ali Raza , a final year electrical engineering student brought the ugly face of ethnic violence and death so close to home. Even as we Pakistanis surfed for news about FIFA and other stories, we were not aware of the Pakistani students being violently gunned down as they were in their abodes. The story of Raza tells volumes of the absurdity, the sheer brutalization of the society by fanning hatred based on ethnic or religious prejudice. According to one journalist, this violence has deep roots in criminal activity in Kyrgyzstan. Ahmed Rashid in his book “The Resurgence of Central Asia” also gives a detailed account of what happened when Kyrgyzstan was part of the USSR. As the people were nomadic pastoral society, they remained poor. After the Russian dominance they refused to give up their lifestyle. They remained devoid of a major political role in their own country. The Russian representation in CPK remained high and the assassination of prime minister Sultan Ibraimov showed Kyrgyz Muslim resentment against Russians. The Kyrgyz remained the least politicized of all the Central Asian Republics. Uzbeks which migrated to populate the Fergana valley were economically more prosperous.
Accordingly the economic stagnation in Kyrgyzstan further polarized the Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationalities and riots broke in Osh in June 3,1990 which claimed some 48 people were killed and 300 injured. According to Mr. Ahmed Rashid, the economic discontent and latent ethnic hostility between Uzbeks and Krygyz in the south erupted like a volcano. After the breakdown of USSR, some political and economic reforms brought Kyrgyzstan towards development and prosperity but the ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz remain.
The killing of Pakistani students shows how violence can affect ruthlessly the people who are not even part of the rival ethnic group and are even of the same faith /religion. Hundreds of Uzbeks are fleeing violence towards Uzbekistan , as they did in 1990, and they will return. How does the Kyrgyz government handle these nascent ethnic tensions and if this episode of violence is the work of criminal gangs and mafia, how can this be prevented in the future? This is to be seen.
Meanwhile the two C140s bring back the Pakistanis and we all mourn the deaths of young students. The future of the students hangs in the balance. The Pakistani government inspite of its belated initial response should now absorb all these students in local institutions and provide them monetary support or scholarships. As for the students who lost their lives, their kin should be selected for scholarship and educated. This is the least it can do to compensate the victims of ruthless and disgusting violence.
We as Pakistanis, should strongly condemn any violent conflict be it based on religion, ethnicity, creed, social status and strongly emphasise tolerance and plurality.