NEW YORK: The Pakistani government’s persistent failure to protect the minority Shia Muslim community in Pakistan from sectarian attacks by Sunni [Deobandi] militant groups [Sipah Sahaba Taliban aka LeJ-ASWJ], is reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. The government should immediately hold accountable those responsible for ordering and participating in deadly attacks targeting the Shia across Pakistan and particularly the Hazara Shia in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.
On January 10, at least 4 bomb attacks took place in Quetta killing over 93 and injuring well over 150 people. Those killed included at least 8 police personnel and one journalist.
“2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. “As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies.
While sectarian violence is a longstanding problem in Pakistan, attacks against ordinary Shia have increased dramatically in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. In 2012, well over 400 members of the Shia population were killed in targeted attacks. Over 120 of these were killed in Balochistan province, the vast majority from the Hazara Shia community.
Similar attacks targeting the Shia population have taken place repeatedly over the last year in Balochistan, the port city of Karachi, predominantly Shia populated areas of Gilgit Baltistan in the northern areas, and in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Human Rights Watch said.
Sunni [Deobandi] militant groups such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi have operated with widespread impunity across Pakistan while law enforcement officials have effectively turned a blind eye on attacks against Shia communities. Some Sunni extremist groups are known to be allies of the Pakistani military, its intelligence agencies, and affiliated paramilitaries, such as the Frontier Corps, Human Rights Watch said.
While authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects in attacks against Shia since 2008, only a handful have been charged, and no one has been held accountable for these attacks.
“Pakistan’s tolerance for religious extremists is not just destroying lives and alienating entire communities, it is destroying Pakistani society across the board,” said Hasan. “Sectarian violence won’t end until those responsible are brought to trial and justice.”
Human Rights Watch urged Pakistan’s federal government and relevant provincial governments to make all possible efforts to promptly apprehend and prosecute those responsible for recent attacks and other crimes targeting the Shia population. The government should direct civilian agencies and the military responsible for security to actively protect those facing attack from extremist groups, and to address the growing perception, particularly in Balochistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, that state authorities look the other way when Shia are attacked. It should increase the number of security personnel in Shia majority areas and enclaves at high risk of attack, particularly the Hazara community in Quetta. The government should also actively investigate allegations of collusion between Sunni militant groups and military intelligence and paramilitary forces and hold accountable personnel found to be involved in criminal acts.
“The Pakistani authorities’ are just indifferent bystanders to slaughter at best or callously supportive of those perpetrating these massacres at worst,” Hasan said. “By their inaction in the face of massacre after massacre and killing after killing, Pakistan’s political leaders, law enforcement agencies, judiciary and military are presiding over a collective failure to address the growing perception that they are either in sympathy with Sunni extremists or utterly incompetent and unable to provide basic security. Either way, this is a crisis that neither Pakistanis nor the world can afford to ignore any more.” (Source: Dawn)
HRCP’s distress at escalation in terrorist bloodletting
The government should take immediate steps to clamp down on the murdering mayhem
Lahore, January 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the killing of over 100 people, predominantly the Shia Hazara, in a string of bombings in Quetta and other attacks in Mingora and Karachi on Thursday, and demanded that the government take immediate steps to clamp down on the murdering mayhem.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said, “In the first few days of 2013, HRCP finds itself lamenting for the second time large-scale sectarian bloodshed in the country. The callous targeting of members of the Shia including Shia Hazara community in Quettain two of those bombings on Thursday has caused the highest death toll for any sectarian attack in a day in Pakistan so far. Lack of any apparent distress at these brutal attacks and absence of much urgency to nab the killers has understandably prompted human rights organisations in the country and abroad to accuse the state of looking the other way, if not of downright complicity, as more and more citizens of the Shia faith are mowed down in appalling attacks.
If the government has any trepidation about its failure to stem the horrific spike in sectarian killings or the utter absence of its own writ, it has certainly done a good job hiding that. It defies belief how in a city like Quetta the attackers can manage to get through security checks and strike at will. A bombing in Mingora and the brazen bloodshed in Karachi on Thursday only demonstrate hastened descent into chaos as the general elections approach. The people expect much more from the police and the security forces than mere information on the nature of the explosions that claimed citizens’ lives. An ostensibly banned organisation has claimed the Quetta bombings. The network and sanctuaries of that and other banned outfits must be taken apart across Pakistan, including Punjab, and the killers apprehended and tried. Until that happens, the charges of the state being soft on the terrorists would not go away. That is also the only way to restore the faith of the citizenry in the state’s ability to safeguard their lives and well being.
Reflections are also in order on what could have been done to avoid fatalities among media workers in Quetta who were at the scene to cover the first bombing when the second explosion occurred. With escalating sectarian violence and the election-related violence that is almost certain to be the worst in Pakistan’s electoral history, because of weaponisation, brutalisation of society and the high stakes for all concerned, we might see journalists being caught up increasingly more frequently. HRCP hopes that the government, media organisations and journalists’ bodies would invest in safety of journalists through developing SOPs, safety gear and training on conflict reporting.”