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Sectarian violence in Balochistan

By News Desk

July 29 2014

Pakistan’s government needs to adopt all necessary measures to prevent militant groups in Balochistan from committing further killings and abuse against Hazaras and other Shias, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Monday.

The 62-page report titled “‘We are the Walking Dead’: Killings of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan, Pakistan,” details attacks launched by militant groups on the Hazara community in Balochistan.

Since 2008, several hundreds of Hazaras have been killed in targeted attacks and shootings.

Brad Adam, Asia Director HRW, said Sunni militants have targeted Hazaras extensively while they partake in religious congregations, travel to work, pray in mosques or just while they go about daily life. He said there was no travel route, no school, no shopping trip, or work commute that was safe for Hazaras, adding that the government’s perceived failure to these attacks was appalling and unacceptable.

Due to these ongoing attacks, the half-million members of the Hazara community in Quetta live in perpetual fear, the report says, They are also forced to restrict their movements, which has led to greater economic hardships as well as limited access to educational and employment opportunities. As a result of this oppressive situation, scores of Hazaras are fleeing Pakistan and seeking refuge in other countries.

The Shia community in Pakistan has been repeatedly targeted in sectarian violence since 2008. The militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi (LeJ) group has claimed responsibility for majority of the attacks but has managed to evade accountability.

On January 2013, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a crowded snooker club in a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in Quetta, killing at least 70 people and injuring 120 others.

Also read: Quetta blasts leave 70 people dead, 120 others injured

Whereas on February 17, a suicide-bomb targeting Shias in a busy market in Quetta killed 84 people, including women and children, and wounded 200 others.

Take a look: Quetta blast death toll reaches 84

“It’s obscene that the Hazara community has been forced into a fearful and terrorised existence because the Pakistani authorities have failed to stop the LeJ’s violence,” Adams said. “But it’s beyond obscene that Pakistani authorities have suggested to Hazara that their severely curtailed rights are simply the price of staying alive.”

Security forces in Balochistan have not done enough to investigate attacks on Hazaras and take appropriate security measures to foil the next attack. Many Hazaras told HRW that prejudiced attitudes and hostility towards them by officials and state security services were an important reason as to why most of the attacks went uninvestigated and subsequently unpunished.

The LeJ has also targeted members of the Frontier Corps force as well as policemen assigned to the security detail of Shia processions, pilgrimages and Hazara neighbourhoods.

The report said authorities claimed to have arrested scores of suspects in attacks against the Shia community since 2008, but most of them escape conviction. The HRW called upon the government to disband and disarm the LeJ and launch investigation against its leadership and others implicated in crimes.

It also said that international allies and donors should pressurise the government to abide by international human rights obligations and promote good governance by investigation sectarian killings in Balochistan and prosecuting all those responsible.

“Government officials and security forces need to understand that failure to tackle LeJ atrocities is no longer an option,” Adams said. “Inaction in the face of the slaughter of the Hazara and the wider Shia community is not only a callous betrayal of its own citizens, but suggests state complicity in allowing these crimes to continue.”

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan 

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