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(Washington, DC) -- The killing of 29 Shi'a Muslims in Pakistan's Balochistan province highlights the failure of Pakistani authorities to address sectarian violence across the country.
On Tuesday, 26 Shi'a pilgrims on their way to Iran were lined up in front of their bus and shot dead in Mastung, Balochistan. Another three people were killed as they tried to bring victims of this attack to a hospital in Quetta, the provincial capital. An anti-Shi'a extremist group called Lashkar-e Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the killings.
"Attacks such as these have occurred countrywide this year and have increased in Balochistan," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director. "These are not random killings but demonstrate the deliberate targeting of the Shi’a by armed groups. Armed clashes between Sunni and Shi'a militant groups have regularly occurred in the past decades, but recent attacks have predominantly targeted unarmed Shi'a Muslims in their homes, shops or while travelling, and even in their places of worship."
"Alarmingly, an increasing number have been Shi'a pilgrims, like yesterday’s victims," said Zarifi. These attacks prove that without an urgent and comprehensive government response, no place is safe for the Shi’a. The Muslim holy month of Moharram, which starts at the end of November, is particularly significant for Shi'as and the potential for sectarian violence and targeting of Shi'as is very high. Pakistani authorities must ensure they are prepared to protect all their citizens regardless of religious affiliation.”
This year, Amnesty International has recorded at least 15 attacks specifically targeting Shi'a Muslim across Pakistan, from Quetta in the west and Khurram tribal agency on the north-west border with Afghanistan, to the heartland province of Punjab and the city of Karachi in the south.
"Successive governments have failed to address the increasingly explicit threats faced by Shi'a Muslims from groups like Lashkar-e Jhangvi, operating openly in the Punjab and Karachi and apparently striking their victims at will in Balochistan and other parts of the country," said Zarifi.
"For too long the Pakistan government and its security forces have abdicated their responsibility to defend everyone in the society from this deadly form of discrimination," added Zarifi. "Continued failure to address sectarian violence will only exacerbate the general breakdown in law and order in Pakistan. Only urgent steps to protect the rights of all people and bring the perpetrators to justice in fair trials consistent with international standards will stem the slide."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.