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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Worry Grows Over Rising Sectarian Attacks In Pakistan


Shi'ite Muslims shout slogans as they carry coffins of co-religionists during a funeral ceremony in Quetta. (file photo)

By VOA's Ayaz Gul

December 11, 2012
Sunni-dominated Pakistan has seen an unprecedented spike in religious violence this year, with at least 375 minority Shi'ite Muslims killed across the country.

Government critics say the violent conflict is likely to intensify if authorities do not do more to improve local governance and punish those who carry out sectarian attacks.

Sectarian bloodshed in Pakistan had peaked in the 1990s, and the violence subsided after the country joined with the U.S.-led coalition 10 years ago to fight terrorist and extremist groups.

Under pressure from the United States and other allies, Pakistan banned several Shi'ite and Sunni militant groups for having links to Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

But sectarian violence has returned this year with targeted attacks on Shi'ite Muslims. Official figures indicate that since the start of 2012, at least 134 people have died in sectarian attacks in Balochistan, mostly in the provincial capital, Quetta. Nearly all of those killed were Shi'ite Muslims and a majority of those were members of the Hazara community, a Persian-speaking Shi'ite population that immigrated to Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan more than a century ago.

Community leaders say the growing sense of insecurity has forced thousands of young Hazaras to turn to human smugglers and try to reach countries like Australia by undertaking an expensive and dangerous journey across the Indian Ocean.

Abdul Khaliq Hazara, a senior Hazara activist in Quetta, says that the journey in small boats has already taken hundreds of lives and those who survived have ended up in jails abroad. He says that sectarian attacks have become routine in the city but authorities have so far not made a single arrest.

"The [Pakistani] government and law enforcement agencies, they do not pursue them [attackers], and they openly do whatever they want; and after that we don’t know where they vanish and where they go," Hazara says. "That is why I think the [Hazara] people prefer [to emigrate]. Many of them have migrated because their life, education, their business, their property, it is not safe."...Continue Reading...

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