NEW YORK: The Pakistani government should urgently act to protect Shias from sectarian attacks during Muharram, the Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Today’s deadly twin bomb attacks in Karachi at a Shia Imambargah underscore the seriousness of the threat faced by the Shias. Concerns are greatest for possible attacks on Shia processions marking Ashura, the 10th of Muharram (November 25).

“Shia in Pakistan should be able to participate in Ashura processions without fear of attack,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan HRW director. “Pakistani authorities need to address the severe danger faced by the Shia population with all necessary security measures.

They can start by arresting extremist group members responsible for past attacks.” Pakistani and international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have made numerous calls to Pakistan’s authorities to hold those responsible for the attacks to account. While authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects, no one has been charged in these attacks.
“The ongoing targeted killings of Shia send a chilling message to all Pakistanis that their government won’t necessarily act to protect them,” Hasan said. “The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.”

Some Sunni extremist groups are known to have links to the Pakistani military and its intelligence agencies. Groups such as the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operate with impunity even in areas where state authority is well established, such as Punjab and Karachi.

 

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