Shia pilgrims’ killing exposes state’s criminal negligence


Lahore, June 29: The killing of Shia pilgrims in Balochistan on Thursday again demonstrates that terrorists persist with their vicious and systematic campaign to target citizens on account of their religious beliefs as state has either been unwilling or increasingly unable to prevent the blatant killings, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said: “HRCP shares the grief of the families of those killed and injured in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Quetta that targeted a bus of Shia pilgrims. After the brazen attack on a bus of Iran-bound pilgrims in Mastung district of Balochistan last year, it was certain that unless the culprits were brought to justice they will strike again. They did so on Thursday. This time the bus had a police escort and yet, as in the Mastung attack, neither the attack could be foiled nor perpetrators captured. About the only difference was that those dead and injured were taken to hospitals relatively quickly. The number of Shias killed in systemic and targeted attacks in Balochistan in 2012 alone has exceeded 60. Everyone knows who the perpetrators are. With each attack, allegations of the attackers enjoying sympathy and support among the security forces gain more credence, at least in the views of the targeted community. In the circumstances, the Shia population of Balochistan, and the Iran-bound pilgrims in particular, understandably feel like sitting ducks. Little wonder then that many young people from the community are prepared to take their chances to flee the country in search of safety, often risking travel in rickety boats in shark-infested waters to do so. At least 70 young men from the community had drowned in one such attempt in Indonesian waters in 2011.

“HRCP unequivocally condemns the attack and is shocked by the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to act against terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has repeatedly claimed responsibility for these attacks. The promised probe into the attack must also look into charges of support for the terrorists among the security agencies. It has also been alleged that the Iran-bound pilgrims targeted on Thursday were originally sitting in various buses but the authorities asked them all to go in one bus, which was later targeted. Some members of the community have interpreted that as proof at least some elements in the law enforcement agencies working hand in glove with the terrorists. HRCP cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim but that too should be investigated. The government should try and imagine the plight of the community whose systematic targeting is now little short of naked persecution. HRCP is sure that unless unambiguous will of the state to bring the killers to justice is demonstrated Pakistan will become an even more unlivable place than it already is.”

Zohra Yusuf

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