The latest attack on a Shia Mosque in Parachinar in Pakistan’s North West Tribal region’s Khurram agency was the sixth such attack on Shias in this town since 2012 highlighting their worsening plight and other minorities living in Pakistan.
According to Human Rights Activists here in Geneva, attacks against minorities do not appear to raise eyebrows in Sunni-majority Pakistan anymore, and are fast becoming a norm.
In the last two days, there have been two incidents, one targetting Shias and the other the Ahmadis.
The Banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for the attacks as Pakistan again plunged into a vicious cycle of sectarian violence. Just last month, more than 80 persons were killed in an attack on a Sufi Shrine in southern Pakistan.
The latest suicide attack on March 31 at the entrance of a Shia mosque in Parachinar in the remote north western tribal region bordering Afghanistan killed at least 22 and wounded more than 50 people with the majority being Shia. The timing of the attack, which was when people were gathering for Friday prayers, was to ensure maximum casualties.
The Parachinar region has witnessed a series of terror attacks in the past, including in January 2017, December 2015, September 2013, and September and February 2012.
Like the Shias, the people of another Muslim sect who are subject to systematic persecution by the Pakistani State are the Ahmadis. The March 30 attack on and killing of Malik Saleem Latif, a prominent leader of the Ahmadi community, who was also related to the Pakistani Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam by militants from the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi, is a case in point.
According to a recent report released by the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, since the Blasphemy law came into effect in Pakistan in 1984, more than 250 Ahmadis have been killed because of their religious beliefs.
Apart from facing a threat to their life, a blatant example of the Pakistani State’s support and encouragement to Ahmadi persecution is visible in the passport application form that every Pakistani citizen applying for a passport needs to fill in. The application requires all Muslim citizens of the country to sign a declaration affirming that they consider Ahmadis as infidels.
While Pakistani leaders and government officials lose no opportunity to claim that people of all religions enjoy equal rights in the country, the requirement of a declaration in a passport application form designating Ahmadis as infidels, is a clear case of the State endorsing discrimination among its citizens.
Attacks will continue to take place against the minorities in Pakistan, until and unless the government takes the hard decision to clamp down on the radical Islamic groups, most of whom have the backing of the Army and the country’s intelligence agencies.