HRW asks Pakistan to protect Hazara, disarm militants
LONDON (Pajhwok): The Pakistani government should adopt all measures to stop Sunni extremist groups in Balochistan province from committing further killings and other abuses against Hazara and other Shia Muslims, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Monday.
The 62-page report, “‘We are the Walking Dead’: Killings of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan, Pakistan,” documents Sunni militant group attacks on the mostly Shia Hazara community in Balochistan. Since 2008, several hundreds of Hazara have been killed in steadily worsening targeted violence, including two bombings in the provincial capital, Quetta, in January and February 2013 that killed at least 180 people.
“Sunni extremists have targeted Hazara with guns and bombs while they participate in religious processions, pray in mosques, travel to work, or just go about daily life,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia. “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school run, no work commute that is safe for the Hazara. The government’s failure to put an end to these attacks is as shocking as it is unacceptable.”
The ongoing attacks have meant that the half-million members of the Hazara community in Quetta live in fear, compelled to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailed access to education and employment, HRW said. This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Hazara to flee Pakistan for refuge in other countries.
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 survivors, members of victims’ families, law enforcement, security officials, and independent experts for the report.
Since 2008, Pakistan’s Shia Muslim community has been the target of an unprecedented escalation in sectarian violence as Sunni militants have killed thousands of Shia across the country. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), group has claimed responsibility for most attacks, yet many of its leaders continue to play command and leadership roles and avoid prosecution or otherwise evade accountability.
A number of convicted high-profile LeJ militants and suspects in custody have escaped from military and civilian detention in circumstances the authorities have been unable to explain.
Civilian and military security forces deployed in Balochistan have done little to investigate attacks on Hazara or take steps to prevent the next attack, the HRW said. Many Hazara told HRW that discriminatory attitudes and hostility towards them by elected officials and state security services are an important reason why such attacks go uninvestigated and unpunished.
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