Report: Violence Towards Religious Communities in Pakistan
By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
The Religious Violence Project, an undertaking of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has tracked publicly-reported attacks against religious communities in Pakistan over the past 30 months. The latest report covers the period from July 2013 to June 2014, during which 122 incidents of sectarian violence resulted in more than 1,200 casualties, including 430 deaths. While the number of attacks are slightly down from the previous year, they remain alarmingly high. The violence impacted both Muslim and non-Muslim religious communities, threatening Pakistan’s stability.
The Shi’a Muslim community again bore the brunt of militant and terrorist attacks. The body count of Christians jumped due to the attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar in September 2013. Ahmadi Muslims continued to be victimized, with the May 2014 murder of a Canadian- American Ahmadi conducting humanitarian work and the recent mob attack on an Ahmadi home serving as graphic reminders of their vulnerability. Also, members of the Sunni Muslim majority were targeted for violence. The assassination of human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman in June 2014 for his defense of an individual accused of blasphemy was a high-profile attack on a person for his advocacy.
The information gathered by the Project is based on reports and news articles in the public domain. The information is available thanks to the tireless work of human rights advocates and the openness of Pakistan’s media environment. The effort seeks to be inclusive, tracking all reported incidents involving physical attacks targeting a member of a religious community or a major religious gathering place (church, shrine, or mosque). However, it is not exhaustive and there are certain to be overlooked acts of violence. Also, each incident has not been independently verified, but the Factsheet provides a hyperlink to the supporting reporting.
The findings of the Project show that religious-based violence continues to persist, with little to no effective Pakistani government response at federal, provincial, or local levels. While the attacks occurred in the context of general episodes of violence confronting the entire country, the overall climate for religious freedom continues to deteriorate. For instance, the past year saw several individuals sentenced to death for activity considered blasphemous. Regarding attacks on religious groups, the government failed to take steps to hold perpetrators accountable or protect the vulnerable. For example, Malik Ishaq, the leader of the terrorist organization Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, responsible for repeated attacks against Shi’a Muslims, was released from jail in May 2014. And Rashid Rehman was threatened for weeks before his murder, yet the government was unable or unwilling to provide protection or investigate the threats.
Basic law enforcement is needed, as well as reform or repeal of the abusive blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws, which encourage violence against innocents.
Read the full report here: Violence Towards Religious Communities in Pakistan
*The content has been used with the permission of United State Commission on International Religious Freedom