The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released a report detailing incidents of religious violence over the past 18 months in Pakistan. The Commission found that both sectarian violence and violence against religious minorities in Pakistan is on the rise. Christians, Pakistan’s second biggest religious community, continue to be persecuted by the country’s Muslim majority. Misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws and outright discrimination plague Christians daily lives as they continue to live and worship freely in one of the world’s most persecuted countries.
7/19/2013 Pakistan (Daily Times) – In the last 18 months, 203 incidents of sectarian violence in Pakistan resulted in 1,800 casualties, including 717 deaths, of which 635 were Shia.
Sectarian and religious violence in Pakistan is on the rise, and between January 2012 and June 2013, the Shia community has been the worst victim of these incidents, disclosed a detailed Fact Sheet issued by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Thursday.
The fact sheet prepared under the Pakistan Religious Violence Project, an undertaking of the USCIRF, took into account publicly reported attacks against religious communities in Pakistan during the past 18 months.
The report stated that while Shias are more at risk of becoming victims of suicide bombings and targeted shootings, the already poor religious freedom environment for Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadis continued to deteriorate, with a number violent incidents occurring against members of these communities.
The report said that the information used in the fact sheet was acquired from newspaper reports and news articles available in the public domain. “The Project seeks to be inclusive, tracking all reported incidents involving physical attacks targeting a member of a religious community or a major religious gathering place (temples, churches, shrines, or mosques). However, it is not exhaustive and some acts of violence are certain to have been overlooked. While each incident has not been independently verified, it is based on the newspaper stories and articles,” the fact sheet made it clear.
Christians, the second biggest religious community of Pakistan, were attacked 37 times in which 11 Christians were killed and 36 injured. They were also attacked in targeted shootings that claimed 3 lives, while 5 Christian girls were also raped.
The Project’s findings paint a grim and challenging picture for the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“It was positive that the Prime Minister raised concerns about religious minorities during his maiden speech before the National Assembly, as well as travelled to Quetta after a recent bombing targeting Shia and tasked his government to act.
However, concrete, resolute action is needed to ensure that perpetrators of violence are arrested, prosecuted and jailed. To stem the rising tide of violent religious extremism, groups and individuals responsible for attacks on religious communities must be punished,” stated the report.