Living in a state of insecurity

01-04-2015

On March 15, 2015, suicide bombers attacked two Christian churches during services in Lahore, Punjab, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens. The responsibility for both attacks has been claimed by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban (TTP) splinter group.

Religiously motivated attacks, one of the many instruments of oppression of religious minorities, have become a common sight in the provinces of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Baluchistan. These attacks are a result of intolerance that makes the society increasingly dangerous for minorities. Religiously motivated violence involves intentional attacks against members of (non)-Muslim religious groups - such as Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias and Sikhs – committed by individuals or mobs.  

In the first 3 months of 2015, Global Human Rights Defence has already received information about 11 attacks on religious places of minorities around the country.

These are as follow:

DATE

ISSUE

CASUALTIES

PROVINCE

30 march 2015

Attack Shia mosque in Karachi

2 killed, 6 Wounded

Sindh

15 March 2015

2 Christian churches

14 Killed, 14 Wounded

Punjab

8 March 2015

Hindu temple in Tando Mohammad Khan

No casualties

Sindh

19 February 2015

Attack Shia mosque in Islamabad

3 killed

Punjab

18 February 2015

Shia, Qasr-e-Sakina Imambargah

4 Killed, 6 Wounded

Punjab

13 February 2015

Attack Shia mosque in Peshawar

19 killed, 57 Wounded

Khyper Pakhtunkhwa

9 February 2015

Hindu, Radha temple

No casualties

Sindh

30 January 2015

Shia, Karbala-e-Moalla Imambrgah

61 Killed, 50 Wounded

Sindh

January 2015

Shia, Aun Muhammad Rizvi Imambargah

8 Killed, 25 Wounded

Punjab

January 2015

Hindu, Krishna temple

No casualties

Sindh

January 2015

Hindu, Makli Mata temple

2 Wounded

Sindh

 

Religiously motivated attacks

In 2014, GHRD has monitored approximately 30 cases of attacks, desecration and land grabbing of the places of worship and graveyards belonging to religious minorities all across the country.

Different communities are targeted in distinctive ways; the Ahmadi, Christian and Shia communities mainly face attacks on their places of worship by militant and terrorist organisations.

Christians, as well as Hindu and Sikh minorities in Pakistan, also face illegal occupation and desecration of their holy places and graveyards. This goes hand in hand with threats not only towards the victim and its family, but to the entire community in the area. Blasphemy laws are being used against the minority communities as a means to settle illegal occupation and land grabbing disputes.

Hearings in cases of illegal occupation and land grabbing can last for years without any clear decisions/rulings. During this period the entire community is not able to access their places of worship. Not only do these lengthy procedures decrease the access to justice, but they also decrease trust in the legal system itself. Such lack of trust, in turn, creates a sense of fear and insecurity in the society. 

On March 11, 2015, the Supreme Court has directed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to take effective steps for reconstruction and preservation of a Hindu shrine illegally occupied by a cleric in the southern Karak district since 1997.

Lengthy negotiations took place and a jirga[1] was asked to look into the matter. In 2005 this assembly eventually ruled in favour of the Hindus. Despite the jirga’s decision, some influential people were still able to go against the jirga’s verdict: the renovation was stopped before it even started while Hindu worshippers were denied access. Today the community is still unable to access their place of worship.

Living up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The right to profess and practice religion or belief is recognized by Article 20 of the Pakistani Constitution and article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which the Pakistani government is a signatory.

Pakistan Constitution, Article: 20 Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions: Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions – subject to law, public order and morality. (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18: Right to freedom of thought and religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Pakistan has the obligation, as mentioned in article 18 of the UDHR, to protect the right to Freedom of Thought and Religion. This principle  supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance, without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack.

The Pakistani government should fulfill a fundamental role in protecting and securing the rights of all its citizens. Despite some governmental actions to protect religious minorities, the government largely fails to take measures that could prevent social intolerance and violence against religious minorities. Perpetrators are never prosecuted, which encourages the climate of impunity and reinforces the violence and discrimination.

The government of Pakistan should take concrete measures to protect the lives and property of religious minorities and to create peace and harmony among all.


[1] A Jirga is a traditional assembly of leaders that make decisions by consensus and according to the teachings of Islam. 

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