5 killed in separate attack on minorities in Pakistan

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The deaths come as the rise of Islamic State has exacerbated violence against minorities in the country

Pakistani Christians protest against the suicide bombing in All Saints church in the northwestern city of Peshawar on September 23, 2013. The death toll from a double suicide bombing on a church in Pakistan rose to 81, as Christians protested across the country to demand better protection for their community. AFP PHOTO/ A MAJEED (Photo credit should read A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

By V. Arun Kumar / The Dawn News / April 5, 2018

In the latest attack on minorities in Pakistan, four Christians were killed in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on the evening of April 2. All four belonged to the same family and were gunned down outside a relative’s home in the Shah Zaman neighbourhood of the city by suspected Islamic State militants. In another attack on a bazaar in the same city, a man belonging to the Hazara Shia community was killed and another wounded, said local reports.

“They were guests of ours. They came from Punjab [province] to celebrate Easter. As they left the house to go to the bazaar after dinner […] they were fired upon,” said Tariq Masih, a relative of the four who were shot in Shah Zaman.

A 12-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the deceased, suffered injuries.

Pakistan had been witnessing increased violence against minorities. While on the one hand, extremist Islamists groups have been targeting members of minority communities, including Ahmadis and Shias, as well as atheists, on the other hand, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law have been used against them.

“Violence against minority groups is deeply embedded within political and social processes in Pakistan,” said Umair Javed, a columnist for Dawn.

Last year, in December, nine people were killed in suicide bombings in a church in Islamabad.  In March 2016, in a ghastly attack, at least 72 people were killed in a suicide bomb explosion in a crowded park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday.

In 2015, more than 40 members of the Ismaili community were massacred in Karachi when the bus in which they were travelling was fired upon. Ismailism is a branch of Shia Islam.

On April 13, 2017, Mashal Khan, a student activist, was accused of blasphemy and lynched on the premises of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan. Some years before, the case of Asia Bibi exposed the role of the State in propagating violence against minorities. In 2010, Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, was accused of  insulting Prophet Muhammad and sentenced to death by hanging.

Over the past few years, the Pakistani army intensified its operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies. The TTP is associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda. However, the vacuum left by the TTP has been filled by the IS, leading to a rise in violence against minorities. In recent years, the IS has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the Balochistan province, including an attack on a Sufi shrine and multiple attacks on Hazara Shias.

Minorities make up around 4% of the population of Pakistan.

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