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October 1, 2020

Civil society activists show concern over growing sectarian tensions

Karachi

October 1, 2020

Showing their concerns over the rising sectarian tensions in the country, a group of prominent civil society activists on Wednesday urged the government to take action against clerics who had been inciting people to violence and encouraging hatred and defiance of the rule of law.

Addressing at a press conference at the Karachi office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, human rights activist and senior journalist IA Rehman, Women Action Forum’s leader Anis Haroon, Tehreek-e-Niswan leader Sheema Kermani, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research’s executive director Karamat Ali, members of the Secular Shia Voices, and other activists demanded of the state to establish its writ, enforce law and order and not leave matters in the hands of violent mobs whose growing power undermined the very authority of the state.

Speakers said they had also recently formed a “committee of concerned citizens against the persecution of the Shia community”.

Showing their concerns over the various rallies against the Shia community that occurred in the country’s various parts in September, they said that Shia Muslims had successively become the targets of sectarian conflicts and clashes.

During General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship in the 1980s, Islam was exploited to inflict internecine violence, discrimination and persecution, they said.

“Since then, Shia communities and especially their professionals, politicians, religious leaders, and cultural artists have been targeted by routine murders, suicide-attacks and bomb blasts,” they said. “They have been threatened by vigilantism and denied freedoms of expression and worship, and are now being arrested under blasphemy allegations and anti-terrorism charges. Many have died, had to flee the country and are now being purged and converted by vigilante mobs.”

Speakers also demanded of the government to immediately withdraw all FIRs registered willfully against members of the Shia community and to ensure safety of all citizens. For this purpose, the government must guarantee peace and security to the community by instructing law enforcement to maintain neutrality, they said.

The prime minister and senior officials must allay the fears stoked across the country immediately and take the specific policy and legal steps to ensure the safety of all sects and all minority communities, they urged.

They also showed their concerns over the operating of proscribed militant outfits under new names, and asked the government to take swift action against those posing an imminent threat to peace and security in the country.