September 20th, 2020
Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell and the opposition have expressed serious concern over the government’s apathy and inaction in dealing sternly with elements stoking sectarian hatred against the Shia minority sect in the country.
Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell condemned the propaganda against the Shia minority and the surge in hatred and violence against the community. The law firm cited reports that 15 Shias have been targeted and eight killed since the organized uprising against them in May. The statement further said that the ‘government, Prime Minister, or no other institution has shown any concern’ towards the rising incidents of violence against the Shia minority sect.
“Despite rising cases of blasphemy lodged against the Shia sect, they are receiving little or no media coverage and the venom spewed against the Shia community is going unchecked by the government ” according to the statement titled ‘Targeting of Shia Community.’ The statement further cites several instances in which members of the Shia community were targeted. The Legal Aid Cell warned of “a new wave of blasphemy cases against the Shia community”. More than 40 known blasphemy cases may have been registered against Shias in last month alone, it said. “No official statement has been issued, nor has any action been taken against these ferocities.”
The statement said Shia citizens were at the receiving end of these continually increasing atrocities but the government was not doing anything to put an end to the sectarian violence. “Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell condemns the complacent attitude of the government on this serious issue that is endangering the life and security of millions of people. The state is abdicating its responsibilities under fundamental rights promised in the Constitution of Pakistan by leaving the Shia community to the mercy of the mobs and unfair use of blasphemy laws against them,” the Legal Aid Cell said.
Opposition senators alarmed at the wave of violence
Speaking in the Senate a day earlier, Senator Sherry Rehman expressed alarm at the hate campaign and sectarian violence against the Shia community, deploring the government’s inaction against the recent spate of killings of the minority sect.
“All citizens have an equal right to protection and entitlements under the law. Why is the government taking no notice or action against the spate of targeted killings of Shias? It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of the vulnerable, ” she told her fellow senators while speaking on a point of public importance. The PPP senator also questioned as to why proscribed organizations were allowed to hold rallies and public gatherings in cities across the country to fan sectarian hatred against the Shia sect.
Speaking to reporters outside the parliament, former interior minister and PPP senator Rehman Malik expressed his concern that the rising sectarian violence against the Shia community was driving a wedge amongst Senators as well. He criticized the government for allowing public gatherings by proscribed organizations in the federal capital. He cited a quote from a book by a former Indian RAW chief that the easiest thing that could destroy Pakistan was fanning of sectarian and ethnic hatred among the population, adding that India used ethnicity to divide Pakistan in 1971. He warned that Pakistan was facing a global hybrid war.
FIR against anti-Shia gathering in Islamabad
There has been great public outcry over holding of a public gathering by banned outfits in Islamabad. The public gathering in Islamabad openly stoked hatred against the Shia community after a video of speeches by participants were widely shared on social media. Earlier, anti-Shia rallies were taken out in Karachi.
Hamza Shafqat, the deputy commissioner of Islamabad, was severely criticized after his picture sitting on the stage of the Islamabad gathering was shared on social media. In his tweets, the deputy commissioner explained that he had gone to the venue to inspect security arrangements and had left before the event began.
The outcry on social media questioned how the deputy commissioner could have allowed banned outfits to hold such a huge public gathering. The speeches made at the venue openly fanned sectarian hatred against the Shia community. In a later tweet, the deputy commissioner confirmed that a first information report has been registered ‘for inciting violence and sectarian hatred,’but fails to mention against who the complaint has been lodged. Hamza Shafqat said in a tweet that a ‘ban (is) also being imposed ( for speaking again in public in the territorial limits of Islamabad,’ clearly indicating that from now on perhaps a ban will be in place against hate speech and inciting violence. In another tweet, Hamza Shafqat had said he would share the FIR with the public but it has not been made available till the writing of this report.