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More than 4,800 Shias killed in sectarian violence in Pakistan over past 8 years: Report

A Canada-based think tank IFFRAS has said that Pakistan witnessed the massacre of over 4,847 Shia Muslims in sectarian clashes in the last 8 years.

The country of Pakistan is experiencing many fault lines that are hindering the country’s already strained economy, including a collapse in internal law and order, further offering huge difficulties to the government and the system. Amid this, reports have emerged claiming that Sunni factions in Pakistan are threatening Shias, Ahmadis, and non-Muslim minorities, and are being supported by the military and governmental establishment.

A Canada-based think tank named IFFRAS recently stated that sectarian violence in Pakistan might grow due to political instability and the ongoing economic slump. According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) research report issued on September 5, sectarian militancy now spans the spectrum of Sunni Islamist organizations, including supporters of the more moderate Barelvi sub-sect, who are estimated to comprise a thin majority of Pakistan’s population.

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known defence expert, warned in 2020 about the resurgence of sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias in Karachi and other major centres in Sindh and Punjab. She said that between 2001 and 2018, Pakistan allegedly saw the massacre of about 4,847 Shias in sectarian violence, as IFFRAS previously documented.

Besides from that, Pakistan’s recent terrible floods have given escalated signals to the world indicating the fall of Islamabad. According to the ICG assessment, which was released in early September of this year, these new organizations, though distinct in many respects, were responsible for some of the country’s greatest inter-communal violence in recent years.

“Muslim minorities, particularly Shias, are deeply vulnerable. Vigilantism is dangerous as hardliners mobilize around allegations of blasphemy to gain political clout”, the report warned.

The persecution of Shia Muslims in Sunni-majority Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. Shias who constitute 20% of the Muslims in Pakistan and are often targeted during Islamic religious processions. While there has been a general decline in violence against Shiites since 2013, sectarian attacks continue unabated in several pockets of the country.

Though both Shia and Sunni Muslims had supported the partition of India to create a Muslim country for themselves known as Pakistan, there has been a lot of enmity between these two sects of Islam, not just in Pakistan, but in many Islamic countries.

The origin of the Sunni militancy may be traced back to the Sunni-Shia conflict in Pakistan which emerged shortly after independence. According to IFFRAS, several Deobandi preachers urged attacks on Shia procession and authored anti-Shia literature and tracts. Sunni militancy rose to prominence under President Zia-ul Haq’s term, with the army actively sponsoring an anti-Shia organization named Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.

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